The first Korean film to win the Palme d’Or ignited expectations at Cannes as internationally acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho’s latest work leaps to the front of the international film awards race.
“Snowpiercer” and “Okja” are the most recent examples of a filmmaker who’s sure of his craft and working at a level above most. He returns to class system subject matter here, which is present in nearly all his work.
Reactions out of the early awards festivals raved at the plot’s twists and turns, but these expectations should be tempered. Bong’s script works at a subtle and restrained pace. “Parasite” is a comedy and a tragedy that never abandons one genre for the other.
Whether from laziness or lack of opportunity, the Kim family lives in a sub-basement where conditions are anything but ideal. They borrow from surrounding WiFi sources to apply for jobs and work together as a family when they do nab something temporary to put food on their table.
When Ki-woo’s best mate offers him his own tutoring job with a local wealthy family, it opens up the opportunity they have been waiting for. Faked credentials provided by sister Ki-jung, enable the Kims, one-by-one, to gain employment with the wealthy Park family as a tutor, maid and driver. Nothing is beyond their capabilities to fake.
Yes, the first half of the film is quite funny, and the latter more of a thriller but what’s really impressive about “Parasite” is how Bong gets us from one place to another.
There are few audible shock moments for those families in Bong’s work. Comparatively, “Snowpiercer” is more sustainably compelling, action-packed and violent (if that’s your thing).
The need for a tutoring session is one of the few ways the Korean upper class would ever interact intimately with the lower class. “Parasite” might be uniquely Korean, but the discussions of class and social status is universal, not to mention the suspense and dream the situational irony presents.
Compared to other films showing at TIFF, I didn’t find “Parasite” to be at or near the top. The cinematography here is reminiscent of David Finchers vision for “Panic Room.” The score blended with classical music is used quite creatively as a crescendo at the conclusion of each thrilling act.
Yet it’s a cinematic device that’s fairly obvious in its presence and goal. “Parasite” shows signs of having the international film Oscar in the bag, Bong could possibly win in the best director category, a nomination is guaranteed.
However, this obtuse thriller never reaches the instant classic status of last years “Roma” but certainly rises above most predictable and hollow stateside thrillers.
Final Thought — “Parasite” likely works better as a discovery film or severely managed expectations rather than something that’s guaranteed to blow audiences away.