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?
Universal Pictures presents Parasite with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2:39:1. As one might expect from a brand-new film shot on 6K digital, the visual presentation looks really nice and clean. Fine detail is excellent, and colors and clarity are true to the original presentation. The film is extremely well shot and had the effect of making me want to learn more about architecture. The film looks excellent overall.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Parasite features a great sounding Korean DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track that works exceptionally well. The movie has a lot of high energy moments where the surrounds are very well used, including the masterful sequence in the latter half of the film with the flooding of the streets. I did not detect any issues of note.
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.