Parasite, a furious and masterful political fable [critique]

The Oscar for Best Film 2020 returns to Arte… and confirms Bon Joon-ho’s status as a revered filmmaker!

A few days after having rebroadcast The TransperceneigeArte will offer this Sunday another must-see film by Bong Joon-ho : Parasite. Here is our review of big winner of the Palme d’or 2019a few days before the opening of the 74th Cannes Film Festival.

Bong Joon-ho: ‘No Harvey Weinstein or Netflix this time!’

Bong Joon-ho loves mixtures and impurity. For more than twenty years, he has been rummaging through the trash cans of his country to wrap them in rabid, punk and exciting films. Memories of Murderintertwined thriller and rural chronicle as it chronicled the pursuit of a serial killer by a gang of appalling country cops. The Host was a monster movie that featured political satire, family melodies, eco-warrior tracts and comedy. Mother ? A family drama built like a mille-feuille with a layer of filial melodrama, another of social metaphor and a psychoanalytical parable as icing.

Different genres and tones but each time the same pattern. From the observation of tiny human dramas, Bong Joon-ho constructs explosive fictions that escape the norm. He reinvests genres to better dissolve them, crush them, and instead bring out a grandiose and grotesque, Kafkaesque and terrifying object, mixing ingredients and references that are a priori incompatible. After this insane trifecta, Bong had tried his luck in English with The Transperceneige and Okja two international blockbusters where his firepower was diluted a bit. Parasite therefore appears first as a return to basics: to Korea and its dialectical and literal criticism of the “Korean Dream”. Like Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother Parasite hunts down the monsters that thrive on amnesia of years of dictatorship, corruption and destructive capitalism.

It’s the joke of the festival: we must not reveal the springs of the films we see. We will therefore not say too much about the plot of the film which plays on multiple twists and of which, it must be admitted, part of the pleasure is based precisely on the effects of surprises. But let’s set the scene. Parasite starts likeAwful, dirty and wicked, by the description of a prolo tribe. Ki-Taek, his wife, son, and daughter form a united but poor family. They live in a basement apartment that looks like a cesspool. The drunks piss on their windows, their toilets explode and pour the fleet of sewers into the living room… hell. They try as best they can to make ends meet and get out of it thanks to pathetic tricks (folding pizza boxes to earn a little money). One day, a friend of Ki-Woo, the son, offers him a well-paid job: to be an English teacher for a rich girl. Ki-Woo agrees and then activates a gear that will knock the family out of their hole and propel them into a vortex of luxury and mad violence. By inviting himself into the homes of the rich, Ki-Taek and his family will cause chaos, transform resentment and the feeling of injustice into furious and vital energy. The whole film is therefore organized around these crabs who will overthrow the social order. But are they really the title parasites? Wasn’t Bong aiming rather at the privileged? Or, the title being in the singular, was he not thinking more of a last-minute surprise guest?

As in his previous films, Bong has fun with genres, taking up the codes of home invasion, constructing a mock heist movie (with recruiting of the members and putting in place a foolproof plan) and pulling a farce where the bickering of the family becomes the mainspring of comedy scenes of a film which is at bottom as funny as worrying. Because, despite the devastating humor of the beginning, Parasite quickly becomes a suspense film where tragedy vies with buffoonery: when fate falls on this dream house, the film branches off towards metaphysics and Kafkaesque absurdity. All of this is as always with the filmmaker, boxed with furious mastery: the slow tracking shots in the house, the icy and luxuriant photography, the actors’ subtle interplay between agitation and daze, the scathing efficiency of the frames and the almost theatrical dramaturgy make this Parasite a jubilant work as well as a formidable critical instrument. Bong Joon-ho describes a world (our world) which, deprived of a credible political ideal and of any moral vision of human relationships, returns to the savagery from which he had painfully thought he was extricating himself and locks itself into a spiral from which one cannot will come out only amputated. The dismantling of the failings of capitalism and the alienating power of money innervates an epic with virtuoso upheavals. It deserves at least a directing award, Alejandro. A Palm, even?

Go behind the scenes of Parasite’s dubbing

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