Roy’s double feature: ‘Parasite’ is a remarkable movie, fully deserving of its Best Picture Oscar
By ROY MORRIS
When I first found out about this movie, it had already won many international awards, some 299 nominations in fact, ultimately winning 160 — an incredible feat by any standard. It had gained an almost 100% perfect critical score across all movie media sites, particularly ‘Rotten Tomatoes,’ and ended up ranking first on no less than 77 critics year-end movie lists, out of 240 ranked top ten — so, of course I was intrigued. Then came the Oscar nominations and here it was again and I asked myself, what is it about this movie that has garnered so many accolades?
For South Korean born writer/director, Bong Joon-ho, this actually started out as a play in 2013 and was kept on the back burner for a few years, until his profile as a director was, what he thought would be, high enough to proceed with this very personal project. Its subject matter, that of class conflict and social inequalities, was a hard sell for him at first.
Eventually though, together with co writer, Han Jin-won, it came together and, sticking to his guns, so to speak, it went into production in May of 2018. So here is my review of one of the most remarkable movies I have seen in a long time, “Parasite,” the now Oscar winner for best picture, director and screenplay for Bong Joon-ho and some firsts in the Oscar history, but more about that later.
I won’t give too much away as the plot is simple but so multilayered in its execution that you just need to see it. The story of a poorer family trying to get by in modern South Korea, meeting up with, and working for, an affluent family, leading to some darker, deceptive plot progressions is all I will say. See it, I guarantee you will not be disappointed — so much so that you will forget that you are even reading the subtitles.
The thing that stood out for me immediately is the way that the director pulled me straight in, introducing what seemed to be a normal family with money issues living in a crowded basement house in a city near to Seoul, South Korea. Then we are introduced to the wealthy family and as the two worlds collide and overlap, the themes and ideals change and we start to see another side of each family, both with similar issues, but with different priorities.
Therein lays the genius of this production and together with some classic movie metaphors in the lighting and camera work, Bong Joon-ho manages to make this a roller coaster ride of surprise and shock. At the same time he creates enough empathy so that we are continuously hoping for the best outcome — these are likeable people but with legitimate issues. His use of space is powerful here, the change from the cramped dirty basement to the straight, clean lines of the spacious house later, shows us all we need to know as to the eventual actions of the characters therein. The stairs are a running metaphor throughout the movie also — the “upstairs/downstairs separation,” as Bong Joon-ho calls it, uses the spaces brilliantly, adding tremendous weight to the developing tension.
Another aspect that is used well is the importance of cell phones and social media. Cell phones have become the new weapon, as long as they have their phones and an internet connection to social media, they have a weapon — no need for old fashioned guns and knives, cell phones are now the thing — the threat of being revealed through social media is a powerful motivator indeed. Access to social media seems to be the bridge that, to a point, manages to eliminate class distinction in this movie, however, it is that very access to a Wi-Fi connection, or lack of, that manages yet to maintain the clear lines drawn between rich and poor.
The overall effect that this movie creates, one that becomes all too shockingly realized, is that desperation, out of necessity, and the sense of survival, take over — that’s when good people can turn bad, which then shows that the social divide is only one of many factors that might determine the outcome of their actions… is it truly class division we are seeing, or is it just simply greed?
A true masterpiece in every sense, “Parasite” has managed to do in one swoop what so many directors have worked their entire careers to do, with Bong Joon-ho so in control of his craft that he has literally crossed genres and given a balanced, measured and startlingly suspenseful drama that never goes over the top and always considers the characters first. Even at the end and after the shocks, we still maintain faith in them all.
An extraordinary style of film making that has made fans of some of the great directors of today, including Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg. Indeed, Tarantino was speaking praise of Bong back in 2013, calling him one of the greatest directors around.
His words have now come true in the most explosive way as we see, through Bong, the first South Korean movie to not only be nominated, but to then win the big picture Oscar prize. Look for Bong Joon-ho in the near future because, with his Oscars and now the movie making more than $200 million made worldwide, out of an $11 million budget, he is only just getting started, and I am excited to see what he comes up with next.