Thu. Nov 21st, 2019

Cannes Review: Joon-ho Bong’s ‘Parasite’ is breathtaking and heartbreaking

Parasite (Photo : 2019 CJ ENM Corporation, Barunson E&A)

Joon-ho Bong delivers the best film of the Cannes Film Festival so far

Known for his genre-twisting work, Joon-ho Bong is a director that never operates within a comfort zone. From sci-fi monsters to dramas and comedies, he is one of the world’s most inventive filmmakers today. With Parasite, he delivers a career-best film and the finest feature film played so far at the Cannes official competition.

How do you take a subject so dense such as social class and present it in a fresh, non-didactic, sincere and creative manner? Parasite does just that – and then some. Dubbed South Korea’s Shoplifters, this is a film that masterfully blends comedy, drama and horror to deliver piercing social commentary while creating a unique and unforgettable world of characters and settings. Viewers will certainly find it hard to classify the film – and perhaps that’s one of the many reasons why it’s utterly brilliant – it’s a film that defies genre, a story that completely captures its audience and leaves them shattered yet hopeful, entertained yet enlightened.

Ki-taek’s family is unemployed. They live in an underground house with very little means to get by. All unemployed, they seize a rare opportunity to get their son to become a tutor for a wealthy businessman’s daughter. Soon after, the family find ways to manipulate the Parks family and without spoiling much of the film’s several twists and turns, things are never what they seem.

Joon-ho Bong’s script tackles social classes in modern South Korea so delicately and yet deeply: visual references and crackling dialogue provide a backdrop to the issues without ever feeling forced or pretentious. In one stunning sequence in the film’s shocking second half, a heartbreaking contrast is presented to demonstrate how ‘underground families’ lead lives so brutal and demeaning to the extent that they cease to exist in the eyes of those above them, washed away from society, erased from collective memory.

Despite the hefty subject, it never veers into poverty porn. Bong is able to address the themes with a lot of comedy and heartfelt moments, superb dialogue and powerhouse performances while maintain the film’s grace. In presenting the themes and ideas in such creative and entertaining ways, Parasite pulls you in and never lets go. It sweeps you into a world where pain and laughter co-exist and, in the case of the Parks family, the wealthy and poor co-exist for the first time.

Breathtaking technical credits transport audiences into an unforgettable visual experience. The film’s stellar cinematography plays a major role in showing the dramatic contrast essential to highlight the film’s themes, while the soundtrack is scarce but effective. But Parasite remains a narrative and a masterful directorial achievement – and a major step forward for South Korean cinema. More than last year’s Burning, this is an accessible and entertaining picture that should find resonance with audiences around the world, and hopefully awards bodies that have long ignored Korean cinema. A film so full of energy, wit and heart, Parasite is a major accomplishment and a must-see film for anyone who loves cinema.

Grade: A

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