Nicolò Grasso’s review published on Letterboxd:
Original Title: Gisaengchung
Year of Release: 2019
Genres: Dark Comedy; Drama; Thriller
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won, Kim Dae-hwan
Main Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Chang Hyae-jin, Jung Zi-so, Jung Hyeon-jun
There comes a time in a director’s life where, after having made some movies, they finally tackle a project that they were born to make. Parasite is Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece, a word that I do not use lightly. After having been a major voice in the South Korean New Wave of cinema, with genre films ranging from the crime thriller to the creature feature, he delivers the equivalent of what The Handmaiden was for Park Chan-wook’s career.
In Parasite we follow an unemployed family of four (husband, wife, son, and daughter) that, through a variety of ingenious cons, starts to work for a wealthy Korean family that lives in an artistic house. Right from the get-go, this is easily the most comedic of the films of Bong: from the energy of the dialogue to the vibrancy of the editing, the first half is an overwhelming succession of clever scene after clever scene, leading to incredibly satisfying moments that are executed so flawlessly that it was hard not to clap during the screening. But the initial humor not only works in itself, but it is also used to show and critique the social divide between the wealthy and the poor, and how a seemingly armless thing like heavy rain can benefit one and ruin the other.
This really does feel like the apex of everything we have grown to love from Bong: the strong social statements and allegorical narratives, mixing dark humor with disturbing moments, focusing on dysfunctional families that come together to support each other… This really has it all. The energy present on screen is nothing short of impressive, giving the audience a rollercoaster ride of emotions and keeping the momentum going from the first to the last shot, crafting an experience that flies by in the blink of an eye. Everything is borderline perfect, from the balance of all the different tones to the stunning cinematography that features some really nifty composition that can be both humorous and thrilling.
The cast is utterly terrific, starting from everyone’s favorite Korean actor Song Kang-ho: over the years he has truly shown varying ranges of acting, from goofy physical comedy in The Good, The Bad, The Weird and The Foul King to more dramatic and emotional performances in Thirst and Army of Shadows, and here he delivers an outstanding blend of realistic comedic behaviour with seriousness and gravitas. The rest of the cast as well is excellent, with everyone being on the same page as the director as to what tone to have in each scene, and the comedic timing was absolutely on point from everyone.
Overall, Parasite was a worthy winner of the Palm D’or at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival: in a competition full of great movies, this one was easily the most entertaining of them all, while also delivering a thoughtful outlook on today’s crowded society and uneven wealth distribution. It makes for a great companion piece to Jordan Peele’s Us.
Visual Effects: 9
Violence & Gore: 8
Sex & Nudity: 6
Drugs & Profanity: 2
Intensity & Horror: 6