How did a subtitled small scale South Korean movie with no international stars win the best film at the Oscars, trouncing all other big budgeted fare in it’s wake?
In modern cinema, budget, effects and built in audience is a virtual guarantee of success. “Parasite” has none of these benefits, relying on old fashioned movie staples, a great story, compelling actors and sure direction.
Director Bong Joon Ho has crafted a film that makes unsubtle digs about the disparity between the social and monetary classes within Korea, which plays equally well in most countries. Coupled with a dose of humour and dashes of horror, this has proved a winning mix for cinema audiences around the world.
“Ki Taek Kim” (Kang-ho Song) lives with his wife “Kung Sook” (Hye-jin Jang) in a squalid tiny basement with their two older children, “Ki Woo” (Woo-sik Choi) and “Ki-Jung” (So-dam Park).
They struggle to scratch a living and seek password free WiFi at every opportunity. Life is bleak, hard and a world away from the easy living depicted on the right side of the tracks.
Following a disastrous temp job folding pizza boxes, an opportunity presents itself for “Ki Woo” to work as an English language teacher in an upper middle class home, on the right side of the city.
A few forged qualifications later, Woo becomes a valued part of the family, could there be opportunities for more family advancement?
To give too many spoilers would ruin the film but safe to say the hint is in the title, ultimately who is living off who becomes debatable. The film takes many unexpected turns and makes for some uncomfortable viewing at times. Not in the usual way, but social embarrassment, far left field surprises, possibility of discovery and feelings of trust abused, are all present and correct.
All the actors are pitch perfect in their roles, all very different physically in the various scenarios we see them perform. From Neurotic middle class mum “Yeon-Kyo” (Yeo-jeong Jo), to the work hard and aloof husband “Dong Ik” (Sun-kyun Lee), bringing in the cash to support a driver, housekeeper and two tutors.
This is a film of manners, social divide and what people do to survive, all contained within a story that twists and turns in ways few could predict.
At a time when most films feature a superhero, it is refreshing to see story, characterization and recognizable people placed front and centre.
Subtitles may put some viewers off, but within minutes you will forget and be absorbed within the story. One suspects an English remake is already in the works, which would inevitably lose some cultural subtleties.
A worthy winner of the plaudits and most notable for being different from the usual blockbuster production line, an original story with a satisfying start, middle and startling final act.
Hot director of the moment Bong Joon Ho, has something important to say, wrapped within a highly enjoyable crowd pleasing film, which defies convention to the very end.