The Beauty of Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.
An editorial. Warning: major spoilers for Bong's Parasite ahead.
It's been almost two months since I first saw Bong Joon-ho's latest masterpiece, Parasite, at the Toronto International Film Festival, but I still think of the film every day. I can't see movies the same way anymore, because every single movie I see is a reminder that "the film I'm watching is nowhere near as good as Parasite. It's simple facts. But what makes this movie so good? What exactly behind Joon-ho's expressive and beautiful film makes it unlike anything else in the world, perhaps one of the best movies I've ever seen. In this month's editorial, I am going to take a deep dive into the madness that is Parasite, in order to figure out why it deserves all the hype, and why, more importantly, you should check it out for yourself. If this was a review (and as of the publication of this piece, the Parasite review is up right now on the website), I would normally go into the plot in great detail, highlighting the key aspects that I would eventually review later in the piece. But, as I stated in the review for the film, and as I will repeat again, I don't want to share anything about the plot of the movie. But for the sake of the complex analysis I am about to do, I will share plot points and spoilers. In fact, if you are reading this right now and know nothing about this movie, I implore you to not read anything about it, including the rest of this editorial. If you haven't seen the movie yet, stop reading after this next phrase: see this movie. Nothing more, nothing less. Once again, spoilers for Parasite ahead - so if you want to go into this movie fresh as possible, stop reading right now. Otherwise, welcome to the deep dive, I hope you enjoy the content you are about to read. The first half of Parasite is a razor-sharp and beautifully written comedy, and that's about it. It is downright hilarious, and is filled with this sense of fresh humor that is incomparable to any of the modern comedies we have seen lately - especially in the age of these horrendous slapstick comedies that should not be taking residence on the silver screen, now or ever. Joon-ho crafts a heist film disguised as a satirical film speaking on complex issues such as social classes, gender roles, and the brutal unemployment lifestyle that many South Koreans are forced to live with. Just like Joon-ho's other films, there is a film at play with complex themes and morals hidden deep within the subtext of the plot. Parasite is no exception. From the very moment the film started, especially with that humdinger of the "search for the WiFi" scene, I knew this film was something special. I had heard the rave reviews from Cannes, and the general hype surrounding the film on Letterboxd, Twitter, and other social media platforms, but in my mind, I assumed that it was one of those movies that came with an insane amount of hype and never lived up to its full potential. In fact, I wasn't even planning on getting tickets for the film at TIFF until another movie selling out forced me to rework my entire weekend schedule. The film had astronomical hype surrounding it, and was showing at a general admission theatre - so I knew that a brutal line and wait time would surround the film. But, I went into the movie with tons of excitement, and once the film started, I knew I was in the right place to be. The film shoots out at rocket speed, and I am so thankful that I could be a part of the ride. Although I had these feelings throughout the movie that I was going to love the film, there was one scene where I got this feeling, this incomparable feeling, of knowing I was watching one of the best movies of the year, and quite possibly one of the best movies I've ever seen in my life. And that scene is the housemaid tuberculosis hot sauce scene, one of the most random, hilarious, and well-constructed scenes I have seen in my entire life. As you are propelled through this madness of a film until that scene, you are completely engaged. And right when that scene begins, it feels like a dam is bursting apart. It is like this scene is the climax of the first half of the movie, and it effectively ties up Parasite's comedic half in the greatest way possible. The Kim's have infiltrated this family, and the film could simply end here if it wanted - it would still be both one of the best movies of the year and an absolute time at the movies. But what makes Parasite one of the most notable films of all time is the way it effectively switches up the genre and tone of the film. That is what makes it so fantastic (well, one of the things at least).
Not many movies can survive a complete tonal shift. In fact, many movies are in turn bashed for switching the style of the film way too much within the movie's run time - something that A24's Waves has been getting a lot of controversy over. It usually disrupts the film's overall style and interferes with the viewer's experience watching the movie. Now, I don't know if it's just classic Bong Joon-ho or that this movie is simply superior to everything that has been released lately, but Parasite's shift into a genre-bending tragedy from a comedy just doesn't feel wrong. In fact, it is almost expected, as if the crazy twist about the bunker had no reason not to be in the movie. And that is the brilliance of Joon-ho's writing: once he builds a world, the viewer automatically feels as if they are a concrete part of that world. Because of this, viewers are excited to know what happens next and are open to all possibilities. Joon-ho is allowed to come up with the craziest plot he wants, simply because he has earned it. His movies will never be one-dimensional, because he is not an one-dimensional person. He is in control of every single thing that happens in each of his movies, and the final result has proven to be, time and time again, something else. Another thing that truly shows how special Parasite is are the hidden clues within the first half that point out key codes to unlocking the mystery that unfolds in the second half. "She's a good housekeeper, but she eats for two", Da-Song's "first grade troubles", or the flickering lights on and off are just three of these clues that I noticed instantly during my re-watch of the movie. But as I flocked to social media to see what other people thought of the movie, I found out about all these things I did not even think to look for in the first half - most noticeably Da-Song's "self portrait", and how the tent, the "ghost", and the fear are all interlaced into the crayon drawing. On top of all of this, it seemed that when looking at questions about the movie on social media, there was almost always a clear answer with a deeper meaning that could be used - showing how air-tight the script truly is. Joon-ho accounted for everything with this movie, and when I say that every single thing in Parasite is placed in a certain order and fashion for a reason, I mean it. Lastly, but far from least, the scene. That scene. A sausage skewer, a destroyed cake, and the deaths along the way. In my opinion, the film didn't even need this scene to work extremely well, but I'm glad that this scene exists. Within the span of two minutes, all of the character's worsts are revealed to each other through actions, emotions, and everything in between. It is almost as if every encounter between the two families is pushing to this very moment, and when it all comes together, everything falls apart just as quick. Lives are lost, relationships are broken, and a father loses contact with his kids - well, sort of. The epilogue of the letter reading, although one of the more criticized parts of the film, is one of my favorite moments in the movie. With Ki-Woo's letter, he is sharing all of his hopes and dreams with the audience, and his plan to free his father from the exile below the staircase. The entire time the letter is being voiced-over on screen, this sense of hope builds within you. When Ki-Woo's last line (and my favorite line of the movie), "All you'll need to do is walk up the stairs", is said out loud, the excitement begins to boil over. But, when "until then" is said, and we are back in the semi-basement, snow falling out of the window, it is like everything is shattered and broken, just like the lives of everyone in the film. It is truly a harrowing and beautiful experience, a trait Parasite can really pull of like no other movie can. Parasite is one of those rare movies that simply deserves all the hype that it is getting. Because honestly, I don't think I've seen many movies that I have loved more than this. The film is completely relatable while being so un-relatable, funny while being such a tragedy. Bong Joon-ho has created a film that will not only change the face of what it means to make a movie in the modern day, but a film that will also set the astronomically high standard for all films in the future. I can't wait to see how amazing this movie does, because in all honesty, it deserves it.