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Review Parasite (2019)


“PARASITE” (2019)
By Bong Joon-ho | South Korea
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There’s been a lot of films tackling the social issues that comes with the gap a capitalist society created between the rich and the poor. “Fight Club” is probably the most notable of this type of ‘socialist’ cinema with its critique on consumerist culture, pinning the blame on the obsession IKEA or Starbucks has engrained into our mind through their green striped sofa and caramel macchiato. But apart from Fincher’s cult classic anarchist extravaganza, socialist cinema has grown in more and more in numbers, until they could easily be classified into their own subgenre. This subgenre, is what the prestigious Cannes Film Festival seems to be obsessed with for the last couple of years. In 2018, Cannes gave their Palme d’Or title to the japanese film “Shoplifters”, a quiet drama focusing on a lower class family struggling to met ends meet through shoplifting and occasional burglary. And now, just 12 months later, another asian film centering on near identical subject matter won the award again — the first one that goes to South Korea ever in history.
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The film is “Parasite”; the director, Bong Joon-ho, the man behind genre bending modern classics such as “Memories of a Murder”, “Snowpiercer”, and “The Host”. The story follows the family of Kim Ki-taek, an unemployed middle aged man living with his son, daughter, and wife in a basement on a flooded district in busy Korea. When a friend of Ki-taek’s son, Ki-woo, came for a visit to offer him a job as a substitute tutor for a rich family’s daughter, things took a turn in the lower class family life, as obsession and rage built towards the hedonistic lifestyle they found in their new employer, the Parks.
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Immediately while watching this, another recent Korean film jumped out to me: “Burning”, directed by Lee Chang-dong, which seems to take place in an identical shade of modern Korea. The two films, though very different in style and characters, shares a similar concerns on the rapidly changing country, from the fishermen trading hub of East Asia, to being the biggest cultural icon competing against the world’s biggest superpowers.
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In both films, the issue presented is how this rapidly changing Korea has left some casualties along the way. The law of nature, killed or be killed, is the name of the game in the new era of global economics, as fields of works became a deadlier competition — separating the unemployed further down the drain and the rich higher in their tower — a sense of unjust and stratification emerges. And when people feel stratified, jealousy grew, which then incite far deadlier problems caused by nothing more than human nature.
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This is what Bong Joon-ho focuses on “Parasite”. In its 132 minutes of runtime, the film takes us through the phases of impact on what the state of this new globalized Korea demands. From the cynical humour that the characters forced upon themselves in the beginning, to the violent rage fueled breakdown the film climaxed on; “Parasite” is full of unexpected turns such is the reality of the situtation these lower class world lives in. Which works so incredibly smooth because it fortunately lies on the hand of such an eccentric auteur. Even Bong Joon-ho’s self descriptive label of calling it a “family tragicomedy” feels simplified and undermining to what really is a socioeconomical study disguised as an arthouse satirical dark comedy. Which sounds like a disaster in the making if only it falls to any other director’s hand.
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“Parasite” proves that social commentary can also be so accessible for the public and a sickening sense of humour can be the best way to slap an ignorant crowd of consumerist snobs into thinking how much their lives centers around the unseen workers on the ground. “The best plan it to not have any. Because when everything went to shit, it’s still gonna be okay.”
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