With such a wide variety of movies under his belt, anything that the man produces next is met with eager anticipation; will it be as boundary pushing and insane as Mother!, a film with a message like Okja?
Well, in Parasite, Bong Joon-ho has outdone himself and given us a movie that, on the one hand, is incredibly deeply, darkly funny, whilst on the other is creepy, thrilling and didn’t just have me on the edge of my seat, I was out of it on more than one occasion.
Joon-ho turned to cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo again, who he worked with on Snowpiercer amongst others. Kyung-pyo was also the cinematographer on Burning and The Wailing. The former the 2018 Korean entrant to the Cannes Film Festival. Parasite the 2019 entry and winner, the first Korean film to do so.
This collaboration is a dream pairing. The film looks stunning, the juxtaposition between those that ‘have’ and those that ‘have not’ is brilliantly done and the whole things looks gorgeous.
As for the story, it’s deliciously wicked. We start with a family: Song Kang-ho (“The Host”, “Howling”), the father, Jang Hye-jin (“Marine Boy”, “Yongsoon”), the mother, Choi Woo-sik (“Okja“, “Train To Busan“), the son and Park So-dam (“Ode To The Goose”, “The Priests”), the daughter.
The family are down on their luck. Struggling to find work at a time when even the most straight forward jobs are receiving hundreds of applications. The sponge their wi-fi from the lady upstairs whilst living in their basement apartment.
When Woo-sik is offered the chance to be an English tutor by a friend, he reluctantly agrees, So-dam forges some university paperwork and he rocks up to a huge house in a wealthy neighbourhood.
The lady of the house, Jo Yeo-jeong (“The Servant”, “The Target”), welcomes him and insists on sitting in on his first lesson to daughter Jung Ji-so (“The Tiger”, “Drama Special (TV)”). Woo-sik impresses and also learns that she thinks her youngest son, Jung Hyun-jun, is a highly talented future artist.
Spotting an opportunity, Woo-sik quickly jumps at the chance to introduce his sister as an extremely talented artist who studied in Illinois. Yeo-jeong leaps at the opportunity.
You can see where this is headed and so it goes. Daughter spots an opportunity to get dad a job, which happens, he becomes the family driver and all three plot to get mother in as the housekeeper. The rich family, including father Lee Sun-kyun (“A Hard Day”, “Paju”), have no idea all four are related.
But, there’s a twist, as the former housekeeper returns one night and reveals a secret no-one could have predicted. This turns the families plan on its head and it’s fair to say, acting without one, isn’t their strong point.
When the twist hit, I admit I did roll my eyes and cringe a little. It felt a touch forced and like there was an obvious way out there and then but, stick with as the pay-off is simply wonderful.
It’s not difficult to heap praise on Parasite. It’s a wonderful film that will have you laughing one minute, sitting on the edge of your seat the next and leaping out of it furthermore.
It’s easy to see why it won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Watch it and see a master weaving an intricate pattern of thrills for your delectation.