Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films. – Bong Joon-ho, Oscar-winning writer and director of “Parasite”
Before Sunday night, a lot of things were different in the world of cinema.
A foreign language film had never won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; no South Korean film had ever earned a nomination; Walt Disney was the only person in Oscar history to win four awards at the same ceremony, doing so in 1954.
Bong Joon-ho and the 92nd Academy Awards changed film history forever.
The South Korean writer/director’s seventh feature, “Parasite,” a haunting and arresting drama with elements of comedy and paranoia, took home the Academy Award for Best Picture this weekend with a dynamic, unflinching look at families at the top and bottom of South Korea’s social strata.
With wins for Best Direction, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature, Bong joins Disney as a four-time Oscar winner on the same night and cements South Korean cinema on the map.
Now available widely for home viewing, there’s absolutely no reason to avoid seeing one of the best films of the 2010’s, especially as “Parasite” will likely dominate film conversation for months to come.
Missing out at this point puts audiences at risk of ruining the film as the less viewers know about the film before seeing “Parasite,” the better the cinematic experience will be.
In the simplest terms, “Parasite” is about two families, the affluent Park family living in a walled manor on a hill and the impoverished Kim family leeching off open Wi-Fi and free extermination in their semi-basement flat.
When the Kim’s son is hired to serve as an English tutor for the Park’s teenage daughter, it sets in motion a series of events that will irrevocably change both families for life.
Twists and turns masterfully crafted into the story are offset by moments of extremely poignant subtlety as Bong envelopes audiences in a world that seems infinitely close and yet constantly out of reach through perfect shot selection and camera movement that puts the viewers’ eyes on exactly what they need to see at the exact moment they need to see it.
Although set in Seoul, the universal film realistically could have taken place anywhere and in any language with its observations on economic class conflict, greed and deception. Its biggest hindrance to mainstream success has been a relative unwillingness for subtitled films, though Bong has crafted a theatrical experience that far transcends any language barrier.
“Parasite” is an arresting display of cinema mastery that reveals its many layers over repeat viewings and a feature whose humor, tension and drama interweave majestically over the terse two-hour running time.
Perspective is of key importance to “Parasite” as viewers are left questioning events in the film from every angle, not knowing what’s coming next or where it’s coming from. The Oscar-winning screenplay written by Bong and Han Jin-won is an unparalleled combination of tension and release that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.
What’s most important about the unprecedented success of “Parasite” is what it means for the Academy moving forward, and hopefully, for the film industry as a whole.
It’s truly remarkable that a foreign-language film broke through and won in four out of the six categories it was nominated in. But at the same time, “Parasite” failed to receive a deserved cinematography nod and none of the film’s illustrious cast was honored with a nomination despite the film winning Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild awards.
“Parasite” relies on eight actors to deliver memorable, pitch-perfect performances in order to pull off Bong’s layered screenplay and there isn’t a false step among the entire cast. Each member of the family – father, mother, son and daughter – is in sharp contrast from their mirror in the other family, as if they were playing the opposite side of the same coin.
This year’s Academy Award Best Picture winner is a truly special, audacious cinematic masterpiece that’s uniquely of this moment in time and yet transcends the world we’re living in.
“Parasite” was the best film of 2019, arguably the greatest film of the last decade and the correct choice by Academy voters Sunday evening.