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  Parasite All Mad Cons
Year: 2019
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Jo Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-sik, Park So-dam, Lee Jeong-eun, Jang Hye-jin, Park Myeong-hoon, Jung Jee-so, Jung Hyun-jun, Park Keon-rok, Jeung Esuh, Jo Jae-Myeong, Jung Ik-han, Baek Kim Gyu, Park Seo-joon
Genre: Comedy, Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Kim family live in this South Korean city at more or less the bottom of the heap and are forced to scrape by with menial jobs they feel are beneath them, though needs must. There does not seem to be a way out, as every avenue they try to explore to better themselves is closed down, and even folding pizza boxes doesn't bring them much in the way of financial recompense, despite it being insultingly simple work. So when the son of the family, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) meets an old pal who managed to attend university as he wanted to, and an opportunity to make some easy cash as an English tutor to a rich family on the other side of town arises, he jumps at it - and gets an idea.

Parasite was the movie that took the cinema world by storm in 2019, winning the Palme d'or at Cannes and the Best Picture award at The Oscars, among other accolades, becoming the first South Korean film to truly be a must-see event for far more audiences than would usually attend a picture from that part of the planet. Fans of that nation's output had been aware there were some excellent entertainments produced there, perhaps the jewel of the East Asian crown in that respect, certainly since Hong Kong relinquished that status and Japan was starting to stagnate somewhat, but the aficionados were largely drawn to the violent thrillers and action flicks churned out there.

Oddly, director and co-writer Bong Joon-ho was no art film proponent, not really, as he preferred to work in genre pictures to put his own thought-provoking spin on them, with varied but distinctive results. Parasite was undoubtedly his major success, but he had been a name buffs watched out for ever since he began, or just about, which could have meant a jaded reaction to this little item given he was going over his old themes, this time in a Hitchcockian milieu, but in fact the opposite was true: those who had been aware of his output were delighted at this mainstream recognition, probably because such recognition had the caveat that many remained turned off by subtitles.

Not everyone understood Korean, but what the majority of those did understand was the film's concept of a class war, where things were not quite as black and white as that premise indicated. The rich family are not out and out villains, while the poor family got up to some pretty nasty activity as their already desperate lives are crushed under the screws of the injustice of the modern society that places profit above simple human dignity. Once Ki-woo secures his new job as tutor, he and the rest of his family discern a method of getting them all hired by the Park clan, involving subterfuge that makes them seem indispensable and better than the people they replaced. But one element they cannot hide: the smell of that dingy apartment that is their home. Basically, they stink of being poor.

This is even commented on by the Parks, who nevertheless do not put two and two together and make the five that they are being scammed. This could have been a simple, straightforward comedy of manners, and in other hands it might have been, but although there were moments of humour, it was of the darkest variety as the situation spirals out of control for just about every character. The phrase "This is why we can't have nice things" sprang to mind as it unfolded on its not-so-merry way to a social apocalypse, as so many films in the twenty-first century did. If not everyone can have nice things, then nobody can, was the implication here, since no matter how much the better off can enjoy their lives, whatever level of income they are on, there will always be present the reminder there is someone - a lot of someones - worse off than you, and their suffering is humanity's suffering. It was a generous view, but not one it supplied any solutions for, leaving you with the impression you had not seen a comedy, nor a thriller, but a horror where the Morlocks were the victims. Music by Jung Jaeil.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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