By Mónica Delgado
For the very first time in the history of Cannes, a South Korean film wins the Golden Palm. The merit of this is indisputable, since this is one of the best films in Bong Joon-ho career (maybe only comparable to the feat of Memories of Murder, in 2003), a bittersweet comedy that establishes him as a filmmaker who still delivers creativity to any genre he chooses to do (drama, thriller, monster movie or science fiction).
The award comes as a surprise, especially since Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu didn’t appear as a jury president who would side in favor of a less conventional cinema (or in this case, a film of commercial profile, not very “arthouse-y” and without expressive atavisms), and maybe the lecture between critics was to see him more close to the work of a Terrence Malick or a young Ladj Ly (according to the forms of his cinema). His comment about the jury decision being unanimous, offers this recognition in unison to the South Korean filmmaker, through the value of a mise-en-scène made with intelligence and scathing humor.
With a black comedy style, in Parasite Bong Joon-ho composes (this musical verb is precise) a mechanism for social radiography, through the experiences of a group of declassed characters who try their luck as scammers inside the world of a family of dumb millionaires in current South Korea. As in some of his previous works, South Korea is explored from the familiar scope, like in The Host, to give account of the social breaches in a country with a stable economy but where inequality and sectors in the margin of this apogee exists.
A family living in a marginal zone, in the suburbs of Seoul (literally living in a basement in a local neighborhood), led by the great Song Kang-ho, an actor who usually performs in Bong Joon-ho films and that in here, earns his life folding packages for pizza delivery. He will soon be immersed in the possibility of a scam: to enter as people they are not, and offering services they are not qualified for, to a house of a wealthy family in the city banks. With this stablishing of settlements: the poor below and the rich above, the filmmaker begins to draw the first great structural design of his film, which he will complement with different social strata, also subject to living in bunkers 50 meters below sea level, which appear later in scene.
This delimitation of the vertical world, of surfaces, if vital in Parasite (Gisaengchung), since it subtly stablish this spatial break from the two worlds, the one with the poor family who has to scam to have a monthly allowance, posing as teachers and therapists, and the wealthy family, naïve, submitted to the tales of the foreigners who arrive in their lives. Ths more comical moment in the film come up when the scammers “compose” or perform their plans to foot of the letter, following mathematical formulas, where there’s no space for trial and error, and also in their talent to enter a home of millionaires with extreme elegance, without violence, only through well thought tactics for minds easy to trick.
The great value in Parasite is in it’s rhythm, in the musical montage that the filmmaker employs to strip this social contrapositions, since what seems to begin as a game of survival in a crushing liberal economy, ends up being even an act of rebellion, something which only this filmmaker could achieve without being grotesque and condescendent. The disenchanted ending shows a Bong Joon-ho without concessions, and without quotas for the easy enjoyment. A Golden Palm for an extraordinary genre film.
Official competition: Golden Palm
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Script: Kim Dae-hwan, Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han (Manga: Hitoshi Iwaaki. Comic: Hitoshi Iwaaki)
Music: Jaeil Jung
Cinematography: Kyung-Pyo Hong
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Seon-gyun, Jang Hye-jin, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-sik, Park So-dam
Production company: Barunson / CJ Entertainment / Frontier Works Comic / CJ E&M Film Financing & Investment Entertainment & Comics
South Korea, 2019, 138 mins