South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's remarkable new film, recently awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes, is a funny, surprising and original work. It is at different turns hilarious, violent and delightfully bizarre. It also manages to offer much comment about class difference in society, and what these differences really mean to those who find themselves on the far ends of the spectrum.
Parasite is about two different families. The first family we meet are down on their luck - they occupy a cramped, squalid basement flat, and while not dealing with scuttling bugs, steal wifi from nearby businesses. Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) is the patriarch and he, like his wife, son and daughter, is unemployed. The family exists on the margins - work when it comes is piecemeal and menial; the family assembles pizza boxes for a nearby restaurant, but they can't even get this right and dispute soon follows.
That all changes when the son, Ki-woo (played by Choi Woo-sik) is recommended by a friend for a high-paying tutoring job. The job is with the Park family. Obscenely wealthy, thanks to Mr Park (Lee Sun-kyun), who heads a global IT firm, the Park family occupy a sprawling compound dominated by a modernist mansion. The house and the many needs of the family are attended to by a retinue of servants.
So Ki-woo arrives at the Park house, fake diploma in hand, to meet Mr Park's wife, Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong). Ki-woo sticks to his script (most of it fiction; he hasn't even completed university) and lands the job tutoring teenage daughter, Da-hye (Jung Ziso). The classes go well and everyone seems happy with the arrangement. Da-hye takes to Ki-woo immediately and soon forms a crush on him. Ki-woo does nothing to discourage this, thinking only good things can come from it.
When Yeon-kyo happens to mention that she is looking for an art tutor, this time for her younger son, Ki-woo hatches a plan to recommend his sister. Ki-woo wants to get another family member onto the payroll, but he doesn't mention that he is recommending his sister and the pair assume different identities. It's the start of much deception and the catalyst for the entangling of the two families, forming the basis for the bizarre events which follow.
Parasite offers a sprawling tale, plotted and told masterfully. The film's visual elements are arranged wonderfully, the imposing Park residence juxtaposed with the tiny couple of rooms occupied by Ki-woo's family. The Park family home forms the backdrop to much of the film and seems to take on a life of its own; the mysteries it holds driving much of action later in the film.
Here is a director at the top of his game. And with Parasite he has created a darkly funny, sublime film filled with many unforgettable moments.