Parasite: Black and White Edition (2020) – Film Review


Remember when Parasite won Best Picture at the Oscars? Seems like a world away doesn’t it? In fact, that halcyon day was only five months ago. The day when Bong Joon-Ho’s South Korean masterpiece became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture in the 92 year history of the Academy Awards. It would go on to become the highest grossing subtitled film at the UK box office since 2004’s The Passion Of The Christ. All things considered, it was a glorious time for cinema. A time when 2011’s Contagion was just a movie and not a documentary.

Keen to take us back to those simpler times, Curzon are bringing Parasite back to cinemas in glorious technicolour monochrome with Parasite: Black And White Edition. The reasoning behind it? Apparently Bong Joon-Ho joked that “I had this idea that if I turned my films into black and white then they’d become classics.”

Films such as Logan and Mad Max: Fury Road have seen the blockbusters undergo the same treatment to varying degrees of success. Where Logan Noir arguably played into the film’s genre roots, Fury Road – Black & Chrome did feel like style over substance. Like giving a great car an unnecessary paint job.

The question is, does it add anything to this complex study of class? One of the best things about the film was the way it didn’t paint the Parks or the Kims as inherently good or bad people. The actions of both sides colour their characters with many shades of grey. The danger here is that it may lose any sense of ambiguity and make its commentary more… well, black and white.

Even on repeat viewing, the film remains undefinable in terms of genre. As the Kims begin to latch on to the Parks and their symbiotic relationship takes hold, it starts off as a black comedy and social commentary before evolving into something else entirely as the plot descends into something genuinely unexpected.

The monochromatic sheen develops a film noir tone which strengthens the murkier aspects of the story. Song Kang-ho, in particular, has a face and a timeless quality that seems perfect for that bygone era. Yet he is just one cog in a perfect, well-oiled machine where every part is in harmony with each other.

It remains an incredible piece of storytelling and examination of the class structure in Korea. Universal in its themes it has transcended borders to appeal to any demographic. Strong characterisation and performances create empathy from audiences, themselves becoming parasites to the film as host. Clinging on for dear life until the movie’s thrilling conclusion.

Ultimately, whilst a fun exercise, the desaturation does little to enhance the already perfect film. Yet neither does it do anything away to diminish its power and execution.

Bong Joon-ho needn’t have worried. This Oscar winner was always destined to be a classic. One whose fifty shades of moral grey can now be enjoyed in colour or Parasite: Black and White Edition.

Film Rating: ★★★★★

Parasite: Black and White is available on Curzon Home Cinema and at Curzon Mayfair from Friday 24th July and in cinemas from Friday 31st July.

Director: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Runtime: 132 minutes
Country: South Korea

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