On a hunch we decided to watch Parasite before watching the Oscars. Definitely the right move. The film was a brilliant portrayal of the destructive power of greed. It tells of an impoverished Korean family living in a cockroach-infested “semi-basement” apartment, who pose as unrelated servants to wangle their way into good jobs in an ultra rich but gullible household. Critics have described the movie as a dark satire on the evils of capitalism. Stairs are used as a metaphor for the disparity between rich and poor, not unlike Downton Abbey or Gosford Park. Metaphors and social commentary aside the film is a delight to watch at any level. The first half of the movie is mostly comedy as the poor Kim Family eke out an existence folding pizza boxes. Things quickly take a turn for the better as the son, Ki-Woo gets an opportunity to be an English tutor to the teenaged daughter of a wealthy family. In short order Ki-Woo gets his sister, who is a graphics whiz, a job as an art teacher to the family’s young son. Next dad is installed as the family chauffer after a pair of women’s panties are planted in the family Benz by Ki-Woo’s sister, resulting in the dismissal of the original driver. Finally mom gets the housekeepers job thanks to an elaborate ruse where the current housekeeper is falsely believed to be suffering from TB. The Kim family are a raunchy bunch, foul-mouthed and given to drunkenness. There’s a great scene when the rich family is away where the Kims open up the liquor cabinet and get drunk with the teenaged Kim sister swigging expensive whiskey out of the bottle. From here the movie takes an unexpected dark and violent turn, which we leave to the viewer, to whom we highly recommend this gem of a film. It was a joy to watch director Bong Joon-Ho pick up the statue while industry giants, the likes of Scorsese and Tarantino looked on.
As I watched this film and thought about other recent films, like Roma—the Mexican film that won an Oscar Nomination or the Oscar-winning The Artist, which while mostly a silent movie, was really a French film and wondered why Canadian films, with the possible exception of the films based on Mordecai Richler’s works which were done by Hollywood, have not broken through to international acclaim at least once. There once was a time when it could be blamed on the fact that we are so geographically and culturally close to the Hollywood colossus, that there is simply no oxygen left for Canadian themes. But in this age of streaming, we are increasingly exposed to foreign cinema and television and there seems to be an appetite for “little films” with impact. It seems we have developed a film industry here that produces TV shows and films that scarcely rise above the production values of the Hallmark Channel. (actually Canada makes a lot of product for the Hallmark Channel). Much of the time Canadian venues masquerade as the US, and with the exception of Schitt’s Creek, which is finally heading to Fox TV, few of our TV programs get a US airing beyond secondary and tertiary Cable channels. We are spending a lot of money on film production, a good bit of it taxpayer money, but the output is more along the lines of tonnage, not impact. And its not budget that keeps Canada off the Oscar dais, either; Parasite was made without name stars for the relatively modest budget of $11 Million and so far, before winning the Oscar, has grossed $163 Million, US.