Parasite ★★★★

Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is the work of a director (and cinematographer, and composer, and on and on) working at an uncanny level of formal precision. The film is a kind of spiritual cousin to last year's Shoplifters, which also depicted a family's desperate efforts to survive. Where that film was poignant and moving, Bong's is cruel and unforgiving. The opening hour unfolds with the thrill of a heist film, as the family gradually ingratiates their way into the home of a wealthy family. The film has more on its mind than the class warfare that premise seems to portend, but it's best to go into the film without the knowledge of those later developments. Bong's films have always presented a queasy tonal melange of tragedy and comedy, but that is calibrated here in a manner both more pleasurable and more punishing than his earlier efforts.

The film's cinematography is both elegant and detached, the camera moving with the grace of classical Hollywood at the same time as it pins the characters mercilessly within their opulent, sterile surroundings. It's hard to pick standouts from an incredible ensemble, although I was particularly struck by Cho Yeo-jeong's depiction of oblivious privilege, and Park So-dam's oscillations between two personas bring some of the best laughs in the film. More than any one performance, though, Parasite shows an ensemble working in perfect tandem with their director and the tone of the film. (A-)

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