A Family of Charlatans

Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)

This was on my list to see since I first caught the trailer – a narrative of a young working class student becoming a tutor to an upper middle class girl which was clearly going to take a right turn into horror territory. I caught up with it after the Oscar win (a win that apparently means a broken system has been fixed) and it was surprisingly or unsurprisingly full.


All-but squatting in a subterranean basement, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) learns of an opportunity to tutor a daughter of a wealthy businessman and quickly sees a chance to get a job for his sister Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), as an art therapist, and then both enlist their mother Kim Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) as housekeeper and Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) as driver. To some degree this is a home invasion movie, as Us was last year, but we are clearly on the side of the invaders who are aspiring to a better life for the first two thirds of the film. But their rise has a cost for others, rather than being part of a class solidarity. And somewhere in the background, those narratives about nannies and housekeepers, the gothic that teeters on the edge of and even becomes a ghost story.

The film veers between comedy and almost horror, in part as you ponder if the Kims are about to be exposed, even if the wealthy couple might even be aware that they are being conned and there is some deeper scheme they are running. The photography is beautiful – especially the flood and its aftermath. It is fiendishly well constructed.

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