What is the value of “Parasite”, Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2019?

Ugly, dirty and mean. This is how we should begin: with an immediate mention to the Italian comedy of the 1970s, the most creaking, the most caustic … The most political too, which always finds its source in a family of declassified. This Italy of Ettore Scola’s films is no longer rife in the suburbs of Naples or Rome; Bong Joon-ho teleported her to South Korea, in a two-level Metropolis: the upper city, that of villas, properties with gardens, lavish decoration and house staff; and below, the city-world, the one where people are crammed like cockroaches in teeming buildings, on which it seems to be raining night and morning. The Ki-taek family lives in one of these sets, at level –1. Their only window overlooks a sordid dead end where alcoholics come to relieve themselves in the early morning. The sight is not frivolous, but by placing their phone near this single skylight, they can hack the Internet access of the neighboring store – a long time ago they were cut off their subscription. All day long, in this damp kitchen-bathroom, the father (driver, unemployed), the mother (who no longer works), the son (who will soon no longer be studying) and the sister ( past queen in falsifications of all kinds). This nuclear cell of small-time scoundrels, hardly mean but seriously deranged, may have found a way out: the son is being offered the opportunity to give English lessons to a rich teenager, daughter of the Park family, whose father is a young and modern businessman. The Parks live with their two children in a sumptuous property in the upper part of the city, decorated in the best taste and bought from an architect. This family palace, they share some common rooms with a driver and a housekeeper. Looking at this idyllic picture of a life that is rich in all respects, the Ki-taek begin to think that by giving destiny a little boost, they could well become indispensable to the Park family and take it easy. also, in the villa.

Making the richest and the poorest cohabit in the same space, but separated by very clear symbolic functions and, over time, blurring these invisible limits by proposing to mirror these two social classes, this was already the explosive principle. of Rules of the Game of Jean Renoir. But we are no longer in France in 1939. In 2019, in Asia, an explosive laboratory of the neoliberal world, false complicity and good manners have given way to a much more competitive game. The escalation and the tumble are sometimes the currency of one and the same coin. The times are violent and carnivorous. The film could well become one in its turn: one day, Bong Joon-ho thought to himself, the creaking funny tone of the class comedy will not be enough to console us any more. In a world where we have been told that everyone can have access to happiness, since it is linked to our power to consume more and more, melancholy is constant and tends to turn into anger. When it overflows, like the water in a latrine, it carries everything in its path. Quiet ! we have said too much: Bong Joon-ho wants, as much as possible, that Cannes critics reveal as little as possible of the unfolding of the film. He is right: there is great pleasure in discovering each stage of his transformation. We will only say this: if the Korean is one of the most devastating filmmakers there is, it is never by giving the immediate impression of terror. As in Okja, it always begins with comedy. Laugh as much as you can: you’re already screwed.

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What is the value of “Parasite”, Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival 2019?

Hank Gilbert