Parasite

Parasite ★★★★★

The concept of the three-act structure has been a mainstay of the western film making tradition for ages, but how many acts do you think a Korean film usually has? I know Japanese films often eschew the three-act structure, but they tend to have fewer, maybe two acts. But Korean movies feel like they have seven or eight acts - or maybe that's just because they are the masters of the narrative king-hit. The storytelling version of someone coming up behind you and bashing you in the back of the head with a four-by-two. And then again half an hour later. And then a final kick in the ass for good measure right at the end.

It's been a source of irritation to me that everyone I've had a conversation about film with over the last two years has told me that I should give Parasite a go, because it's subtitled but it's really good (I'm talking about regular people, not movie nerds like you and me). I've frequently descended into this ridiculous indignation like "Oh, don't try and educate me about Korean movies, me and Bong Joon-ho go way back. I've seen more Bong films than you've had hot dinners!!!" which thankfully just confuses people because they know this won all the Oscars but they can't remember Bong's name so they just don't understand a word I'm saying. I should have just watched it a long time ago but hey, I just hadn't got around to it, OK?

And as much as I was lured into the belief that this maybe isn't top-tier Bong by the rather leisurely paced opening forty minutes or so, by the time I was brought back to the disembarkation point of this particular emotional roller coaster ride, I had to admit that the whole thing rather knocked my socks off. This might even be my new favourite Bong Joon-ho movie, which is not something I say lightly.

I know to a certain extent the messaging on social class is pretty obvious and on-the-nose (it had to be if it was recognised by the Academy, subtlety not really being their thing, apparently), but it also feels pretty effortlessly elegant within the structural confines of the narrative. This isn't a movie that takes time out every now and again to make a point. Its entire story premise and series of plot twists are themselves dripping with its broader societal meaning. None of it is even very revelatory in terms of what it is saying, but it says it in such a fucking cool way and provides such a cinematic powerhouse of an experience along the way, you just have to shake your head admiringly.

I know there's a lot more to Korean cinema than Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook, but surely these are the two masters of the art in that industry. And with this film, I'm starting to feel like Bong is really pushing into the lead as regards to who I am more in love with as an artist. I mean, I still love Park, but when Bong gives me this feeling which I can only describe as a kind of awe at what he can do... Yeah. This film is so good, the fact that an actual worthy work of film art managed to win the Best Picture Oscar just fades into insignificance when measured against its own artistic achievement. And then, not content with wiping the floor with the pathetic cinematic expectations of the mainstream cinema-going population, this movie insouciantly winds things up with that magnificently understated, ambiguous, almost surreal final scene. Not necessarily the most memorable moment, but it takes all the emotional tumult that has gone before and compresses it into a reflective moment so we all walk away somehow changed, or at least with the illusion that we have been, even if we can't explain how.

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