People will tell you that Parasite is best if you dive in with no knowledge whatsoever of the story. Respectfully, I disagree. If you’re familiar with Bong Joon-ho’s more mainstream oeuvre such as The Host (2006), Snowpiercer (2013), and Okja (2017), you’d probably expect this to be an action-packed sci-fi flick –– even the title of “Parasite” suggests a gruesome creature feature. Instead, Bong keeps the satirical elements of his previous work while simultaneously ensuring the constantly-shifting-but-mostly dark tone stays consistently grounded, making his latest feature feel more akin to his Korean-language crime-drama Mother (2009) than anything else he’s made before. The one aspect every single one of Bong’s films have in common? An incisive injection of spot-on socio-political commentary. And this is his sharpest yet.Continue reading “‘Parasite’ is Bong Joon-ho’s Best to Date, Richly Layered with Metaphor and Socio-Political Satire”
This piece is part of a series called Jewels Under the Kitchen Sink – here we try to bring films, that have been overlooked during their time, or were (despite their distinctive and timely nature) somehow forgotten, back onto the radar. It’s an attempt at reaching into the dusty niches of time and fishing some true gems out of there. We hope to peak your interest towards some of these films, so they can be reintroduced into today’s film discussion.
There is that kind of film that I love to return to when I feel like my day is reaching a feel-bad peak, often connected to a still image of my room’s ceiling. These wonderful and yet rarely praised films are light, trope-heavy, easy to follow, inherently dramatic and ready to beat up the tearjerk button – all set for a slightly manipulative and cathartic escape from reality, while always having some sort of honest, emotional thread that connects with you and lifts you up. One of my very favorite films of that genre are the two Mamma Mia! outings, both heavily escapist and yet emotionally compelling at the same time. It’s a very hard task for filmmakers to hit that sweet balance and for many cine-dependents like me, the further search for these films never stops. It was a pleasant surprise when Sunny, a film that was a box office smash hit in Korea, yet in the west was almost exclusively known by the loyal followers of Korean cinema, landed on my radar after a good friend recommended it to me.
After the death of one of her old classmates, Na-Mi, a woman stuck in her unsatisfactory role as a middle-aged housewife, sees a chance to gain a new purpose in fulfilling latter’s dying wish and tries to reunite her old school clique. The film intercuts between the tumultuous school days of these girls and Na-Mi’s quest to convince her old friends to reunite for one more time. It’s a premise that seemingly gets re-interpreted by the month, but Sunny is somehow very distinct from them.
After an eight-year hiatus from directing, Lee Chang-dong has returned with Burning, a simmering mystery and social commentary on the growing income inequality in South Korea—among other, insurmountably large issues.
The film loosely borrows from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” but its richly literate script is like a book all its own, bouncing from soliloquies on mortality and dissatisfaction to scenes of tribal dancing, emotional sex, intense violence and silent contemplation. While the film occasionally stretches to connect these disparate elements—and struggles to keep the characters’ dense musings from sounding like words on a page—Burning is ultimately much greater than the sum of its parts, and all tedium is forgotten by its haunting conclusion.