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Korea 2019
Directed by
Bong Joon-Ho
132 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Synopsis: When the Kims, an unemployed South Korean family of four, insinuate themselves into the household of the wealthy Park family it seems as if they have landed on Easy Street. But soon things start to go wrong.

There was a slogan popular in the counter-cultural ‘60s “Eat the Rich”, itself a truncation of a saying attributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau: "When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich".  This is, more or less, what Bong Joon-Ho’s 2019 Palme D’Or winner, a mordantly black comedy is about.  Not that the acerbically-titled Parasite is any more sympathetic to the poor than it is to the rich. If the Parks are complacent consumerists living a life of cloistered privilege in a archite4ct-designed home, the Kims are crude, mendacious opportunists literally living in the depths of urban poverty, a cramped basement apartment.

These two starkly-contrasted worlds are the foundations of Bong’s superbly-choreographed film which whilst no doubt having greater resonance for a home audience, is universal enough in its take on the human comedy to be wickedly amusing for Westerners.  No doubt it also benefits from being a kind of companion piece to the director’s 2006 hit, The Host, which was similarly about a family of urban poor (and which also starred the wonderful Song Kang-ho who plays the Kim paterfamilias, Ki-taek, here) the writer-director enriching his portrayal of family dynamics with this film.  

Those familiar with Bong’s previous films will not be disappointed and whilst the subject matter is quite dark Parasite will appeal to audiences looking for a boldly original story executed with directorial precision.  Apropos of this there is one plot point about which I was not clear -wasn’t the original housekeeper still in the Parks’s basement at the film’s end? Surely this would have made things unbearable for Ki-taek.

FYI: Making Oscar history Bong's film won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Film and Best Original Screenplay




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