2019 Milwaukee Film Festival – Day Fourteen – PARASITE
The 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival had day after day of terrific and interesting films. They saved one of their most anticipated to towards the end with the Milwaukee debut of Bong Joon-Ho’s PARASITE, the Palme d’Or winner at Cannes. It more than lived up to the hype.
PARASITE tells the story of the poor, unemployed Kim family that takes the opportunity to improve their station entirely too far. The college aged son Ki-Woo (Choi Woo Shik) gets a well paying tutoring recommendation from a friend. If it involves a little forgery to puff up his credentials, no big deal, right? He’ll be using the money he earns to get those credentials legitimately. But, once hired, he sees an opportunity to get his whole family on the payroll. What commences from there is the equivalent of a heist film.
A hilarious heist film. PARASITE delights in the comedy of watching the street smarts of the Kim family play against the complacency, and conceits of the Park family. Part of the delight of watching the film is in not knowing the cons that are going on, so I won’t spoil them.
And, just when you think you have the movie figured out, Bong Joon-Ho pulls the rug out from under you with a series of twists that will keep you guessing. And turn the film from comedy to something much more complex and tragic.
PARASITE is a masterclass in shifting tones and sympathies. A laugh will turn into a gasp in an instant. Plans fall apart. Hubris is punished. And there are no true heroes or villains.
There is commentary and income inequality and class warfare embedded in the film, but the film is never didactic about those themes. Rather, it uses them to illuminate the characters and their predicaments. And leaves nearly everyone in a complicated light.
Foremost among the actors is the great Song Kang-Ho as the patriarch of the Kim family. A patriarch that wants his family to thrive, his children to be able to attend college, and just a bit of respect. That lack of respect, barely hidden until it’s not, eats at him more than the lack of money. The events end of the film gnaw away at his soul, and it’s all communicated through his soulful eyes. It’s a terrific performance.
All of this, the class rage, the character empathy, the empty pursuit of things, and just being willing to be provocative and entertaining simultaneously are there in every frame. Bong Joon-Ho has made a series of great films including MEMORIES OF MURDER, THE HOST, MOTHER, and SNOWPIERCER, all of which have touched on the themes here, but this is perhaps his capstone. It’s a huge achievement and I’ll be lucky to see a better film in 2019.
PARASITE is a masterpiece. A film that provokes thought, evokes empathy, delights, and shocks at turns. You should see at it your earliest opportunity.
The 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival ran from October 17, 2019 to October 31, 2019. However, PARASITE starts its run in Milwaukee today. Information and tickets can be found at Milwaukee Film’s website mkefilm.org.