Parasite (2019)
October 19, 2019 3:53 PM - Subscribe

All unemployed, Ki-taek's family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks to sustain their livelihood. Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.

Letterboxd (4.5 stars) | Metacritic (95) | Rotten Tomatoes (99%; Critics Consensus: An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.)
posted by youarenothere (61 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was excellent. I saw this expecting it to be a horror film judging by its title and poster but it's actually more like a heist film. The metaphor of the Kim family living in a basement level apartment versus the Park family living on top of a hill was very fitting but then that big reveal emphasized the point even further. It's also interesting to note how the Parks weren't actually terrible people, at least not the way wealthy people are usually satirized. On the surface they were kind and gracious but once Mr. Park lets slip that working class had a unique odor, it was enough to change everything.
posted by cazoo at 11:22 PM on October 19, 2019 [8 favorites]


I really appreciated the bit about how it's easy to be nice when you have money. And the way everything goes downhill as soon as two competing working class families reject solidarity in favor of brutal competition due to their crushing precarity. Some very well considered class commentary in this film.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 10:45 AM on October 20, 2019 [30 favorites]


I loved this movie, but I'm afraid I can't watch it with my wife. We've got small kids and it's a film that you really don't want to pause after the first half hour.
posted by Catblack at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2019


I will never forget that shot of Song Kang-ho as Kim Ki-taek reacting to hearing the Parks discussing how he smells. So much in one moment.
posted by sallybrown at 1:03 PM on October 26, 2019 [18 favorites]


I was struck by how while they were drinking and then getting caught up in the movie’s central twist at their employer’s home, their own home was getting flooded and destroyed.

The ending was so masterful, lifting to hopefulness and then just dashing it with a single , quick shot.
posted by jeoc at 9:06 AM on October 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


This movie is amazing. Especially the cinematography, use of color, thematic ties, etc. This is definitely worth a rewatch to catch all the things I probably missed that was in the background. Lots of interesting moments that tied in the end: housekeeper "eating for two," the "ghost," flickering lights, mention of drugs after noticing how the housekeeper had to clap to awaken the mother in the beginning, etc. Not to mention all the modern commentary about class differences. The parasite theme is also interesting because there are so many layers of people relying on each other.
posted by xtine at 11:14 PM on October 28, 2019 [6 favorites]




Why was the housekeepers face busted up when she first came back to the house and rang the doorbell?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:01 PM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]


MisantropicPainforest, I believe that was the work of the loan sharks that her husband owes money to. Shows why he still had to hide in the bomb shelter/panic room after all this time. Maybe she was making payments until she lost her job?
posted by five toed sloth at 10:14 PM on November 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


I saw the movie this afternoon, and I feel like I just want to see the birthday party scene over and over, in slow motion and real-time, until I pick up everything that's happening. The way that Bong brings everything together during that sequence is masterful.
posted by five toed sloth at 10:20 PM on November 6, 2019 [7 favorites]


"Parasite star Park So Dam teaches us the Jessica Jingle"

Available to download as a ringtone.
posted by bluecore at 10:13 AM on November 8, 2019 [9 favorites]


Fairly surprised not to see The Whelk on this thread, as this feels made for them.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:06 PM on November 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


That ending really stuck it in and broke it off. I knew--absolutely knew--there was no way we were getting that magical happy ending and I knew it was a pipedream the entire time that scene was on. But even so, the cut back to Ki-taek gutted me. Such a perfect ending for a movie on class, the classic daydream that everything will be all right when I am rich, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:13 PM on November 9, 2019 [29 favorites]


I want to watch it again just to see what knowledge about the basement is in the kid's drawings, unnoticed by the adults the whole time.
posted by figurant at 6:20 PM on November 11, 2019 [14 favorites]


Parasite lived up to its hype for me, so glad I finally got to watch it. Halfway through, I wanted to text a friend (who had seen the film) "omg dream house, right?" But by the end of the movie it becomes as sinister as a haunted house.
posted by Rora at 7:35 PM on November 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


In New Orleans we have all the ghost stories / history about the slaver doctors who put all their victims' bodies in the floorboards, so I felt like I knew what was going to happen. Still, I enjoyed this film that would play the breaking of class solidarity for the humor and murder it is. There's a lot that reminded me of Get Out, like this is a Get Out where working people scheme against themselves
posted by eustatic at 8:34 PM on November 17, 2019 [5 favorites]


Worth a read:

‘Parasite’ and the rise of Revolutionary Gothic
These stories don’t try to comfort us with victory; they unsettle us with the implications of ongoing defeat.
posted by bluecore at 7:26 AM on November 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


Man this was good. I was surprised by how much the crowd was getting into it, it really added to the experience.
One thing I noticed was how the housekeeper was shown to be a real whole person who had a great sense of humor and loved her husband whereas in a typical movie she could have stayed as a 1-dimensional nag. As well as the homeowners shown to be 3D people too, trying to be good employers. Because it's not like "We want our heroes to win against the bad guys" it's like "This is a horrible situation that we don't want to be happening to anyone involved".

Another thing I noticed was when the housekeeper was doing that impression of North Korean news anchors it made me think about how fascism has this stark brutality in the language it uses and how I'm seeing that all over the place now and it in itself is scary because using language like that allows for actual brutality to be acceptable?? I don't really know how to articulate it but that scene made me think about it.

Another thing I was thinking about is that if they had just been respectful of the house and got drunk in the housekeeper's bedroom instead of the living room then none of this would have happened. And if the mom had just been cool and accepted the housekeeper's bribe. It just shows how little mistakes that seem like a good idea at the time stack up and stack up and then fall over.
posted by bleep at 11:21 AM on November 24, 2019 [8 favorites]


So good! Lee Jeong-eun as the original housekeeper was the stand out for me with such a faceted performance.

Question: toward the end when there's grappling in the basement, you see the housekeeper make her way to her husband and start to pull off his bonds with her teeth. In the next scene you see her on the floor by the door. Was this just his fantasy/hallucination that she was rescuing him?

You also see the little boy translating the Morse code of the crazed basement husband but nothing comes of that... Was that also his fantasy?
posted by latkes at 10:01 PM on November 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Finally, finally caught up with this in the theater and it was so worth it. It made me think back to the years that I painted rich people's houses and most of them acted like I was invisible. I feel like I would have gotten a little more out of it if I was Korean and got more of the subtle class distinctions specific to their culture. Still, masterful stuff.
posted by octothorpe at 6:46 PM on January 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


Loved it. Kept thinking it was over, like, fake third-act ending beats, you filmmaking scoundrels. THE FUCKING CINEMATOGRAPHY. The performances. The use of Western classical music to tie it to Molière and beyond, maybe even up to Brecht. Wonderful.
posted by mwhybark at 2:47 AM on January 5, 2020


channaher: "Building the ‘Parasite’ House: How Bong Joon Ho and His Team Made the Year’s Best Set."

I love that they built the dimensions of the house around the aspect ratio that they were going to shoot in.
posted by octothorpe at 8:03 AM on January 5, 2020 [5 favorites]


I finally saw this and was impressed. It was so formally pristine while at the same time so savage.
posted by praemunire at 6:43 PM on January 7, 2020 [3 favorites]


I was kind of surprised at how unkind the movie portrayed its lower classes. And I'm unclear about what kind of commentary this American can draw from it all. As pointed out, the Parks aren't exactly terrible people. In contrast, the Kim family is kind of fundamentally terrible. And they're specifically depicted as dishonest, impulsive, slovenly, devious, indulging their vices with vigor, lazy when applying their redeeming skills. As a family, their greatest collective talent seems the ability to spot and work an angle with a good deal of coordination. Though not necessarily with competence, be it folding pizza boxes or milking an upper class household dry. You get the feeling the Kim family's woes can be laid clearly at the step of the Kim family.

Not that I expect that class should be depicted in a "balanced" way. Or biased, for that matter. It's just that as class commentary, it's weird.

Maybe I'm a bit blinkered, as entertaining as it was, I wasn't as impressed with Parasite as with Bong Joon-ho's earlier work, Mother. I just found myself seeing some of the twists before they happen in this movie. The strange architectural feature reveal was weird, but so out of left field, it's a tipping point of imagination. At that point, anything goes.

The blinking light as a device is a strange conceit, one of those things which works so well in this story, yet would be so absurd in real life.

I found the Kim's return to their devastated apartment, to see their lives meager accomplishments drenched in sewage a devastating scene.

What I do love is the details offering bits and pieces of the characters and background. Ms Park being "a bit... simple" and overall strange behavior, Chung-sook's long gone glory days and how she's just dripping in physicality, Kim Ki-taek's questionable driving skills, Da-song's ghost incident, Ki-jeong's genuinely good tutoring skill. Geun-sae's introduction at first seems extra grotesque, with Moon-gwang appearing to treat him like an infant. Those are the things that make this such a compelling watch.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:02 PM on January 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


“ As pointed out, the Parks aren't exactly terrible people. In contrast, the Kim family is kind of fundamentally terrible”

A key piece of dialogue:

“(The Parks) are rich, but nice.”
“....THEY‘RE NICE *BECAUSE* THEY’RE RICH.”
posted by praemunire at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2020 [19 favorites]


I didn't get that at all. The Kims are just doing what they have to do to survive; I found them totally sympathetic. The Parks are just better at hiding their awfulness but show it in all the little microaggressions against the Kims who they don't really see as fully human.
posted by octothorpe at 3:07 PM on January 11, 2020 [12 favorites]


“....THEY‘RE NICE *BECAUSE* THEY’RE RICH.”

The Parks weren't particularly nice, though. But you tell yourself what you need to to justify whatever you're doing.

However, the Kims had some pretty rotten foundations. Contrast them with Moon-gwang, who appeared to be a much more sympathetic character who up to that point, and got aggressive when she found out not only the extent of the deception that's putting her husband in jeopardy, but that it had been coordinated as a family. The Kims were basically willing to poison another working class woman and orchestrate a pretty serious deception get their whole family in on the scam... three weren't enough. I'm not getting that they had to do that to survive. They did it to milk every drop for themselves, fuck anyone else.

The Park's awfulness is pretty tame in comparison. Maybe the rich Parks would have done the same thing. But they didn't. The Kims did. Which is why I'm a bit puzzled at the "class commentary" talk over the movie.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:38 PM on January 11, 2020


”Which is why I'm a bit puzzled at the "class commentary" talk over the movie.“

Two poor families tear each other apart struggling for the scraps and discards of the rich, who look down on them and who alone are able to walk away in the end. “Class commentary” is not “poor good, rich bad.” Well, not if it’s going to be interesting as a piece of art.
posted by praemunire at 9:52 PM on January 11, 2020 [36 favorites]


Or, to put it another way, the Parks’ violence is structural. It’s embodied in the house, the city, the Kims’ house.
posted by praemunire at 9:55 PM on January 11, 2020 [19 favorites]


... and all three families are culturally familiar with Marxist ideology and class analysis, but it’s something that is literally a joke.
posted by mwhybark at 6:04 PM on January 12, 2020 [2 favorites]


Ah! I totally didn't put together the boy's drawings with there actually being someone in the basement until it was pointed out in this thread. The art therapy mumbo jumbo totally misdirected me from the importance of that.

I also made the comparison to a heist movie in my Facebook review of the film, and was thinking about Get Out while I was watching it, but also (strangely?) Home Alone. While I had to avert my eyes during certain bits of cranial trauma, this was way easier for me to watch than Get Out, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

The big thing that broke my suspension of disbelief was at the end of the movie, with the flashing light morse code. I want to see some math about how long it would generally take a layperson on a light switch to flash out the entire letter, plus the psychological feasibility of a trapped man performing it every night.

Thinking about another plot hole (maybe), but I don't want to bring it up to anyone who hasn't considered it yet.

lighter note: r/movies discusses the details western audiences might miss
posted by itesser at 6:29 PM on January 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


I think, asking all these questions, you have to re-frame the movie in terms of the boy's dream of buying the house at the end of the film. the point, I think, is that he can't actually buy the house, even though he only wants to buy the house to pull his father out of the basement.

There's a lot in the movie that is symbolic, especially how the Parks never get hurt from all the violence that they spur, how they are on the top of the mountain, so they can't get hurt from the flood. the flood part was hard for me to watch, being in a place that floods a lot. But there's a lot in the movie that is real, everyday assholisms that rich people embody.

the kids are all real people, sympathetic, the elders are more metaphorical or ciphers for class issues, and i think the fact that the kids are so dynamic makes the adults more horrible or tragic by contrast.

we are introduced to the kid Kims being good at breaking rules and running schemes. to me, this was sympathetic. i think all kids suffer under arbitrary rules, and working kids 1000x moreso. The film opens on them skimming wifi, in order to find bullshit work--a victimless crime in the name of virtue. and the film posits this scheming as natural, good qualities that ultimately show their weak position--girl Kim should have been graduating college, but there's no money--instead, her dumb brother pulls her into a big lie. The film makes the fake out of her being a tutor, and wielding the authority in the Park home that she was qualified for, a kind of justice. She has to fake it to make it. To me, this is the most US american thing in the movie.

so, pretty sure the film is making her totally sympathetic to set up the climax.

The elder Parks are terribly and willfully ignorant, by their own making, and by the deceptions that working people must employ in order to eat. Their reaction to smells, to me, was the perfect metaphor for status game they had programmed themselves with--smell seems essential, biological, but it's their own bullshit choice. I imagined that this smell BS came out of a cocktail party conversation they had with someone richer than them, that they admired.

I think I despised them for this, that they know, deep down, that their petulant actions move mountains below them, but they focus much energy on not caring, and constructing a world (represented by the house) in which they don't have to care or think about the people they probably spend the most time with--so they can be petulant assholes in a manner of their choosing.

All the BS about 'crossing the line', is almost an over the top metaphor for showing us how they go about making arbitrary rules for cultivating their own comfort while others suffer around them--regularly at their hand. and we've already seen the kid Kims suffer with arbitrary rules, and now we see their genesis, dad Park.

Of course, the Parks can't be bothered to even cook or drive cars, that's despicable enough. I guess, as a middle class US american, that kind of behavior is disgusting to me (I mean, why don't they buy an InstaPot and a sensible Honda? lol). when there is violence, it doesn't' hurt them, they react to the flood flippantly, like assholes, etc. there's a constant drip-drip-drip of occasions where they could act like people, but they act like assholes. I was cheering at them getting fleeced.

there's the funny bits, like, working people have to shut up and hide so the rich people can get their freak on.

But there's the more enraging bits--the biggest moment of this is the dad Park throwing the car keys at his servant while the servant's daughter is dying. And she's the one who got dragged into this BS, she never wanted to do this scheme. It's the culmination of all these little offensive moments. Dad Park is just rotten to the core, and dad Kim is just broken in that moment, and goes with his "make no plans" plan. there's no way out of the trap, but at least he's stopped fighting with his fellow cupcake vendor and takes a swing at the bigger problem.

There's a big difference between the elder Parks and the kids. (and there's no grandparents, don't know how to read that--where are the grandparents? I always think of Koreans with grandparents) The boy could be a cowboy, but he chooses the indian (this probably means something different in Korea, but to me, it was a sympathetic character trait). He wants to escape his house by camping, and camping in the rain. he's shooting his family with arrows, i think it's this hidden resentment. The boy has nightmares about the truth, the man in the basement (makes a great metaphor). He's disturbed by what his parents are hiding, and in the end, he does faint--he suffers consequences out of his control, after he's made himself available to them, even seeking consequences out, as much as he can.

The girl Park is ridiculously sheltered, but in the end, she full-deadlift carries and runs with the bloodied person she has fallen in love with, seeking help however she can, like a real and frightened human person doing something superhuman and unexpected, but reflective of the might of her earlier feelings. I thought she was being fickle and stupid earlier, but, at least in this climax scene, her feelings are revealed to have real weight, and she is engaging her whole being to save her love. It's funny, and she probably really saved boy Kim's life.

But this just made me hate the parent Parks more, their aversion to smell isn't somehow inevitable, it's something they've cultivated, like taste in suits.

The whole subplot/joke of the working men losing all their money starting cupcake businesses...I mean, I don't know where you live, but that was very real for me. Someone working until they are 50, building savings, only to cash it in gambling on rich's people's fickle tastes. They could have worked in a joke about how the cupcake shops were built inside former working-class housing, if they wanted to make the metaphor hit americans harder.

i didn't get all the nuance around dad Park being an architect and the previous homeowner being an architect. i think i'm missing something there--except that maybe it's just simply that architects are rich and build things, like the house that embodies class structures.

There's a lot of gender things going on, that is plain, like mom Kim is the last on the list, and is saving everybody's ass again and again, but i need to see it again.

to me, the conflict between the servant families was the big moment of class commentary, that even though the families should turn on the Parks together, like they've been doing, they turn on each other, they hate themselves and hate each other for having to live a lie. They've internalized the class hatred for themselves.

I need to watch it again, but i think the girl Kim is pivotal in that scene and that's somehow important. I just knew what was going to happen, that they would turn on each other, even though I also was wishing that they would work together. I laughed and I cried.
posted by eustatic at 8:40 AM on January 25, 2020 [8 favorites]


The big thing that broke my suspension of disbelief was at the end of the movie, with the flashing light morse code.

But do we know for sure that isn’t just the son’s fantasy? He’s shown as having pretty significant brain damage (the uncontrollable laughing) and I wonder if he has just made up the whole story about his dad being in the bunker.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:40 PM on January 25, 2020 [8 favorites]


Lot to digest but one thought that just occurred:
Dad Kim has internalised he can never and should never make plans (and is he wrong?)
vs.
Mother Park whips up a whole extravagant bday plan that goes off without a hitch for her son in seconds.

I mean, what more do you need to know about control?
posted by litleozy at 8:30 AM on January 28, 2020 [16 favorites]


In contrast, the Kim family is kind of fundamentally terrible. And they're specifically depicted as dishonest, impulsive, slovenly, devious, indulging their vices with vigor, lazy when applying their redeeming skills.

Compare what you wrote there to the stereotypes of urban African-Americans promulgated by right wing politicians. Lazy, welfare cheats, school drop outs, drug dealers, etc. It strikes me as a very similar situation - the systems of society keep them stuck by criticizing them for not making the better choices they're often denied the ability to make in the first place. I saw a quote recently to the effect that it's pretty cruel to say "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" to people who don't even have shoes.
posted by dnash at 10:12 AM on January 29, 2020 [6 favorites]


i didn't get all the nuance around dad Park being an architect and the previous homeowner being an architect. i think i'm missing something there--except that maybe it's just simply that architects are rich and build things, like the house that embodies class structures.

It's more of that symbolism of structure, in my read. Architects literally design the structures in which life occurs. They are responsible for them. To soapbox: there's a horribly prevalent undercurrent in much of the modern world that, well yes things are unfair and this or that is unjust but what can you do? It's just the world we live in!

But in large part, the social and class structures of the world we live in are the product of deliberate design. Exploited, outsider, marginalized underclasses are structurally inherent to exploitation. That's not something that just happened organically, any more than the Parks' giant mansion just happened. It was designed and built--the opulence was part of it just as much as the hidden sub-basement people get imprisoned in while breaking themselves to the point of rationalizing they're not prisoners.

And of course it's a chain of architects. An architect inherits the architected opulence of a predecessor, and could to varying degrees of credibly insist they had no idea that whole sub-level of the house was under there! They had no idea that some of the apparently-magical benefits of the house was actually on the back of imprisoned labor that would never, ever be allowed to improve or have freedom from it. They just inherited the structure, they can't be blamed for it!

All that is intentionally built into the film. It's legit amazing. I love this movie more every time I think about it.
posted by Drastic at 11:12 AM on January 29, 2020 [15 favorites]


On a lighter note, Maangchi has a video about the "ramdon" from the movie.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:11 PM on January 29, 2020 [2 favorites]


Holy shit they built that house as a set.

I loved the sequence where the Kims flee the house, after their fantasy party is shattered and they learn the horrible truth about the basement of the house, and they have to return to their own undercity. After so much time in the stark and beautiful home, the city looks unreal and horrible.

Sorry a lot of replies.

Their reaction to smells, to me, was the perfect metaphor for status game they had programmed themselves with--smell seems essential, biological, but it's their own bullshit choice.

I'm not sure what you mean. A sense of smell is not a choice, there's not a lot of choice going on here. But yes it is the class marker in this movie. The Kims can somehow fool the Parks when it comes to speech, grooming, clothing, education, etc. But not the tell-tale smell vs. the Park's privileged noses. It's not even anything the Parks do or say knowingly.

I do wonder if the Kim dad has no sense of smell. I think he doesn't even react when their apartment is getting fumigated, he just keeps on folding.

As a family, their greatest collective talent seems the ability to spot and work an angle with a good deal of coordination. Though not necessarily with competence, be it folding pizza boxes or milking an upper class household dry.

I bolded that part because I thought it was really interesting that the Kims aren't trying to milk the Parks. They are misrepresenting themselves, yes, but they are essentially doing the labor they are being paid to do! Their 'scam' is: to have a job. Does the mom not do her job just fine? Is the dad not qualified to be a driver? Is the daughter not qualified to teach art with some added woo? Is the son a less suitable tutor for the Park's daughter than the slimy friend they adored?

Maybe I'm a bit blinkered, as entertaining as it was, I wasn't as impressed with Parasite as with Bong Joon-ho's earlier work, Mother.

Well, Mother is pretty good, so... FWIW I liked this movie a lot more than Snowpiercer and Okja.
posted by fleacircus at 2:27 AM on January 31, 2020 [15 favorites]


Their 'scam' is: to have a job.

Wow that's such a good point I for some reason hadn't thought of. Like just to do what we're supposed to do, to have jobs, poor people have to 'scam', or rather whatever you do when your poor is automatically already a scam. You're born an outsider, with no way to follow the rules, because you're outside the rules.
posted by latkes at 9:10 AM on January 31, 2020 [16 favorites]




It's so brilliant, it was so good and so well paced, it doesn't feel as long as it is.

The smell thing is so incredible. There are so many references to smell, from the stinkbugs to the fumigation to the flooding of their house and backing up of their toilet. Their whole life is punctuated by smells that they have no control over. When they sleep in the basement and then are called in to work I was wondering "where they able to shower?" I work in a place with an extremely strong smell that I carry around with me even when I'm not at work and I've had people comment on it even after I've showered and changed clothes. People find it pleasant, but I'm habituated to it. When Mr. Kim smells himself I found it so real.

Another thing I really loved was how Mr. Kim keeps asking Mr. Park about loving his wife and Mr. Park can't just say yes. He's offended and he can't just say yes, he has to say something else first and then says yes, but grudgingly. There's no love there, and I think that's another part of why Mr. Kim stabs him.
posted by Neronomius at 6:23 PM on February 1, 2020 [13 favorites]


This Reddit thread is very interesting: Korean fans of “Parasite”, please share jokes and references that Westerners might have missed? I learned a lot of things that added to my understanding of the movie.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:10 AM on February 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


Holy cow, it swept the Oscars!

Even though I’ve scoffed at the Best Picture winners in the past (Green Book, really?), I’m happy Parasite and Bong Joon-ho have had this recognition.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:19 PM on February 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


Congratulations to everybody involved with Parasite!
posted by praemunire at 9:39 PM on February 9, 2020


I forgot one of my favorite moments is in the Kim house party when the Kim daughter half-realizes she's been eating dog treats, and (iirc!) she just looks at the bag and says "Poodle?!"

It's interesting how widely beloved this movie is (Bwithh exceptions). I was trying to think of reasons why and I came up with three:
- It walks a fine line between too nihilistic and too naïve. It has a little something for everyone and doesn't alienate too many people.
- Everybody kinda wants that house?
- It's not rapey, which is extremely rare for a home invasion type of movie.

Like, so many home/family invasion movies are very like patriarchal fables or nightmares. In the nightmare, look out! Here comes the scary more-alpha dad! He's going to be a dark father to the son, he's going to fuck the daughter, the wife's gonna fall in love with him. In the fable, here comes the beatific stranger, he's going to teach each person in this family how to live with their hearts, but the hardest nut to crack will be dad. Can't heal the family without healing the dad! In all these movies there is usually some class anxiety too but I think it's just grist for the dad-pov mill. The affluent man fears he is not man enough because manliness is blue-collar coded, physical, sexual, and violent.

Parasite is obviously saying some things about absentee dads. Camping trips and ramdon aren't going to rescue dads from the prison-bunkers of capitalism. But still, the camera is not seeing through the patriarchy's eyes, or at least, not in the very American ways afaict.
posted by fleacircus at 12:10 PM on February 10, 2020 [7 favorites]


Director Bong:
“Compared to all my other films, Parasite in particular I think is the most universal story, and no matter where it screens, which country or festival, the audience response has been pretty similar. I think that’s because, while on the surface the film features very Korean characters and details, in the end it’s as if we’re all living in this one country of capitalism.”
posted by bluecore at 3:08 PM on February 10, 2020 [13 favorites]


Here's a Twitter thread with some interesting cultural notes.
posted by fleacircus at 5:58 PM on February 15, 2020 [5 favorites]


I did a Threadreader unroll of that thread so I could send it so someone. Very interesting - thanks!
posted by Grangousier at 5:19 AM on February 16, 2020 [2 favorites]


One bit I found interesting was how 25% of the pizza boxes were folded incorrectly. More specifically, they were all folded incorrectly in the same way. This strongly implies that one of the four Kims misunderstood the folding instructions and folded all of their boxes in a different way. However, since the fiction they are presenting to the restaurant owner is that only one of them is doing this work, they can't admit this fact to her. Even so, she should have realized that it would be strange for most of the boxes to be perfect, but a fraction to be different in exactly the same obvious way. Instead, though, rather than assume that her new "contractor" is intelligent and can learn to avoid making these defects, she interprets them as the sloppy mistakes of yet another bottom-rung gig economy worker and berates them with a pretentious appeal to her restaurant's "brand image". For the Kims' part, it's a testament to their family solidarity that they never seem to blame the guilty party for this mistake.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 5:35 PM on February 17, 2020 [15 favorites]


One thing I liked about the movie especially was the way that the Parks were scammed through the Kims leveraging fake prestige. It makes me wonder if the Parks are old or new money, since they seem so desparate to latch onto the prestige that comes with selective servants.
posted by codacorolla at 10:05 PM on February 17, 2020 [3 favorites]




Whoops, missed that there was a whole thread on the above essay.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 7:09 AM on February 19, 2020


Could Mrs. Park have grown up as the daughter of a military officer? The mismatch between much of her affect and the oddly specific request for the formation of the party tables made me wonder.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:57 AM on February 24, 2020


Watching it a second time, it's obvious that the father messed up the boxes, just through his (and the others') body language, something that carries through to the rest of the film.
posted by Grangousier at 10:12 AM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


It's been a few months since I've seen the film, but I'm pretty sure that party tables' formation was in reference to Admiral Yi and the famous Battle of Myeongnyang, where 13 ships were used against a 100+ Japanese fleet. So the mother was referring to one of the most well-known historical figures and his most well-known battle -- something any child would learn in their history classes (like Washington crossing the Delaware). In this case, she's considering her son's tent to be the "Admiral's ship" and the twelve tables flanking them like the other ships. So I don't think the mother was necessarily the daughter of a military officer since this would be common Korean knowledge.

As an aside, as I was pulling up the wiki link to the battle, I discovered that the 2014 Korean film The Admiral was the highest grossing domestic film in Korea until Parasite. So that's amusing in a meta way.
posted by paisley sheep at 11:25 AM on February 25, 2020 [5 favorites]


In addition to the Reddit thread and Twitter discussion about the Korean context other people would miss, Foreign Policy covers the "hidden" backstory of middle-class failure and chicken joints that is apparent to Koreans watching the film.
The movie [...] is centered on the Kim family, who live in a basement in Seoul. But how did the Kim family end up there? The movie drops only the slightest of hints in the family’s conversation as they retrace the career of the patriarch, Ki-taek. Yet a Korean audience would immediately grasp the implication behind these simple words: “chicken place” and “king castella.” For those familiar with a typical career trajectory in South Korea, those terms reveal a whole world of middle-class failure—reflecting economic hopes and tragedies that still resonate throughout the country.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:16 PM on February 25, 2020 [4 favorites]


Finally saw this now that it's on Hulu (in the US, at least). Wow, that was incredible. Darkly comic until it turned absolutely harrowing. Just perfectly shot and perfectly paced. Perfectly acted as well. All the accolades are so well-deserved.

And honestly I can't blame Kim Ki-Taek for stabbing Mr. Park in the end. Fuck him and his "line". The poor are good enough to drive you around and do your chores, but God forbid anything reminds you of the conditions they live in. You now, the very conditions that force them into that position of subservience in the first place. The rich hate nothing more than being reminded of the system that gives them their power.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:29 PM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Also, I have to laugh at jjapaguri being localised as "ramdon" in a movie with multiple references to Korean resistance against Japanese imperialism. (The tune of the "Jessica" song and the party layout based on Admiral Yi's crane wing formation, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were more.)
posted by tobascodagama at 8:46 PM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


eustatic: Their reaction to smells, to me, was the perfect metaphor for status game they had programmed themselves with--smell seems essential, biological, but it's their own bullshit choice.

fleacircus: I'm not sure what you mean. A sense of smell is not a choice, there's not a lot of choice going on here. But yes it is the class marker in this movie. The Kims can somehow fool the Parks when it comes to speech, grooming, clothing, education, etc. But not the tell-tale smell vs. the Park's privileged noses. It's not even anything the Parks do or say knowingly.

I agree with fleacircus. Other considerations: the first person to notice the Kim's (shared) smell was Park Da-song. Also, I found another list of cultural details you missed in Parasite from Zen Kimchi, in which the author writes about living in a half-basement apartment. "The musty basement smell permeated everything. I had bought a dehumidifier, and it helped a bit but not a lot. Clothes had a hard time drying."

Stray observation: Park Dong-ik's company is called "Another Brick," which is noted on a Reddit discussion to have a number of possible meanings.

Grim detail: the fancy lights that go on as Dong-ik walks up the stairs are initially implied to be automatic, but we learn that they're manually operated by Oh Geun-sae from the unknown basement space. "Respect!"
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 PM on April 18, 2020 [2 favorites]


And how misplaced is that respect! Dad Park is an arsehole and if he found out he was helping Geun Sae he'd put an end to it immediately.

I loved every bit of this. It's so metaphorical! Bong Joon Ho just decided that he was going to make a fable where every detail supports the themes and if that's too much for you then too bad, he's doing it anyway. I have to bump all his other movies up my watchlist now.

And of course smell is the thing the Parks notice. The Kims have no control over their environment so absorb it all, but the Parks don't even do anything that would create a smell. They don't cook, or clean, or drive, or set up tables, or do anything that might work up a sweat unless they can have a shower immediately after. Any smell just dissipates into their airy, spacious home.

All that effort, scamming and all, just to get a normal job. Once Moon Gwang showed up during their little party I knew it was going to be a competition for the scraps the Parks allow them to have. If there'd been a happy ending I'd have called bullshit.
posted by harriet vane at 8:42 PM on May 1, 2020 [2 favorites]


Oh! And I laughed out loud when Mum Park says it's considered good luck to have a ghost in the basement. Some other rich wife told her that as they were trying to justify their position perched on the backs of others, I bet. All the best people have buried secrets, don't you know?
posted by harriet vane at 8:50 PM on May 1, 2020 [5 favorites]


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