Parasite ★★★★½

Spectacular shape-shifting satire on modern-day capitalism. (Poetic that it should not come from the West). Trespassing isn’t just the film’s delicious central concept: it’s Bong Joon-ho’s defining gift as an artist. Genre rules assume different functions in his films: events that pass for “plot twists” are actually jolts in tone revealing underlying truths.

Sliding from the cramped to the spacious, PARASITE has been architecturally thought out. This isn't some Marxist class war: it's a struggle for vital breathing space. Astutely, Bong portrays the poor family as smart, wily and practical; also a little vulgar, which they have a right to be. They have no respect for anybody (respect is a commodity). The rich have room for relaxation and time for good manners; carelessness has made them vulnerable. What’s more, the poor have consumed the lives of the well-off through TV, cell phones, etc, which accounts for their astounding gift for role-playing. (They’re natural-born actors). The rich, crucially, are the poor’s entertainment; they’re also what gets them hooked.

But PARASITE is more than clever satire. It draws our attention to the nauseating familiarity between these two apparently distinct sets of people. In one scene, the Parks have couch sex in the living room while Mr. Kim listens furtively with his son and daughter, trying to hide his smell, horrifyingly aware of his position. It’s the culmination of the Kims’ debasement. It’s also suggestive of the larger incestuous link between the families--something primal about this entire rite, a seediness that’s always lurking.

Genius comic touches throughout: the rich mother making a cult of her son; cell phones likened to North Korean missiles; idiosyncratic banana-chewing and more. Scenes become richer in retrospect (the party during the thunderstorm). And there’s a disturbance throughout: the constant curveball, the threat of something neither party can see. It’s miraculous how a film of this nature can be emotionally affecting. The despondency of Song Kang-ho, his driftless despair, is heartbreaking.

An instant classic for our age... also a happy reminder that originality lives on against all odds.

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