Sewage runs downhill. Notably, toward the Kim family. At night, a drunken man pees outside their window, down into their basement home. Rain then makes things worse.
After a flood washes out the Kim’s neighborhood – citizens forced to sleep on gymnasium floors for shelter – Parasite’s other family, the affluent Park’s, decide to host a party. It’s a lavish one. The Park’s show no awareness toward the outside world; they live blissfully with problems primarily of ego and superiority complexes. That visual dynamic utilizes color, light, and tone to fully embrace the intended ideology.
It’s brilliant. Parasite, that is. The measured approach Parasite takes in depicting wealth and economics is genuine in a way few films dare to be. Most anti-capitalist cinema shows the underclass succeeding against the rich, or violently overthrowing the upper class. Parasite takes a more honest approach. The poor fight the poor for the rich’s scraps. What trickles down is just sewage.
Parasite is cautious – the Park’s do not appear outright evil. They’re real, authentic (not blanket tropes or cardboard villains), and enviable, if grossly so. When their youngest scribbles on paper, they spend thousands on art tutor, because their kid must have talent. Money made them naive, conceited. The Kim’s take advantage of that weakness, hunting for their path from poverty.
Parasite plays like a textbook on social theory
Parasite plays like a textbook on social theory
Joined together (the Park’s seeking to better themselves still, the Kim’s looking to exploit a social loophole), the two sides meet. Parasite becomes a movie about stairs. For each move up, the Kim’s tumble down again. Mobility is an illusion, both physical and financially so. Soon, the two sides begin to smell one another. Frustrations boil over. Buried secrets turn Parasite toward violence.
Parasite plays like a textbook on social theory. Capitalist theory, primarily. Seems boring, but Parasite conveys this with enthralling storytelling, with twists plunging a knife into something that appears routine. The plot exposes falsehoods, showing the wrong-headed fight in a system designed to keep those who live on a hill there permanently; their garbage is all that gravity can grab for those below.
In their triumph, the Kim’s live in the Park’s home. That’s momentary. Next is the flood, sending the family down to their basement dwelling, depicted with the Kim’s rushing down steps in their impoverished neighborhood, looking to save their few valuable belongings. Yet, in the final frames, the Kim’s male child dreams of one day rescuing his father from this poverty. He’s seen how the other half lives. He still believes there’s a way out.
Hence, the title.
Digitally lensed with spectacular detail, Parasite’s clarity (some minimal noise aside) allows definition to soar. Close-ups imbue images with texture, and exteriors lose almost none of their sharpness. Consistency is a joy, the cinematography locked in.
Brightness hits home, often dazzling. Contrast soaks in sunlight. This is countered with densely packed black levels, solid and convincing. This is especially true in scenes lit only by cell phone screens, with that one bright spot surrounded by superb shadow.
Toss in color too, often warm. Scenes push primaries while enhancing certain hues. Later, Parasite begins to chill. The palette reduces to teal and blues, properly discomforting to escalate tension and drown mood. Universal’s release captures this splendidly.
Other than slight ringing in the first act, this is near perfect. Those nagging artifacts on high contrast edges do grate though.
Without action, Parasite subsists on ambiance. Tons and tons of ambiance. While dialog primarily takes place inside (whether a house or car), the exterior is always filtering in. Cars pan around, rain soaks the soundstage, and cities breathe.
What Parasite does with voices is especially prominent. Each speaker picks up dialog at some point. While the Kim’s basement (mostly) utilizes the center only, when at the Park’s, lines spread out around the rooms, creating space in the lavish, modern home where none exists in the basement. This is fantastic, even necessary work to embody Parasite. One family stays close to one another, the other speaks with distance.
Sadly, only trailers and a 19-minute Fantasticon Q&A with director Bong Joon Ho.
With remarkable deftness and stellar storytelling, Parasite dazzles in its ability to weave fiction with truthful commentary.
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