Let me get this out of the way now: Parasite is my favorite movie of 2019 so far.
Will it still be number one on December 31? Maybe, maybe not (Cats comes out on December 20), but soon as it was over, I wanted to watch it again. That rarely happens. Bong Joon-ho’s latest is funny, thrilling, impeccably shot and scripted, a “woolly farce about a family of tramps that gradually morphs into a class satire,” as Uproxx‘s own Vince Mancini wrote in his glowing review. “It’s almost two films that become one in the end, both of them compelling, but brilliant together.” It’s also, I’m happy to report, making bank (for a foreign language film with no big stars to U.S. audiences) at the box office; Parasite is already up to $4.1 million in North America after two weeks of limited release.
I won’t get into specifics about Parasite‘s plot — it’s one of those movies where “it’s really good!” is all you need to know, although, FYI, some of the links below do include spoilers — but once you see it, you’ll want to read everything about it. I pored through a half-dozen essays about the film after my initial viewing, interpretations of the “metaphorical” meanings behind certain shots and interviews with Bong Joon-ho and other engrossing long reads. This might be an overly specific “spends too much time on the internet because it’s my job” complaint, but usually by the time a movie comes out, especially one that I’ve been months waiting for, I watch it and never want to read a single thing about it. I’m burned out by the release. Take Joker, for instance. Fan theories? No, thank you. Interviews with Todd Phillips? There’s already been enough of those. “The Truth Behind Jared Leto’s Controversial Joker”? Actually, that one sounds good. But the rest I respectfully bypassed, confident that a deep dive would not change my negative opinion or provide any deeper meaning on what I felt was a shallow movie.
But with Parasite, I couldn’t get enough. It’s a movie worth exploring, and there are many angles from many perspectives to explore, from class warfare to the use of food in cinema to North Korea vs. South Korea relations to those eye-covering censor bars on the poster. (It also helps that it’s not a sequel; it’s a standalone and you don’t need to have seen 17 other movies in the same “universe” to understand what the hell is happening.) What I’ve read isn’t stuffy, either. Parasite isn’t a stuffy movie — it’s a crowd pleaser, with the thoughtful Way We Live analysis lurking beneath the surface. Literally.
The best plan is no plan at all, but *if* you do plan on seeing Parasite, you should check out these articles afterwards. They’re among my favorites.
“How Bong Joon-ho Invented the Weird World of Parasite“ (The Atlantic):
Bong Joon-ho: “Aside from Snowpiercer and theater, I was fascinated with this idea of infiltration. When I was in college, I tutored for a rich family, and I got this feeling that I was infiltrating the private lives of complete strangers. Every week I would go into their house, and I thought how fun it would be if I could get all my friends to infiltrate the house one by one.”
“[Bong] added that he took pleasure in hearing that the famous directors on this year’s Cannes jury — which included Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Kelly Reichardt — were all convinced that the movie took place in a real home. In truth, Bong asked his production designer to create an ‘open set,’ built on an outdoor lot.”
“These hairpin turns in tone are just one of the maneuvers Bong uses to achieve his signature feat, which is to make his movies weave wildly and excitingly between genres. Parasite, for instance, wiggles through so many different modes — heist film, comedy, horror, tragedy — that it’s ultimately perverse to categorize… Watching a Spielberg movie, you pretty much always know how it’s going to end. Watching a Bong movie, it’s often hard to know where it’s going to be in five minutes.”
Joon-ho: “I’ve worked with [translator] Darcy Paquet on almost all of my movies. He’s an American living in Korea, he created a website on Korean film, he’s a cinephile when it comes to Korean films, and he’s married to a Korean woman. It’s a combination of a Korean who can speak really good English and an American who can speak Korean really well, and because they work together so well, I’ve always received wonderful, high-quality subtitles.
“And so, upon watching Parasite, here is something I have become convinced of: It’s not the Jennifers (Lawrence or Lopez) or the Chrises (Pine, Evans, Hemsworth, Meloni, or Messina) or the Hollywood Alans (Arkin or Alda, yes I am trying to make this a thing) — peaches have the best agent in Hollywood.”
Parasite is hopefully playing in a theater near you.