Asian cinema has been a passion of mine since I was about ten years old. Some of the best Asian cinema of the last twenty years has come from the South Korea. South Korea gave birth to one of my all-time favorite directors Park Chan-Wook and his amazing Vengeance trilogy of films. Probably the most prominent Korean director aside from Park Chan-Wook is director Bong Joon Ho. Bong Joon Ho has been successful stateside with his films The Host, Mother, and Snowpiercer. His most recent film Parasite is his most successful film yet. The film garnered incredibly favorable reviews and is now the winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best International Feature. This is a big moment for Bong Joon Ho, but also a big moment for Korean cinema in general.
The storyline of the film revolves around the impoverished Kim family living in squalor in the city. Their basement level apartment is so poorly built that they must keep the drunks from urinating outside the apartment for fear of the urine lingering in their apartment. The Kim family is led by their unskilled father Ki-taek and equally unskilled mother Chung-sook. The Kim family do not have any jobs and scrape by doing whatever they can relying solely on their wits and schemes. They rely on stolen Wifi from other people to have any internet and use Whatsapp to make all phone calls. When Ki-woo Kim, the teenage boy of the family, is approached by his friend Min to teach English to a rich teen age girl for the summer, he jumps at the chance. His sister Ki-jung helps him to forge documents that show he is in the university. Arriving at the beautifully designed home of the Park family, the architecture of the house sticks out as being done by a famous architect. Ki-woo meets the naive mother of two children Yeon Ki-yo Park. She hires Ki-woo, now going by Kevin, to teach English to her daughter Da-hye. Seeing that the young boy in the house is an artist, Ki-woo seizes the opportunity to bring in his sister to pose as an art teacher. She convinces the mother that she can use art therapy to treat her child. Before long the entire family has infiltrated the house in jobs, using all sorts of trickery to become indispensable to the Park family. The film also has many tricks up its sleeve that will not be revealed until the second half.
Parasite is pretty fantastic. In 2019 (and 2020) class and wealth disparity have been topics that have loomed large in the films that we have seen ranging from Ready or Not, Knives Out, and others. Parasite approaches the issue with a satirical bend that works incredibly well. What is impressive is how the film manages to slowly morph from comedy to thriller to tragedy in the course of a couple hours. The finale of the film is arguably the most unforgettable sequence of any film this year, and will leave marks on any audience that sees the film. Like the best films, Parasite has something to say and it is willing to say it in the most blunt terms imaginable. The finale of the film is so damn unbearable because all of the characters in the film are so likable. I don’t want to say anything else in this review, but I can’t wait to talk to somebody else who has seen the film.
Bong Joon Ho has definitely reached a career peak with this film. The direction is flawless and feels effortless. It looks fantastic and just feels right thanks to great cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong. The acting in the film is excellent. Kang-ho Song has been a fixture of the Korean film scene for two decades and he is perfection as the unskilled father Ki-taek. Yeo-jeong Jo is great as the clueless but caring mother of the Park family. Sun-kyun Lee is also well cast as the father of the Park family.
This is a strange and enjoyable film. The film manages to play on so many emotions in such a short amount of time. Viewers should be consistently surprised by the twists and turns of the script including an absolutely amazing sequence that involves rain. I look forward to seeing how it fares in the award season.
Video: How’s it look?
The trouble with new movies coming out on Blu-ray and 4K is that they all look good. Yes, there are variances, but when seeing a movie on a new to the format disc, it’s really hard to say “this looks good” or “this could use some work.” Technology has not only gotten to the point where everything new looks good, it’s even to the point where older films are now looking much better than when they premiered. I suppose that’s a tale for another time. For whatever reason, it’s taken several months for Universal to release this film in 4K. The Blu-ray got our highest score and it’s hard to say that this looks better than that. But it does. The addition of HDR gives several of the scenes much more depth and contrast and while I noticed only the slightest uptick in detail, it was noticeable. Is this a night and day difference that’s going to mean you have to sell the Blu-ray to get this? I doubt it. But if you were holding off and waiting for this version – the wait is over.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Also new is a Dolby Atmos track. This replaces the DTS HD Master Audio mix found on the Blu-ray and, again, there’s an uptick in how it sounds. I felt more of an atmosphere (pardon the pun) with this one. And while the track on the Blu-ray certainly didn’t disappoint, this is the one that’ll make you appreciate your Atmos setup, providing you have one. Having said that, it’s a good upgrade but not if the Blu-ray is already a part of your collection, then it’s not essential.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Parasite – Fantastic Fest 2019 Q & A with Director Bong Joon Ho – The director speaks through an interpreter to discuss some aspects of the film with audience members.
The Bottom Line
Parasite is a strongly written and directed film with a lot to say about class differences and the scars that are formed on both sides of the divide. I highly encourage checking this movie out, but I would not be surprised to find that the ending will strongly impact people’s appreciation of the film in positive or negative ways. Parasite is definitely timely, and the film’s script is very clever. I will definitely be returning to rewatch this film in the future and think it is worthy of a purchase.