Parasite (2019) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Rich Fam, Poor Fam

Bong Joon-ho's Oscar-winning drama gets the Criterion treatment.
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One of the hardest things for a filmmaker to do is blend multiple genres together and do it so seamlessly. The balance of tone and mood can drastically shift once it makes its way from one focus to another, and that tends to lead some films on a downward spiral. But the way Bong Joon-ho handles his latest film, Parasite, is so unique. The blending of dark satire and tense drama is masterful. Bong takes a topic with which he’s familiar (class inequality) and turns it into something that is wonderfully helmed and feels like new territory.

Parasite tells the story of two families in Seoul, South Korea - one in the lower, borderline poverty level class, and one that is in the upper class. The poverty-stricken Kim family is stuck living in a semi-basement that is not in the best neighborhood, while the upper class Park family lives in a luxurious home that overlooks the city. But, while the Kim family doesn’t live the best lifestyle, they are a smart bunch.

When a family friend tips the Kim family’s son, Ki-woo, that he’s leaving for a bit, the friend suggests Ki-woo take his place as the tutor for the daughter of the Park family. Sure, Ki-woo is not as scholarly as his friend, but that doesn’t mean he can't lie about it, which he does. That gets Ki-woo an in with the wealthy family, and that’s when the tension and chaos of Parasite really comes to fruition.

Soon, the whole Kim family is in on the plan to act as workers for the Park family. And when the Park family is gone, the Kim family takes over the house to live the life they’ve always wanted to live. But their lie can only get them so far.

Most of Parasite takes place inside somewhere. Whether it’s inside the luxurious and open house that belongs to the Park family or in the cramped corridors of the Kim residence, there’s this closed-off feeling throughout most of the movie. On one aspect, it’s ignoring what’s on the outside and indulging in the luxuries. On the other, there’s a feeling of everything shrinking around you as the days progress and not for the better.

Parasite is a monumental achievement, and one that will be discussed for years to come. Bong may be exploring familiar territory, but there are still plenty of surprises and tense moments around every corner.

The Criterion Collection release of Parasite on Blu-ray comes with a 4K digital master of the film, which was approved by both Bong and the cinematographer, Hong Kyung Pyo. It perfectly captures every wonderful frame, and Hong’s camerawork is immersive, as the viewer is transported from one location to the next - sometimes done in one take. The audio is a Dolby Atmos track, and the sounds and music that come through the speakers are a gem to hear.

The special features consist of a lot for fans of the film. There’s an audio commentary featuring Bong and critic Tony Rayns. The much-discussed, black-and-white version of the movie is contained in the special features as well, with an introduction from Bong. There are also plenty of interviews exclusively for the Criterion release, a new program about the New Korean Cinema movement, a press conference from the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, a storyboard comparison, and an essay by critic Inkoo Kang.

Although Parasite was just released to Blu-ray earlier this year, those wanting more special features will certainly want to double-dip on this new release from Criterion. It’s a must for those who love the film and want to know more about it, as well as those looking to add to their ever-growing collection.

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