I recently rewatched Parasite and decided that I wanted a full dose of the Bong Joon Ho cinematic universe. Currently, Bong has eight directorial credits — Parasite, Okja, Snowpiercer, Tokyo!, Mother, The Host, Barking Dogs Never Bite, and Memories of Murder. The great news is, a lot of his films are online on popular streaming services, a couple even on Tubi for free. (In fact, Parasite is heading on over to Hulu on April 8!) And so, I’ve decided to keep a film log to record my feelings about each Bong project.
When I took courses at community college, one professor introduced the idea of a film log, where we casually recorded our thoughts about the movies we watched. Likewise, this series will function as a gathering of thoughts rather than a collection of formal reviews. First up is Bong Joon Ho’s current crown jewel, Parasite.
Parasite is a trip. I’ve written about the ending and the genre-mixing before, but here are other thoughts that I have on Bong’s buzziest film. It’s a dark comedy about the haves and have-nots, but it doesn’t feature clear-cut heroes or villains. In it, the poor Kims finagle their way into the starkly minimalist but luxurious home of the Parks, using any means necessary to procure gainful employment. Parasite emerges as a grand thought experiment about the poisonous relationships formed under unfettered capitalism, executed with invigorating performances and striking visual imagery.
It’s a shame that Parasite didn’t receive more acting nominations when it became an award season darling this year. Choi Woo-shik stands out as Ki-woo, the eldest Kim son. His performance palpitates with subtle desperation all throughout the film. Choi captures a slyness that morphs into determined viciousness and eventual melancholy. And Song Kang-ho as Mr. Kim strangely reminds me of Eugene Levy on Schitt’s Creek as Johnny Rose, a man just trying his best to keep his family together in a bad situation. A subdued rage simmers in his character, eventually released in one violent climax at the end of the movie. It’s a shame American audiences don’t know more about these two guys, who are both A-listers in Korea. (My mother, a Korean drama acolyte, is familiar with both Choi and Song.)
So, onto the visuals. The aesthetics of this movie is profound yet simultaneously accessible. The Parks’ open, minimal home looks like the baby of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian-West’s architectural sensibilities. It’s an empty building that looks as though it were siphoned through the cool-toned Clarendon filter on Instagram. Visually, it’s an obvious departure from the Kim home, a semi-basement apartment that’s cramped and bug-ridden on top of being a hot spot for drunks to pee on. Because they’re rich, the Parks can have a wide-open space that they furnish with nothing, while the Kims seemingly hold onto anything with the slightest hint of utility. I was struck by the secret basement in the Park home. It’s a simple, but memorable analogy for the hierarchy between the rich and the poor. The Parks live in the higher open area of the home. Mr. Kim and Geun-sae inhabit the uglier, hidden lower part beneath them.
Twitter user filmoment also pointed out the visual lines between the Parks and the Kims in the framing of the film. It’s curious, just because Mr. Park always emphasizes how his workers “never cross the line.” I thought that it was brilliant to externalize that in the film’s composition.
Parasite is such a smart movie, and one that’s filled with fun twists and turns at that. I’m excited to see what else Bong has in store with his other movies because the vibe that I’m getting so far is that his work is thought-provoking without being didactic or skipping emotional beats. Stay tuned for my thoughts on Okja, a film that made me want to revert back to my Eating Animals-fueled vegetarian years.