“Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon-Ho, is a comedy that glistens with irony about an elaborate con. The covetous greed of the poor is pitted against the dull indulgence of the wealthy in a manichean duel for supremacy, to realistic effect. Will the world one day see an all-out war between the classes? Occupy Wall Street, the Yellow Vest movement, are those harbingers? These movements have come and gone, so what’s next? Something more lethal? Why are the wealthy hated by so many, and the poor so contemptible? How much more significant will income disparity be ten, fifteen years from now?
When Carlos Ghosn was arrested the first time, the main accusation raised against him was the fact that he drew a second, secret, salary. How much is too much? What was the difference between his salary and that of a secretary at Nissan, or a factory worker?
In “Parasite,” a family of grifters orchestrates an intricate ploy to gradually insert itself into the bourgeois household of a wealthy family. This perfect family lives at the top of a hill, in a house designed by a famous Korean architect. First, the poor offer the rich English tutoring. Then, art lessons, a need for a driver is quickly filled after that. But the architectural wonder of a house hides something that the grifters, in their elaborate planning, had not anticipated. When this is revealed, how will they react to it?
“Parasite,” told from the point of view of the grifters (obviously), is entertaining, at times hilarious. We’re meant to cheer them on as they put their plan in motion.
If the wealthy are portrayed as vain and gullible, the poor are like petty, if ingenious, parasites. There is no redemption for them in “Parasite.” Only cause and effect, fighting, concealing and playacting.
When the father, Ki Taek (Kang-ho Song, one of South Korea’s best-known actors) is hired as a driver after his predecessor is replaced, he learns a script, in their shack down the street, as prepared by his daughter. It’s meant to portray the current housekeeper as being ill with tuberculosis (and thus clearly a threat to the small children of the family). This will lead the lady of the house to conclude that the housekeeper, in the home for many years, must be gotten rid of immediately. The mission’s objective: to put grifter mama in her place.
Bong Joon Ho drops hints throughout the film about what may take place in the end, and yet, the film’s ending took me by surprise. Very pleasurable!