A miracle of a film. It feels like Bong Joon-ho’s already extraordinary career has been building to this: a riotous social satire that’s as gloriously entertaining as it is deeply sardonic.  –John Nugent, Empire

Quality film on Rialto

By Roger Childs

Now and then the Sky Rialto channel comes up with some cinematic gems. The superb documentary Pavarotti and The Tobacconist — an excellent German film set in pre-war and wartime Austria, are recent examples. This last week featured the outstanding South Korean movie Parasite which won the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and four Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture.

Parasite is a black comedy thriller set in Seoul where two families from different ends of the social scale – each with Mum, Dad, son and daughter – come together in a complex set of relationships. There are plenty of plot twists and surprises, and entertainment is guaranteed – five stars.

Taking advantage of opportunities

How could the down and out Kim family become involved with the wealthy Parks? The answer is education. Although they live in a pokey basement at the end of a narrow, crowded street they are resourceful and enterprising. The two children have cellphones and considerable digital skills. However, they are poor and at the start of the film their income comes from folding pizza boxes for a local takeaway. 

A friend of the son is leaving to study overseas and is giving up his position as English tutor to the Park daughter. He has recommended Kim Ki-woo as his replacement and the latter duly turns up at the spacious Park mansion complete with qualifications forged by his sister. He impresses the beautiful Mrs Park who is gullible and naïve. Gradually all four Kims inveigle themselves into the Park household, displacing the current staff, and their prospects are looking good as they are all getting well paid. But they become over-confident and greedy, and when the Parks head away on a camping trip, all the Kims move in and get drunk on their employers’ liquor. 

But the previous housekeeper turns up and reveals that her husband is living in a concealed basement. Then the Parks return early having been washed out of their camping site. Things turn to custard for the Kims and it seems that it will all end in blood and tears.

A classic movie with many moods

This is a delightful film noir satirising the social divide in modern day South Korea and it’s brilliantly directed by acclaimed auteur Bong Joon-ho. Parasite is tightly edited and the story moves at an increasingly rapid pace especially in the second half. The cinematography makes a meal of the contrasting living conditions of the two families, and one superb piece of filming features the devastating impact of a flood on the Kim’s crowded street and their basement home.

There is plenty of humour throughout and one classic scene has three of the Kims hiding under the Park’s sofa which looks out on the lawn, The Park’s son, who has an American Indian craze, is sleeping in his wigwam in the pouring rain. Unfortunately for the Kims, the Park parents in matching long silk pyjamas, decide to sleep on the sofa to keep an eye on the tent. They end up making love and the Kims have to wait till the snoring starts to extract themselves and head for safety.

Acknowledging quality cinema

It is not hard to see why Parasite has won so many awards and accolades. It is a fascinating social commentary about initiative, gullibility, greed and revenge. The acting of the entire cast is impeccable and the viewer gets to identify with different characters at different times. The climax is at a garden party on the Park’s lawn and the unpredictable action proceeds at breakneck speed.  

If you have seen it you are fortunate; if not and you get the Rialto Channel track down one of the repeats. Hopefully it may return to the Shoreline some time.