What are you? A family of charltans?
Anyone that has been following director Bong Joon Ho’s career will know that Parasite is not a flash in the pan, indeed it’s not even one of his best films, but it is the one that most people will now identify him with: the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. There is a deliberateness with Ho’s films, a kind of dead pan pacing that draws one in and then refuses to let go. Whether it’s straight up horror, such as The Host (2006), psychological such as Mother (2009), action in Snowpiercer (2013) or consumerism in Okja (2017) (my personal favourite), Ho imbues the subject matter with verve, layers and energy, so that things are seldom what they seem but always within grasp.
Things are seldom what they seem
Parasite itself tells the story of an impoverished family, the Kims, who, through initial blind luck, and then scheming, manipulation and good old fashioned deceit, find work at rich couple, the Park’s, mansion, where they proceed to garner as much favour as possible to escape their poverty stricken lives. Things appear to be going well until one evening, when the Park family are supposed to be out all night, and drunk with enthusiasm for their sudden turn around, the Kim family hole up and trash the mansion, only to have to make a turnabout when the owners return unexpectedly. In the confusion and tidy up, a revelation in the basement turns the whole situation down a very dark path from which there is no return.
Starting off quite light heartedly, indeed quite comically, Parasite takes its time embedding the characters with life and meaning, be they rich or poor – these people exist, and for a while it is almost romantic in its depiction (if slightly overloaded with the symbolism) and whilst there is never any doubt that a reckoning must be due, its sudden ferocity and massive left turn into asking who is actually parasitic, leaves you reeling. And like the best cinema, Ho, keeps you guessing even when he supplies all the answers, by never really ending and, just like life, keeps on circling.
Parasite 4K Video
Parasite was shot digitally using Arri Alexa 65 cameras with resolutions of 6.5K and finished as a 4K DI for the creation of this Ultra HD Blu-ray release. The disc presents a native 4K 3840 x 2160p resolution image in the widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, High Dynamic Range, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for HDR10+. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Parasite on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DMP-UB400 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
No B&W version in 4K - BOOOOOO!
This native 4K image is spectacular, everywhere you look there is something wonderous; whether it’s looking out the poor family’s window into the street with its bright lights and criss-crossing telephone wires, close up skin texture, blades of grass in the immaculately kept lawn of the rich family, the grime of the basement, the wood grain in the flooring – detail is out of this world; look at the water droplets dripping from the roof as the Kims look out onto the garden on the fateful night: simply stunning.
HDR and WGC give a boost to the colours, a depth and vibrancy; flesh tones, skies, lush greenery, deep wood; check out the native Indian headdress worn by Ki Taek, the poor father, in the garden birthday party (before all hell breaks loose), how bright, keen and detailed are the beads!
Black level is deep and rich, adding a good deal to the frame depth, while holding decent shadow detail – check out Da Song’s dream that causes him so much anxiety: that look into the basement stairs!
Digitally there are no compression issues and the source is perfect. The only thing wrong with this presentation is that it does not include the black and white version. Booooo!
Parasite 4K Audio
The Dolby Atmos track really opens up the surround field, making good use of 3D space to give a very natural sounding track. Dialogue emanates from the frontal array, sounds very natural but is given some directionality when required. Effects are well handled by the surround and overhead channels giving a decent immersive experience – the devastating rain storm, both rain and thunder put you in the heart of the typhoon, the chatter in the refugee hall, the guests at the party, the overhead noise in the basement(s): all are pinpoint accurate and add to the realism.
Bass is wonderful; tight and deep, adding to effects and presence that later in the film give significance to the foreboding atmosphere. The score also makes good use of all the speakers, with good use of the low end to add impact. It is not a ‘flashy’ track, but the separation, layering and direction give a very real sense of atmosphere – simply wonderful.
Parasite 4K Extras
All can be found on the UHD.
Making Of – A 5 minute puff piece about the making of the film.
Deleted Scenes – 12 minutes of excised material.
Q&A with Director Bong Joon Ho – 30 minutes of interesting chatter.
Parasite 4K Verdict
Parasite 4K Blu-ray Review
Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite may not be his best film, but it will be the one most will remember him for: the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Telling the story of a disturbing symbiotic relationship that develops between a rich and a poor family before taking a very dark turn, questioning who the parasite really is, it remains a remarkable and uncomfortable watch that, unlike much of Hollywood’s popcorn fodder, remains with you long after the credits have rolled.
What a dark turn!
The 4K UHD set is pretty good, the native 4K image is spectacular, awash with detail, sublime colouring and dense blacks, while the Dolby Atmos surround track is natural, immersive with strong, tight bass. The extras are a little light but do cover some nice bases. It’s just a shame that the B&W version was not in 4K as well.
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