This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Logan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Parasite: The highest rated movie on Letterboxd
The reaction to the overwhelming praise of Parasite has been interesting to watch unfold. It has become one of the most hyped up films in recent memory. It went from it’s Cannes premiere where it got insanely high reviews and won the Palme D'or, the first Korean film to ever do so. before building up more and more hype, releasing sporadically across the world (and the web). Practically everybody I knew on Letterboxd was giving this a 10/10, it was getting fantastic critical reviews. This all added up and eventually, Parasite climbed the Top 250 and beat out the big boi, The Godfather, to become the new king of Letterboxd.
Several people have mixed thoughts about this, some say it’s being overhyped, which is fair to say. It’s bizarre that it’s been held to such high regard and is held to the level of The Godfather not even a year after it’s release. The reason The Godfather was up there was a) cause it’s very good and b) because it’s built this legacy surrounding it where it’s stood the test of time as an iconic piece of cinema that’s shaped the medium as we know it.
Parasite doesn’t have that, in fact, it's still barely even been released yet. And yes, it is a little overhyped. Not to devalue any of the praise it’s been getting, and I’m definitely not saying we’re gonna look back on it and go “this SUCKS!!” But it’s certainly a rapid amount of time for this movie to rise to such acclaim. But I honestly kinda welcome it. I welcome that we’re embracing more modern movies to the same level as these untouchable titans of cinema. The top 250 is dominated by these classic films from the 60’s and 70’s, which are pretty much all great movies, but film evolves and changes, which is why it’s such an exciting medium and there should be more movies in there that’s recognized as such. Granted, I think the reason that there’s way more 2019 films getting into the Top 250 this year is more based on the number of users on Letterboxd jumping up, but nonetheless, it’s still exciting to embrace change, even though it’s really just a fairly meaningless statistic that isn’t indicative of actual fact. The Godfather is not the peak of all cinema, it’s not the best movie that's ever going to be made, this shift was inevitable.
So when I saw Odeon were holding one of their Screen Unseen events and it was marked as being a subtitled film, I immediately knew it had to be Parasite. I couldn’t believe it to be true, I kept doubting it even as I sat down in the cinema, but there it was, up on the screen. I could've so easily just found the high quality leak online and watched it again at home, but I had the rare opportunity to watch a film like Parasite on the big screen for once, and I am so glad I made that choice.
Parasite is more than deserving of the praise it's receiving. It's a complete and utter masterpiece, which is saying a lot coming from a director who consistently has put out incredible movies for years, it's incredible that even after all of that he still manages to top himself by creating this thoughtful, hilarious, intensely dark and tragic tale around class and identity.
The way this movie depicts its class divides blows my mind. These two families act as mirror images of one another, one living in this isolated, immaculate modern mansion, the other living in a dingey, grimy sub-basement home overlooking a bustling city street. One are blissfully ignorant, the other are constantly scheming and have intricate plans in action. One smells, the other doesn't. These class divisions are told so well throughout the story, but it never feels like it's directly told you this, rather naturally inferred just through the story of the movie.
There's certain little moments that reflect this class divisions in fantastic ways. A little rain to the Parks is just a mild inconvenience and are unaffected by it, but for the Kim’s that same rain completely floods their house and forces them to sleep in a packed gym for the night.
What I love is that the Parks aren't evil because they're rich. In a lesser film, it'd be so easy just to say that Mr Park is evil and a bad father or the kids are little shits, but that's not what this movie does. Mr Park is a good dad, Yeon-kyo is a kind mother, the kids are fine. They're not bad people, their flaw is just being gullible and ignorant. But that ignorance isn't born out of a place of contempt, it's just that they're in a position where they don't have to worry about it. They don't have to care about the poor and can live within their bubble of money and perfection.
The Kim family are really the ones who're in the wrong. At first it's simply them taking advantage of this families blissful ignorance of their web of lies, but as it goes on they begin to really show this animalistic survival instinct to work their way into this home, where they set up people, harm them, manipulate them. They do some awful shit, but again it all linked into the class warfare. This opportunity is allowing them to escape from poverty, which is such a rare opportunity for them, so they fight for it at every opportunity. It's clear they feel a level of empathy about what they're doing, they all have moments of compassion towards those who they’re harming, but they always justify their actions with a survival of the fittest mentally, where if it's not us in this position, somebody else will take their place, and that's exactly what they inadvertently did.
The bunker twist is one of the best twists I've ever seen in a movie, so much so that I don't even want to talk about it here (A reminder; SPOILERS!) Having this hit out of nowhere is such a clever twist that plays so thematically well into the themes and ideas. Having essentially the same basement as The Kim's have, one that's totally buried under this pristine paradise, that nobody even realised was there all along is genius. It's further mirrors the ignorance of the upper-class to the poor struggles, and it furthers that idea of the lower class having to fight amongst each other for survival while the rich have to fight for nothing.
And the final epilogue is heartbreaking. The garden massacre is framed as being inevitable, even without Geun-De rising up to kill the Kims, the act of Ki-taek killing Mr Park feels like it was destined to happen. Ki-taek begins to become deeply frustrated with the class division between them. He starts to fully notice the extent of their ignorance, how they treat the lower class like afterthoughts, completely disregarding their struggles or plights.
And then there's the smell. The smell is this unshakeable divide between the two. Even when Ki-taek wears this suit, acts like this high class driver, there's always this unshakeable scent reminding him and the rich that he is different and will never be able to fit within that world. As well as that, it reveals the true nature of Mr Park’s destain for the lower-class, when he is seen to be disgusted by the smell, and by nature, the lower class too. So when Mr Park asks Ki-taek to serve his needs in a moment where he's holding his dying daughter in his arms, he snaps and kills him. It's an unexpected moment of violence that brings no sense of cathartic relief or a sense of revenge, it's just an outburst of anger at the system that creates these divides.
And the fucking ENDING, holy shit. Not only is having Ki-taek take the role from Geun-de as a slave to this house underground, with no hope other than with his morse code letter to his son. But then Ki-woo’s letter back is such a melancholic way to end this movie. It plays into this false pretense that you can work your way up the ladder of class and the class system is a meritocracy. This could be left as an ambiguous ending of whether or not the scene of Ki-taek emerging from the basement to reunite his son was real, but Bong doesn't even let it stay ambiguous, he immediately shows that it's all a fantasy, it's ultimately a tragedy in the end, a tragedy completely predicated by the class system.
After having now seen more of Bong Joon-Ho’s work before seeing it this second time, it helped me go in with a better understanding of him as a director and his general style. He’s a director who is able to so elegantly balance tone, in fact he's one of the best directors in this regard. All of his movies could be viewed as black comedies, however they all are able to still maintain strong, emotional, dramatic hooks. Yes, Parasite is insanely funny, (and seeing it with a crowd, who laughed along a lot made me realise just how funny it is) but that comedy never takes weight away from the drama, the themes, the characters and in fact it's used to build all these elements.
Another great thing about Bong’s work is that he’s able to draw from other genres and ideas, but morph them into something fresh. The Host is a monster movie, Memories of Murder is a detective mystery, Okja is a E.T type story, but he doesn't just take those basic formulas, he builds on them with his own commentary and ideas. At times Parasite feels like a heist movie, with these montages of the Kims creating these intricate plans to work their way into this household, as well as them having to later escape from the house stealthily in one of the tensest scenes I've ever seen.
Bong Joon-ho’s direction feels effortless, but it's not, it's clear he puts so much care and detail into every portion of the movie. Everything in the script comes back in some way or has some purpose, the rhythm and energy of scenes feels completely captivating. Hell, the fact that he went and got this house built from the ground up for this movie, just so he could carefully plan out shots and blocking and mould the house around the visual storytelling of the filmmaking is astounding, especially when it took me several months after seeing it to even realise that was the case.
Also, a lot has to be given to the performances. The chemistry and dynamic between the Kims is phenomenal, every single actor here kills it. Song Kang-ho, a frequent collaborator with Bong Joon-ho, is fantastic and gives the best performance I've seen from him yet. Watching this a day after seeing his character in The Host just proves how diverse of an actor he is. There's the son, Ki-woo, played by Choi Woo-Shik, who also does an incredible job. There's the sister played by Park So-dam, who is my favorite character just due to how funny she is and incredibly blunt she is throughout.
The score by Jung Jaeil is fantastic, it utilises a lot of strings and piano and creates these beautiful pieces that fit so perfectly alongside the film.
Also, which I just discovered, Parasite has an original song in the credits. It's called Sojo One Glass which plays in the credits and it's sung by the actor who plays Ki-woo. It’s on the shortlist for Best Original Song at the Oscars and now I desperately want it to win.
Also, seeing it on the big screen was great just to hear it through cinema speakers. Hearing the immense thuds of attacks, the chaotic rainfalls that rip through the mix. It's got great sound design at play and I would be happy with it winning that at awards shows.
I guess the summary here is that as we come into awards season, I want Parasite to win everything. Every Oscar category, it deserves to win it all. As amazing as that'd be, that's pretty unrealistic and with the way Roma got snubbed last year, I'm worried about Parasites chances. Regardless of awards though, I know this movie is going to be celebrated, it's going to be remembered, it's going to have an impact on film. It may be overhyped to an extent, but I don't think it's unjust. Parasite is a complete and utter achievement in filmmaking and gives us a movie that feels genuinely fresh and original that is destined to become a classic.
Suffice to say, it's my favorite film of the year, and I do not see that being topped. I have genuinely considered putting it in my top 4, but I'll wait until the hype has died down a little and maybe it'll go there on a 3rd watch. But the fact that I even got to see it in cinemas is such a blessing, it's so rare that a forgien language film ever plays in cinemas, this is the first time I saw one on the big screen and getting to see it there was maybe one of my favorite cinema experiences I've ever had, by the end of it I was left grinning like a little fucking idiot.
So yeah, Bonghive rise up!