Cannes Film Review: ‘Parasite’

Variety | 5/21/2019 | Jessica Kiang
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A laugh turns into a snarl which gets stuck in the throat like a sob — or an arrow through the neck — in Bong Joon-ho’s latest wild, wild ride, “Parasite.” On paper, that might not sound so very different from the experience of watching Bong’s “Snowpiercer,” “Memories of Murder” “The Host” or “Okja.” The Korean trickster god is above all known for his uncategorizable movie melées which tumble bloodily down the genre stairs hitting every step — comedy, horror, drama, social commentary, slasher, creature feature, murder mystery, manifesto for vegetarianism — on the way. But while “Parasite” certainly cycles through more than half that list, the laugh is darker, the snarl more vicious and the sob more despairing than we’ve ever had from him before. Bong is back and on brilliant form, but he is unmistakably, roaringly furious, and it registers because the target is so deserving, so enormous, so 2019: “Parasite” is a tick fat with the bitter blood of class rage.

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Cannes - Film - Review - 'Parasite

Cannes Film Review: 'Parasite'

It doesn’t start off that way. With typical feint-and-parry dexterity, the film begins as a so-close-it’s-almost-self-conscious Korean reworking of last year’s Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters.” Here too we have a ramshackle but loving family driven to dubious extremes by poverty-stricken circumstance, and a rumpled patriarch (Song Kang-ho) who bursts amusingly with pride at even the most marginal of his kids’ achievements. “Does Oxford have a course in forgery?” he asks admiringly, looking at the fake qualification his daughter Ki-Jung (Park So-dam) has comped together for her brother Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik).

Couple - Dank - Rooms - Strip - Window

From their squalid “semi-basement” (a couple of dank rooms with a small strip of window against which drunken men are given to urinating) all four members of this family, including their ex-champion shot-putter mother Chung-sook (Chang...
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