On Sunday, February 9th, history was made at the Academy Awards. For the first time in 92 years, a foreign film won the Oscar for Best Picture.
Parasite from South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-Ho also took home the trophies for Best International Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.
Fans of foreign films have known the name Bong Joon-Ho for about 20 years. Parasite is the most recent release in an impressive career. Director Bong, as he’s called by his Asian colleagues, has made a monster movie (The Host), a masterpiece of a crime film (Memories of Murder) and a post-apocalyptic science fiction film (Snowpiercer) to name a few. He’s long been a master of blending genre films with social commentary.
Parasite is the story of the Kim’s, a family of scam artists who slowly infiltrate the home of a trusting upper class family. The Kim’s live a meager life in a below-ground apartment, literally finding themselves beneath the rest of society.
Their son stumbles into a job as a tutor for the wealthy Park family, and the Kim’s begin to scheme up ways to create other employment opportunities in the Park household.
The mastery of Parasite is in the way that it balances so many different tones. It has moments that are laugh-out-loud funny off-set by chilling moments that border on being outright evil. It’s a crime film, and a family drama. It could certainly be classified as a thriller, but despite its ominous title, it isn’t a horror film.
“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.Bong Joon-Ho
That’s what Director Bong said at the Golden Globes when he accepted the award for Best Foreign Film from the Hollywood Foreign Press. If Parasite has any lasting effect on film culture, I hope it encourages people to give foreign films a try, to leap over that obstacle.
The easiest comparison I can make is buying a new pair of glasses or contacts. For a few minutes, you think: I’m never going to get used to this. What a waste of money. But after that moment of adjustment passes, you can’t imagine living your life without your new lenses.
I’ve grown so comfortable with watching foreign films at home that I’ll get something to drink, turn my back on the screen, and forget that I won’t understand what the characters are saying. I don’t speak Korean. I just don’t notice that I’m reading subtitles anymore.
Parasite was the single best film I saw in 2019. The right film won Best Picture at the Oscars. I’m not a bandwagon fan. When I posted my segment on the Top 10 films of 2019 for The Screen Scene here at WRBL.com, Parasite was sitting at the top of my annual list. It’s currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital rental. It’s also being re-released in theaters across the country.
Check it out. In fact, check out all of Bong Joon-Ho’s films and explore an entire world that you’ve been missing.