by CHARLIE PINGEL
The cinema. As of late, many who hold the artistic mode in high regard have lamented its inevitable passing perpetuated by an onslaught of franchise mergers and streaming-service startups. It seems quite special, almost mythic, to sit down in the classic multiplex seats, unable to recline or kick up one’s feet, and experience the cinema, in all it was chalked up to be by those who mourn of it, with the dull pain of a sore lower back. At times, it may even feel as though this experience simply cannot be found anymore, a cerebral fossil of what few auteurs remain. Then, just when all hope appears to be lost, somewhere, somebody wakes up, does their job, and a film like “Parasite” is made.
Two years out from his last feature, Bong Joon-ho set out to continue his streak of frighteningly original and entertaining expression with “Parasite,” a film exploring a lower class family – the Kims – and their efforts to make a living in modern-day South Korea. What begins as a light drama about an unfortunate household manipulating wealthy dullards slowly morphs into something entirely unique and deeply intense, barrelling toward a final act so far removed from its opening that it feels just on the edge of ambitious collapse. Dripping with tension and cutthroat dialogue, Joon-ho’s screenplay and direction work in perfect tandem to develop an exercise of setup-and-payoff so truly unexpected it has the potential to leave viewers gripping the arms of their seats in anticipation.
There can never be enough said about the phenomenal and very nuanced performances (Kang-ho Song in his best role since 2003’s “Memories of Murder”), or the strikingly intentional camera movement edited seemlessly together; yet, because space remains limited, something else must be discussed. What Joon-ho has done with this film is given modern audiences that sore-back, chair-gripping, popcorn-crunching cinema experience that has felt all too absent from the current filmgoing sphere.
As I sunk back into my third row, off-the-aisle seat at the delightful Fleur Cinema and Cafe, a memory returned to me; a memory of the lights growing dim, the title sequence of “Blade Runner,” in its 2012 return, rolling up the screen, and the smell of the old Madison Eastgate movie theater – popcorn, old fabric, faint cigarettes, hormones, and all – filled my senses. I was back at the moment in which I began my journey with the cinema. A moment when through younger eyes I had seen, without fully grasping it, the crumbling of an artform, a style of medium collapsing all around me. I was taken back to sitting amidst the erosion of an experience that may never be fully lived again.
And as the credits rolled on “Parasite,” and the room emptied, I found myself taking one last look back over my shoulder, to that seat in the third row, the nostalgia of a formative instance haunting the back of my consciousness. As I walked out of this film, I was reminded of a time when I loved to go and sit amidst a sea of other appreciators and let the reel spin my thoughts away.
A film such as this, must be cherished. It is expressions like “Parasite” that cause a restoration of hope that cinema, as it has been known, may pull through after all. For what it accomplishes, it can be looked at as no less than a masterpiece, a work of art that should hang in the Louvre, right between “Whistler’s Mother” and “The Raft of Medusa.” 10/10