Parasite, from acclaimed Korean director Bong Joon-ho, is a witty black comedy which takes a searing look at social inequality – in Korea or elsewhere.

The Ki family are the have-nots. Father, mother and twentyish son and daughter, live in a crowded basement flat. They scratch out a living folding cardboard boxes for a pizza company, and they scrounge free wi-fi from their neighbours upstairs.

The Park family, with a teen daughter and young son, have it all. They live in a spacious, architect-designed home, with lavish gardens, a housekeeper and a driver. 

From the single window of the Kis’ shabby flat you look up to see the street at the end of a dark alley where drunks come to urinate.

From the plate-glass windows of the Park mansion you get sweeping views of a sunny manicured garden.

Fortune smiles on the Kis when a friend of the son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) asks him to stand in as temporary tutor for the Parks’ shy daughter, Da-hye (Jung Ziso).

No matter that Ki-woo has no college degree. His artistic sister, Ki-jung (Park So-dam), cannot afford to go to art school but is a dab hand at forging a college diploma.

The resourceful Ki-woo is an instant hit with his pupil Da-hye and her sweet gullible mother Yeon-kyo (Cho Yo-jeong), and he quickly realises that opportunity awaits for his entire family.

In a hilarious sequence of smart moves he manages to get his sister Ki-jung installed as art teacher for the Parks’ spoiled young son, his father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) as the Parks’ driver and his mother Chung Sook (Chang Hyae-jin) as their housekeeper.

This involves some unscrupulous work on the part of the interlopers: Ki-jung compromises the former chauffeur by leaving her panties under the seat of the Mercedes, and they make the former housekeeper sick by triggering her allergies.

When the Park family go off on a camping holiday the triumphant Ki family are joyfully celebrating in their employers’ luxurious home when suddenly the film’s mood changes from slapstick comedy to suspenseful drama.

The displaced former housekeeper turns up with a dark secret; and Mrs Park calls to say their camping trip was rained out. The family will be home within minutes and Mr Park expects the housekeeper to have his favourite dish ready to serve.

The Ki family frantically sweep away the evidence of their reckless partying. Mrs Ki scurries about getting the meal ready, and the others search for hiding places.

Director Bong is a master at mixing suspense and horror with satire and humour. While sharply contrasting the different fortunes of his characters, he skilfully avoids turning them into caricatures. The rich people are not unrelentingly nasty, and the poor are far from saintly.

Though the film is long (2 ¼ hours) it never drags.

Parasite has attracted accolades from critics and the public. It is the first Korean film to win the prized Palme d’Or at Cannes and it took out the main prize at the recent Sydney film festival.

Parasite is now showing at Luna Leederville and Luna On SX.

Watch the trailer…

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