Parasite

Parasite ★★★★½

A brilliant construction of obvious metaphors that conceal/reveal intractable horrors while slick staging and deft maneuvering among protagonists, genres and tones gradually bring the cruel inflexibility of class into unsettling, sharp focus. As such, a culmination of Bong's work since Memories of Murder, which refracted actual unsolved crimes through a prism of genre, its destabilizing bouts of surrealism and comedy evocative of the shifting ground beneath detectives and locals struggling to make sense of random, recurring savagery. What I wrote in my lboxd blurb of MoM, of Bong wisely underplaying his big honking visual metaphors, gets its fullest expression here. For all the thrilling execution of his second act, the sequence following the Kims back to their home in the pouring rain is the true masterstroke - a series of wide shots of them descending flooding streets and staircases, the polluted water already far ahead of them, backing up the drains and devastating their neighborhood, culminating in an overhead shot of an anonymous family drifting down the street clinging to a table like a life raft. (I was reminded of Tsai Ming-liang's Stray Dogs, a much more formally rigorous film about a family struggling to survive poverty in the crawlspaces of a metropolis.) With much of the film bifurcated between two living spaces, choosing this moment to trace the path from one down to the other serves as a widening of scope that situates the relatively small scale of Bong's drama within the larger urban landscape of Seoul (and in the shot of the displaced people packed into the temporary shelter of the gym, a reminder that the Kims are but one family among many in desperate circumstances) and his nimble narrative and formal manipulations within a rigid socioeconomic and geographic structure that engenders the rage and hopelessness that leads Parasite to its queasily lingering finale.

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