Parasite ★★★★

I'm sorry, but Burning kind of already occupies my place for South Korean film dealing with class divides, misplaced anger, and delusional artistic projection, unto which an unavoidable ending occurs, with lots of tonal shifts, and surprises... plus that one is more tuned into the real world, which ultimately makes it more effective. That's not to undermine what Parasite does on it's own merit, it's just, I don't feel like I'm actually seeing anything new, conceptually (and so recently for that matter). On the surface level, it's certainly intriguing and enjoyable, but even then, I feel like it doesn't go as far as the story needed it to. The "twist" is definitely surprising, but then, it just kind of sits there. It ends up being more a comedy of manners, or even, a farce, when it could have been something more horrifying/crazy, which would've been far more effective allegorically. Also (I'm trying to get all the comparisons/negatives out of the way, because there are praises I want to bestow), this seems like it doesn't want to indict anyone in the problems with capitalism, whereas, Burning wants to indict everyone; that subtle difference I think is crucial in effectiveness (everyone’s a victim vs. everyone is culpable). This wears it's allegorical sleeve proudly as if it's the first to make the observation, whereas Burning is starting to point fingers.

But my rating should still be an indicator that this is very effective stuff nonetheless, despite [potentially] murky subtext (I mean, the titular parasite I believe is supposed to be the system, but it kind of leans one way more than the other in the actual film - and it's not the way I think is intended...). It's a film that definitely follows its own mode of film-making. There's never one path it's set on and tied down to. Everything flows pretty seamlessly, as well as taking its time to naturally develop. There’s a very logical plotting of, here we are at A, and now we’re going to show how we got to B, before leaping to P, and winding up back at G (does that metaphor track?). In 30 minutes in the stage is set, and yet it feels like a whole movies worth of stuff has already happened, and that smooth ass film-making continues every 30 minute chunk. Bong really has a hold on pacing, and it never once dips, always keeping the interest up (even if it ends somewhere more with a whimper). Being only my second Bong (the other being Snowpiercer), I'm very impressed by his directorial confidence. The tone does remain the same throughout the film, even if a particular scene’s mood is changing; which is never an easy thing to balance.

This is easily my choice for Best Ensemble Cast so far this year; and they will be very tough to dethrone. Literally every single actor fucking kills their role (even the child!). Song Kang-ho is the standout in my mind (not sure if I’d consider him lead or supporting). His role is very complicated in its execution. He has to at once seem like a modest genius, whilst carrying an inconspicuous personality, and kind of detached defeatism overhanging, while being completely engaged moment to moment. There’s this feeling the wheels are always spinning in his brain. After him I’d say Park So-dam impressed me most, because she always has something peculiar pulling me in. Her performance is reserved on the surface, making me question whether she’s putting on a front, or if she’s being genuine, in every single scene. It’s an effective way to keep the audience engaged in her story/performance, and I was all-in at all times, verbally trying to decode motivation. Everyone else, like I said, did great, but didn’t individually grab me as much as those two.

It’s actually impossible to delve into this without spoiling it, and I’m not trying to do that. It’s certainly interesting enough and I’d recommend everyone to see it, but maybe tamper your expectations? This thing sings in stimulating fascination, as well as pure entertainment, but doesn’t leave much food for thought; though I seem to be in the minority on that opinion. I also don’t see myself revisiting this anytime soon, because I don’t think there’s too much information to extrapolate, and I’m not sure knowing “what’s going on”, would enhance the repeated viewing; though I could obviously be wrong about that (I predict I’ll be watching Burning a third, maybe even fourth, time before seeing this a second). This thing is full of bold choices though that shouldn’t just be taken for granted - music being geared towards a fairy-tale like feeling, a broad spectrum of performances, intricate staging amongst well designed (and distinct) sets, cinematography that glows, and a script that takes chances, even if it's too timid to go further in fear of alienation (satire/commentary can only work when it's able to cast the widest net on an audience).

I expected more, so it may be my own fault for not loving this, but ultimately I was not disappointed.

Frank liked these reviews

All