[Movie Review] Parasite (2019)

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South Korea | Drama, Thriller | 17+ | Director: Bong Joon-ho | Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won | Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong | Korean, English | 132 minutes


It's a common understanding already that Bong Joon-ho is definitely one of a kind filmmaker. Each of his creations is all unique because whatever he presents on the table, you just can't fit it into a singular set of genres. Have a look at some of his past works as there are a lot of things could be processed from the likes of 'The Host', 'Snowpiercer' or 'Memories of Murder' since we're bound to miss the accurate interpretation of those spectacles if we're not able to grasp the broad range of contents offered by his peculiar method of storytelling. 'Parasite', his latest masterpiece and one which I might go as far to confidently classifying it as his chef-d'œuvre, is another exemplary exhibition of how a rebellious art form is capable of appearing as a popcorn entertainment for the audience and also a harsh social criticism like a spit in the face at the same time. Reverting back to a grounded, realistic-styled day to day narrative after exploring stories with exuberant touches of science-fiction through 'Snowpiercer' and 'Okja, Bong didn't restrain from using everything in his directing and writing arsenal to ensure the viewers will be eaten alive by 'Parasite'.

This movie, in all honesty, is a rare breed cinematic opus that no one is competent enough to produce other than Bong himself. It's because the script contains many ideas from Bong's previous features which he then revamps to suit the messages he'd like to deliver. Bong said the most suitable term to describe 'Parasite' is a tragicomedy and I completely agree with it. It provides you with a variant of gallows humor you can laugh at while feeling guilty as well before slowly twisting into a deep hole of spiritual apathy. Bong, who's famous for employing a lot of allusive means in recounting his fables, decided to embrace the blunt side of his thoughts by exploiting blatant slapstick trickeries as the movie's chief weapon albeit he's not abandoning the metaphorical play entirely; he ruthlessly goes back and forth handing out reality slaps as he goes for the extreme in depicting this life's unfairness for always leaning the tip of fortune towards the riches.

It's only a year away since Hirokazu Kore-eda's 'Shoplifters' won last year Palme d'Or and Bong's new movie right here also won the same prize by utilizing the same poor family-centric drama as its core but he's portraying it in a much more cajoling manner. A family where all of its members are unemployed is living in some sort of a cramped basement-level apartment and the movie kicks off with Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam) trotting around the room trying to leech off free wi-fi from nearby public places above their place. Both of these youngsters along with the parents Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) might be poverty-stricken, but Bong never let his main characters run around without possessing a certain level of intellectuality, just like what he implemented in practically all of his films.

By virtue of a recommendation from Ki-woo's friend, an opportunity comes knocking at the door. Ki-woo, with help from the resourceful sister, forges a handful of paperwork in order to get a job as a private English tutor for the sole daughter in a well-heeled family of Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun). After gaining the trust of Park's wife Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), the impoverished kickstarts a deceitful masterplan whereupon the end goal is to secure a position for the whole of Ki-taek's folks at the house of Park. On the other hand, the wealthy ones similarly consist of numerous unparalleled personalities; from the ever-libidinous daughter Da-hye (Jung Ji-so), the eccentric and energetic but traumatized son Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun), to the ever-loving mother Yeon-kyo whose at times is too innocent for her own good.

Language is not a barrier for Bong to craft great comedy materials out of the seemingly doable crime acts because every satirical gag presented is universally funny. We're being lead to believe it's all fun and games until a well-timed sudden change of pace comes in. 'Parasite' retains an essentially comparable concept with 'Snowpiercer', toying with the notion of the alienated waging a war against the prosperous, though both are distinctively executed. The difference is whilst 'Snowpiercer' is a perpendicular battlefield where the moneyed wrongdoings towards the broke are solidly plastered on the screen thus compelling us to vouch for the rebels, 'Parasite' is piling up the obstacles like a ladder which our protagonists have to climb and their struggle is not exactly against the Parks (since they never do harm to them) but to oppose the systemic limitations imposed on the penniless. Although we're not supposed to support what these characters are doing either, it's a tableau meant to convey the truth to the most extreme extent but not to pick a side.

You can sense Bong's genuine concern regarding this particular matter through this crackerjack audiovisual medium as Hong Kyung-pyo's camera plays work perfectly in capturing the precise imageries vibe to match the tone of the script. The world building might not be as immense and imaginative as his preceding sci-fi heavy cinematic pieces, but this is where we could see his aptitude as a filmmaker thrives the best; not every director has the capability to extract quality plot arcs from solitary set pieces like what he's showcasing in 'Parasite' (the scene revolving around a mere wooden table which lasts for more or less 20 minutes is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining sequences in the movie). This is an epic that does not need big unnecessary plot twists to shock us in awe since it includes multiple revelations in store to keep our attention in check and maintaining the scenario progression.

It's an exquisite balance of amusement that coerces you to think not to figure out what's going to happen, but to seize the significance of its self-conscious commentaries presented to you as per an easily digestible theatrical package. It's not a sheer fluke #BongHive eclipsed the hype of Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' during this year's edition of Cannes Film Festival. It's a flawless carnival from A to Z. The cast ensemble deserves equal praises for bringing in such a freakish yet satisfying performance, bending their respective role to oppose the usual stereotype of rich and poor characterizations in many drama flicks. It's not going to be a surprise if there's no other movie coming out later this year could pass the quality standard set by 'Parasite'. Well, enough chit-chatting, go watch it and don't miss it as if your life depends on it. Bong is not going to direct a new movie every single year, fellas.


Review written by: Dysan Aufar

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