Released: 27th June 2019
Seen: 5th February
It was worldwide news when Australia decided to turn up the heat and set itself on fire. I don’t need to go into details of it all but suffice to say that it wasn’t exactly a good time to be in the land downunder. Air was awful, the heat was intense and our prime minister decided to go on holiday in Hawaii before coming back to force people to shake his hand for a series of photo ops that went wonderfully for him. A small (we’re talking beyond trivial, but I bring it up for context) side effect was that travelling from my home to Sydney was not going to happen under any circumstances since I had no guarantee the fire wouldn’t block the way and because the air quality was roughly the same as smoking 37 cigarettes a day. Because of that, any movie that was only being shown in Sydney was impossible for me to get to because I will do a lot to go see a good movie, but I won’t walk into an inferno.
This meant that I was unfortunate enough to miss out on seeing Parasite, the latest film by Bong Joon Ho. This was upsetting to me because I’d heard literally nothing but good things about this film and wanted to see it but everything was too smoky and I was too poor to see it so when it came out on DVD you had best believe that I got a copy instantly, curious about this movie and what was going on. I knew nothing about it, the plot was completely unknown, no one talked about the ending, no one talked about the plot. At best I knew it was a story about socio-economic status, specifically about the very poor vs the very rich and how they interact. I knew it had a good cast (clearly, it had the SAG award for the best cast before I could get to see it) but that was all I knew.
When I got my copy, it was a 2 for $40 deal at Sanity (a store with an apt name, considering how this movie toyed with my sanity during the last half hour) and I eagerly got home, put it on and realised I can’t tell you a damn thing about its plot other than “Is good, go see”, which is a phrase I jokingly say to people when they ask about certain films and I don’t want to give an in-depth review. I would’ve liked to have done that here, one day I will inevitably give in to that base desire to write an epic 4-word review but today I must try and turn this ramble into text about the film… the problem being, I’m scared to describe even how the film opens because to do so might spoil some of the brilliance and you will be happier for going in blind.
Let’s see what I can do here. The film revolves around the Kim family, lead by the patriarch Kim Ki-Taek (Song Kang-Ho), and they all live in such abject poverty that they take jobs assembling pizza boxes to try and pay the bills and will leave the window open during a street fumigation, risking poisoning by the chemicals in order to scam a free home fumigation while they’re there. When the son, Kim Ki-Woo (Choi Woo-shik) gets a job as a tutor for the daughter of the wealthy Park family, it begins a chain of events that inevitably lead to (SPOILERS!).
What starts as a sharp dark comedy of a family desperately trying to climb up the socio-economic ladder by any means necessary turns dark as hell by the end, in a way that’s both shocking and almost expected. It’s shocking just how far they will push this boat out into the waters of pure insanity, but it was pretty clear that this was going to go south when the plan started. It’s an exhilarating trip to witness the events developing in this exquisitely designed building that just screams ‘wealth’. You’ll catch yourself laughing and giggling, right up until the movie decides it’s going to flip you off and do something shocking. You almost know it’s going to try to shock you, I mean the film isn’t called Parasite due to some weird translation error. That’s a word that brings up images of something unpleasant and when the film decides to live up to that implication, it does it with gusto.
If you just want to view the film as a political story about the poor vs the rich (because I know how people love to talk about politics in art, because we apparently forgot that all art is political) then it’s a jaw-dropper, brilliant in every way. This is the kind of film that should be shown in a film studies class so every student can write lengthy essays about it. It’s the kind of film you can gleefully spend hours examining and talking about… or, if you want, you can also just enjoy it at face value. I think you get a little bit more out of it if you sit with it and explore the meaning behind it (reading up on just why the film got called Parasite is enough to make me want several essays to be written about this one) but it’s also just genuinely enjoyable from start to finish even if all you follow is the story… though, this is one of those I highly encourage you to watch and then think about its deeper meaning because it’s seriously really great.
Every shot in this film feels like it’s designed by some kind of wizard, creating these perfect shots with framing so specific that it had to be done by magic. Flawless lighting that paints a sharp line between classes, a sharp line that is then highlighted by a colour palette that screams “There is meaning here, look at me damnit” because it’s so pointed that you can’t avoid it. This also helps when the time comes to change the genre, making it feel very different when it needs to be. All this goes to aid the cast, even though they didn’t need any aid because every single one of them is gloriously perfect to the point where singling out any of them feels wrong (though god damn, the father and daughter of the Kim family and the housekeeper could all easily be pulled out for praise, if I had to). Every element of this film just works so perfectly, I’m in awe of every single bit of it.
Bong Joon-Ho directed an absolute masterpiece of film making, it’s so good that I am genuinely stunned that it isn’t the movie with the most Oscar nominations. How the hell Song Kang-ho, Park So-dam and Lee Jung-eun aren’t nominated for Actor and Supporting Actress I don’t… oh wait, forgot it was a foreign film and it’s lucky the Academy gave it any awards nominations outside of that specific category (y’all ain’t ready for the bitterness that’s coming when my predictions post goes up). It should be, this is a genuinely brilliant film that will be talked about for a very long time. I wish I had been able to see it when it was out last year, I desperately wish because it would’ve easily cracked the top 5 on my best list. It’s the kind of film that should be talked about, even if all the talk just consists of “Is good, go see”