Parasite ★★★★½

Bong Joon-Ho’s brand of filmmaking is often talked about for the way in which his genre analogues sublimate political themes. In ‘Parasite’ however, he turns them to the task of conducting a social autopsy, with two families who represent their entire class strata in his most violently political film to date. An amalgamate of genre elements including dark comedy, thriller and melodrama, Parasite’s generic choices have the rare effect of almost cancelling out their own extremity by emphasising the lack of subtlety with which their underlying themes of late capitalism and class inequality genuinely manifest in reality.

The first half of the film, though most easily described as a dark comedy, cruises along at such a suspiciously light pace that it seems to also be playing a part in summoning the heavy-handed political imagery to follow - aided by dreamy camerawork which glides gracefully over a series of bubbling consequences. It also turns the home invasion narrative on its head, with an almighty twist where the reveal itself is as haunting as the unnerving stasis it provides.

The film handles its politics on both micro and macro scales through its juxtaposition of wry observation into the contradicting lifestyles of the rich and poor, and overt political imagery which bruises with the force of being physically shoved down the social ladder. In particular the final moments of the film pull this all together in a way which is both heart-breaking and firmly ironic.

‘Parasite’ puts together an incredible ensemble of actors, and the characters from both families are all so well realised. It would be easy to make all the rich characters villains, which they are to some extent, but Bong imbues them with enough sympathy to see their naivety as inheritants of privilege - mocking them but also treating their desires as genuine despite a lack of perspective. On the other hand, the underprivileged and scheming Kims are nearly impossible not to root for, even when that theory is put to the test.

Overall, the combination of Bong’s unique blend of genres, prescient political commentary, and the recognisable humanity of the characters who enact its themes give ‘Parasite’ near-universal appeal as a beacon of original filmmaking which feels truly of the moment.

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