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By midlandsmovies, Feb 7 2020 02:36PM

Parasite (2020) Dir. Bong Joon-ho

With near universal acclaim, Palme D’Or winner Parasite is the new film from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho who tackles the complex amalgam of poverty and wealth in this multifaceted drama.

Opening with the Kim family’s below-ground apartment, we get to see a “window on the world” from their perspective. They undertake menial and low-paying work whilst their tiny and messy basement apartment sees them living in crowded squalor.

An opportunity arises when the family’s son (Choi Woo-shik as Kim Ki-woo) receives a tip from his friend that he could take over his tutoring job at a rich family’s home. With a fake degree certificate created by his sister (Park So-dam as Kim Ki-jeong), he heads to the extravagant house of the Park family to teach their young daughter English.

Much like Okja (our review) and Snowpiercer, Joon-ho tackles societal issues and jampacks his movie with metaphorical allusions to class hierarchy. The social order is represented on screen with physical window lines and staircases separating the two sides of affluence and destitution.

However, the film takes no sneering position as the desperate family hatch a plan to infiltrate the Park’s household. Kim Ki-jeong, the daughter of the Kim family takes a role as an art therapist, the father of the family Kim Ki-taek (Snowpiercer’s Song Kang-ho) becomes their chauffeur whilst they conspire to get the family’s housekeeper fired. That allows mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) to replace her.

Yet the Parks aren’t portrayed as innocent victims either. The father (Lee Sun-kyun) demeans Kim Ki-taek for his unnatural “smell”, whilst Cho Yeo-jeong as the mother Yeon-gyo has her innocence undercut by her lack of empathy and dismissive attitude towards her home help.

[slight spoiler] The film takes a dark turn when the previous housekeeper returns to reveal a secret bunker in the Park’s mansion where her debt-riddled husband has been hiding for years. This begins a three-way dynamic where the hidden couple uncovers the Kim’s diabolical intrusion and threaten to tell the Park family of their scheme.

The film’s visuals are excellent as darkness and light illuminate the difference between the characters’ circumstances. Moving “into the light” from black doorways see characters jump between their social statuses. More on the nose however is the Kim’s escape down the city’s stairs back to their abode, an obvious and somewhat clichéd “descent to hell” allegory.

Another time the Kim family hide like cockroaches from their employers after abusing their hospitality and for me, this came across as a little patronising with the family home becoming its own echo chamber for the director’s heavy-handed satire. We get it right! Yes, the class system has a visual (and literal) hierarchy and the “those-above and those-below” simple trope was also a weakness of Jordan Peele’s US.

However, the tempo does help keep the audience off-kilter as to who the dupe and who the perpetrators are. The pecking order is not as always clear cut as it may seem and the director allows the audience to think about both sets of circumstances to create an ambiguous moral mood throughout.

Aspects of horror and bloody violence in the second half were much needed and helped ratchet up the dramatic interactions. And the precise editing emphasis the great visuals where stark lines and fantastic lighting embed all of the director’s motifs.

Undeniably beautiful and intricately constructed like by a cinematic watchmaker, Parasite questions who is exploiting who in a remarkable parable on humanity and society. And in the end Joon-ho’s themes of the blood-sucking rich hosts and their poor victims – or is it the other way around – infests your mind in a profound moral tale with an outstanding cinematic touch.


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Nov 3 2016 01:59PM

Train to Busan (2016) Dir. Yeon Sang-ho

This Korean thriller/horror film sees an absent father attempting to please his disappointed daughter by taking her to Busan via the high speed train only for an infected passenger to cause carnage as a zombie virus begins to spread throughout the carriages.

With echoes of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer – where the confines of a moving train provides similar claustrophobic action – the passengers’ immediate dangers contrast with the wider implications of the infection spreading to cities throughout the country.

The zombies’ crooked shuffles are a particular highlight so huge recognition should go to the choreographer who has injected (pardon the pun) that particular trope with some added zombie zing with twitching and spasming bodies. Arms dangle at awkward angles in a contortion of limbs and appendages. As the film progresses, the passengers work together as a group and fight against the hordes in well edited action scenes with true-to-life risks. An extended bloody punch up with flying baseball bats and swinging fists will be adored by fans of these films.

However, despite the above, the film has the usual zombie tropes which I sadly find so similar to any other zombie film and therefore I can’t really recommend it to anyone other than afficiandos of the genre. I really struggle with the same concept over and over without anything being added to the formula. As although the positives include the film being incredibly well shot with empty stations and crowd chaos along with some fine acting, the family drama dynamics are really no different to a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Selfish father learns to put others first? Wow, what a revelation.

Trains provide an interesting location for some great films and sequences (see our love for loco films in our video blog here) but the zombie sub-genre of horror has never really infected with me with any real sense of appreciation. Fans won’t be disappointed at all but there wasn’t enough new additions to really give the genre a shot in the arm. Zo-zo.


Midlands Movies Mike

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