Saturday, February 08, 2020

Gisaengchung / Parasite

Bong Joon Ho: 기생충 / Parasite (KR 2019). Brilliant mise-en-scène by Bong Joon Ho. Please do click to enlarge the photo!

    KR © 2019 CJ Entertainment Corporation / Barunson E&A. PC: Barunson E&A. Presented by: CJ Entertainment. Produced by: Kwak Sin Ae, Moon Yang Kwon. EX: Miky Lee. Producer: Jang Young Hwan.
    D: Bong Joon Ho. SC: Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won – based on a story by Bong Joon Ho. DP: Hong Kyung Puo – colour – 2,39:1 – source format: 6.5K – master format: 4K – release format: D-Cinema. PD: Lee Ha Jun. Cost: Choi Se Yeon. Make Up & Hair: Kim Seo Young.
VFX: Hong Jeong Ho. SFX: Jung Do Ahn, Park Kyung Soo. Special make-up: Kwak Tae Yong, Hwang Hyo Kyun. M: Jung Jae Il. S supervisor: Choi Tae Young. S effect design: Kang Hye Young. Dolby Atmos. ED: Jang Jinmo.
    C: Song Kang Ho (Ki-taek), Lee Sun Kyun (Mr. Park), Cho Yeo Jeong (Yeon-Kyo), Choi Woo Shik (Ki-woo), Park So Dam (Ki-jung), Lee Jung Eun (Moon-gwang), Jung Hyeon Jun (Da-song), Chang Hyae Jin (Chung-sook), Jung Ziso (Da-hye), Lee Jung.
    Studio: Goyang Aqua Studio. Loc: Seoul. 27 May – 19 Sep 2018.
    Language: Korean.
    131 min
    Festival premiere: 21 May 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
    Finnish premiere: 31 Jan 2020 – released by Future Film – Finnish / Swedish subtitles.
    DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 12, Helsinki, 8 Feb 2020.

From the international press kit:


"The arrival of a new film from BONG Joon Ho is always an event, but the premiere of Parasite at Cannes is the cause for particularly strong anticipation. Having worked over the last decade on the expansive, internationally-set features Snowpiercer and Okja, BONG now returns to his home country for a film that is more focused in its setting, but perhaps even more ambitious in its execution. Consensus is building that Parasite represents not merely a new film, but the beginning of a new stage in BONG Joon Ho's accomplished career. "

BONG has taken care not to reveal too much ahead of the film's premiere, but in one sense, no advance knowledge could lessen the experience of watching Parasite for the first time. Completely unpredictable in its development, the film resists categorization and doesn't fit into any established genre. Its mix of black humor, social commentary, satire and suspense is characteristically BONG Joon Ho, and yet it's hard to find another film from his filmography – or from that of any other director – that quite resembles this work. "

"Although viewers will experience a rush of emotions while watching it, what Parasite has to say about contemporary society is particularly poignant. In an age when economic polarization and inequality show no signs of abating, and large sections of the world's population feel more and more desperate, there is a temptation to blame others and promote easy, one-sided solutions. What Parasite provides is a complex, honest allegory about the challenges we all face in a world where co-existence is an increasingly difficult ideal to achieve."


"A family tragicomedy depicting the inevitable collision that ensues when Ki-woo, the eldest son in a family of four unemployed adults, is introduced to the wealthy Park family for a well-paid tutoring job."


"Ki-taek's family of four is close, but fully unemployed, with a bleak future ahead of them. The son Ki-woo is recommended by his friend, a student at a prestigious university, for a well-paid tutoring job, spawning hopes of a regular income. Carrying the expectations of all his family, Ki-woo heads to the Park family home for an interview. Arriving at the house of Mr. Park, the owner of a global IT firm, Ki-woo meets Yeon-kyo, the beautiful young lady of the house. But following this first meeting between the two families, an unstoppable string of mishaps lies in wait.


"For people of different circumstances to live together in the same space is not easy."

"It is increasingly the case in this sad world that humane relationships based on co-existence or symbiosis cannot hold, and one group is pushed into a parasitic relationship with another. "

"In the midst of such a world, who can point their finger at a struggling family, locked in a fight for survival, and call them parasites?"

"It's not that they were parasites from the start. They are our neighbors, friends and colleagues, who have merely been pushed to the edge of a precipice. "

"As a depiction of ordinary people who fall into an unavoidable commotion, this film is:

a comedy without clowns,
a tragedy without villains,

all leading to a violent tangle and a headlong plunge down the stairs."

"You are all invited to this unstoppably fierce tragicomedy.

Director BONG Joon Ho (From the international press kit)

AA: Parasite is Bong Joon Ho's sharp, witty, brilliant and original account about life in the world today.

The title "Parasite" has a double meaning. The super-rich live in a world of luxury, based on a system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The poor ones are drowning in the gutter and falling underground. Both become parasites for each other.

Top actors interpret the members of the Kim family on the hill and the Park family in the slum. We also learn to know the former housekeeper and her husband hiding from loan sharks and their gangsters who chase them because of their unpaid debts. We recognize their nice potential as individuals, but the film is a cruel satire, even a horror story, about what happens to people in a "dog eat dog" world.

The film is full of memorable observations. Everybody is dependent on mobile devices, but it's almost impossible to access WiFi range in a half-basement home. The daughter of the Kim family has artistic talent, but she is reduced to using it to forge documents in Photoshop. In the confrontation of the two poor families there is a memorable sequence of a "mobile phone standoff" where both threaten to expose the other.

The theme of communication is ubiquitous, and even Morse code figures in the narrative. The little boy of the rich family has learned it at the junior boy scouts. He is also the one to observe that all Kim family members smell the same (the basement).

The background of the Korean war is felt in the presence of nuclear shelters and characters parodying North Korean news anchors. It is also a reminder that things could get worse.

The Park family is seen in a humoristic and sympathetic light. Yeon-kyo, the lady of the house, is gentle and beautiful, but she is no housewife and cannot even cook, which is why a housekeeper is obligatory. An original touch is a love-making sequence with clothes on.

The Kim family has fallen into desperate straits and resorts to ruthless measures to survive. In the thunderstorm sequence their home is flooded with sewage. The term "the safety-belt of trust" is mentioned, and this film is fundamentally about the fragility of the social contract and what might be called "the basic trust" in justice in society.

The most disheartening feature is the brutalization of the Kim family. Lying and fraud are trivialized. Unscrupulously the Kims poison a nice and capable housekeeper and discredit and frame those in their way. They have a good family spirit, but as Leo Tolstoy said, also jackals have a good family spirit.

It's a great story, but it's not the bloodbath that bothers me most. It's what has been going on since the beginning. Moral vacuum was permanently introduced into the heart of fiction via Existentialism. But I cannot figure out the Weltanschauung of Parasite, and I feel unable to relate to the story and the characters. I remain on the outside, admiring the brilliance, without being engaged.

Bong Joon Ho's handling of the temporal dimension is masterful, both in scenes of duration and narration via ellipsis. His mise-en-scène is impeccable, and Parasite is an outstanding example of a powerful architectural vision in the cinema.

Parasite is a key film about the state of the world after 2008.

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