Review of “Parasite” at the Vancouver International Film Festival2 min read

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Weirdly enough, as a passage in my own work, I write about my stint as a venue manager at Vancouver International Film Festival in my novella The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo. In a passage, I mention my passing ambition to be promoted as a programmer for the festival. “To search for the next Almodovar, [Haneke][1], and Bong Joon Ho.” It was meant to be a dig, as I am not a fan of these three filmmakers that most film festival aficionados seem to gush to. In that case, I wasn’t a big fan of Bong Joon-Ho’s offbeat style. The Host threw me off, Snowpiercer was overwrought, and I didn’t last 10 minutes in Okja. So going into the theater dragged by a friend to watch Parasite; it wasn’t really how I wanted to spend the night. Why would I watch my most hated Korean film director’s Palme d’Or winning film? I liked my friend enough, so I braced myself for Parasite.

I hated the first thirty minutes, with the forced cackling of the audience throughout the dark humor that set the piece. I sympathized with the exaggerated poverty of the Kim family, scrambling to syphon off free wi-fi as the breadwinner couldn’t seem to find work. With the arrival of Min, the friend of son–Ki-woo, approaches him to be a substitute tutor for the awkward daughter of the wealthy Park family. Seeing the opportunity to capitalize on Park family’s eccentric needs, Ki-woo soon enlists his own family to be high class household help and ultimately be all employed by the Park family. While the audience would feel that this off-beat screwball dark comedy would end up hitting the right notes, in classic Bong Joon-Ho fashion, the story takes a turn towards something more sinister.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised by the film, after crawling through the awkward first hour of dark comedy and convenient story beats– the turn is by far a cathartic one. Like Snowpiercer and Okja, where the themes of class disparity and the unfair distribution of resources are greatly shown– Parasite takes the satire down a notch and keeps it within the parameters of this reality. What results is a theater of the human condition, where poverty forces the poor to live like animals in a perverted artificial natural selection and the rich live in a completely different reality (also seen in Snowpiercer and Okja). As for the film deserving its Palme d’Or, it’s still debatable– but the film was enjoyable by the end.

Vincent Ternida is an emerging author whose pieces have appeared in Ricepaper Magazine, Dark Helix Press, and was longlisted for CBC Short Story Prize in 2019. Ternida’s first novella, The Seven Muses of Harry

[1] I changed it to Kieslowski in the final draft.

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