We see what we want. We want what we see. Woe unto the collateral damage we leave.
It’s almost disturbingly easy to laugh at Parasite because we’re nervous that what transpires within it could happen to us … or be us. It’s best to go in cold to Parasite. However, conceding that its science-fictiony title might establish misconceptions — not unfounded given director / co-writer Bong Joon-ho’s genre past in work like Snowpiercer or Okja — consider this the mildest of plot synopses. Living in squalor in South Korea, the Kim family (led by Bong staple Song Kang-ho) pursues an opportunity that can elevate their station and provide them with the financial stability they so desperately crave.
We presume (not incorrectly) where Bong’s latest film is going even as it finds a supremely delightful path to that destination. Then, we sit agape at Parasite‘s ascension into an entirely different stratosphere of film — one that boasts a sense of humor and carotid-severing satire that would make the Coens jealous, a dramatic weight of diabolical stealth, socioeconomic realism that presents the choice of entropy or empathy better than any of its didactic contemporaries could dream to do, echoes of Gothic horror and stunning, screen-filling compositions that come to feel like a moral mousetrap rigged with a lifetime supply of bait. Most films can’t master one genre, let alone three or four.
Indeed, Parasite juggles its capacity to entertain, engage and enrage better than any other film from 2019. In telling a cautionary tale about the cost of unchecked inflation, whether in ego or currency, the story is allowed to swing wildly from symphonic precision to freewheeling chaos … much in the way our world seems to work now. Each new day seems to throw new elbows and loops; Parasite does the same with every passing moment in its narrative.
People tend to think money is the iron that can smooth all creases. But too firm a press of steam and heat can cause the artifice to crack, the façade to fall, the reality to intrude. There may be no more original schemes, but the best movie of 2019 is more fascinated by original sins and the shapes they take in the here and now.
Parasite gets an impressive, if not overly flashy transfer on Blu-ray; if you want a 4K option, you’ll have to seek out a streaming option. The sole bonus feature on the Blu-ray release is a roughly 20-minute Q&A session with Bong from the 2019 Fantastic Fest, held in Austin, Texas.