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  • Written by vepro on 19.03.2020

    A discussion about The Parasite with a friend, which was abruptly aborted, led me to seek out traces of Kafka's work and philosophy in Bong Joon Ho's film and its characters and themes. Apart from the immediate parallel between the film’s title and Kafka's novella Metamorphosis, there seem to be more similarities in these two works of fiction, which unfortunately share an uncanny resemblance to our everyday life and the condition of our society.
    Let's get the obvious one out of the way. Gregor Samsa's degradation from a human being to a vermin is caused, at least among other things, by his inability to provide for himself and to help his family financially. As soon the metamorphosis starts, his immediate family and friends abandon him, as he is now less than human, cease to take care for him and, basically, leave him to die. We find the Park family in a similar situation. Slowly slipping down the society’s ladder of success, the Parks live in a kind of semi-world, not among other 'proper' employed humans, but, at the same time, not so far from the very bottom where other vermin reside. Their metamorphosis isn't finished yet and still we see some indication of their final form. Living in a damp, poorly lit and narrow space, they act like bugs, working jointly on projects, always together, cramped, and sharing their prey, which is the only immediate thing they care about. How to get something to eat.
    The Parks’ situation at the beginning of the film is similar to the situation K. finds himself in Kafka's The Castle. In constant fight between employment and imminent downfall, K. is stuck in place, unable to make sense of the world and his surroundings. He is, it seems, invisible, and more important, he seems unimportant, not an agent of any kind in the world or his own fate. Park family is also mostly invisible to the 'real' world. Only those in the same circumstances communicate with them, but not without a healthy dose of malice and distrust which works both ways. Until the deus ex machina moment, the Parks are unable to make a move to improve their situation. However, as in most Kafka's works, this isn't really their fault. The world is fixed in a way that the individual cannot take agency over their fate, and the absurdity of society and relations within it keep him in place.
    The Parks, however, possess an uncanny life force and will to survive. At the beginning, this seems like a positive and praiseworthy quality of a down-on-their-luck family. Reading a little bit deeper in the film’s body of text, sadly it is clear this isn't the case. The fear of not slipping furthermore in the gutter of society is the real instigator of the Parks’ false hope. The same fear is central to Kafka's characters. First and foremost, there is the fear of insecurity and finality in the face of the infinity of space and society. Second, there is a fear of the bizarre nature of society and interpersonal relations. And, third, there is a fear of insignificance of the individual in the grand scheme of things. In the case of the Park family, and so many more families across the globe, the fear is more about surviving, but nevertheless, fear is what keeps them imagining a better future for themselves.
    As so many characters in Kafka's work, the Parks seem to try to make most of their situation and keep the optimistic attitude with an idea of resolution of their problems being just around the corner. For a while it seems to be working, and they liberate themselves from their semi-underground position, basically living their dream lives, leastwise as servants. However, it all slips away fairly soon, as Parks see they are vermin to the people on the top of the food chain, and they dislike that denotation. Also, they become aware of their nauseating appearance, mainly linked to the smell, which they couldn't distinct while living among others like them. As Josef K. puts it in his dying breath: " 'Like a dog!' he said, it was as if the shame of it should outlive him." The pride and the rage of Ki-taek is the breaking point of the Parks’ new life. Only in relation to the rich, and consequently, the clean, can they see who they really are. It's not dissimilar to Gregor's situation, where he can assess his repulsion and unimportance only in the relation with the rest of his 'normal' and healthy family. “The animal wrests the whip from its master and whips itself in order to become master, not knowing that this is only a fantasy produced by a new knot in the master’s whiplash.” The quote by Kafka reads like it's cut right out of the page of The Parasite screenplay. The downfall of the Parks leaves them where Ki-taek always knew all their plans and non-plans will leave them. At the bottom. Only this time, they all know how strict and impenetrable the boundaries between two worlds are.
    The final theme of the film, which is also profusely present in Kafka's work, is the theme of alienation. And, as it is pretty easy to spot the alienation between the classes in these works, as it is in real world, the alienation between people in all other spheres of life is what's truly depressing. Even before Marx's theses of capitalism alienating working class from itself, the product, and the working process, the world is divided on those who have and those who don't. It is sad, though, that in this day and age if you are born as a have-not, it is almost impossible to become a have, which ties back to the theme of futility and submission. You would think that this kind of economic segregation would unite the have-nots in some kind of mutual struggle and solidarity, but as we see in the film, it is really an all-out war for the crumbs which fall of the table of the rich. So, in reality it is a parasitic circle of life, with two highly separated types of vermin, one a true parasite, and the other perceived as one by the parasite.

  • Written by lezard on 04.03.2020

    Early 60's, Italy. A countryside girl dreams of stardom. Like a butterfly she is attracted by the city lights. We've seen this before. Or haven't we?

    We first discover Adriana (S. Sandrelli in an outstanding performance) on the beach, sunbathing. Pietrangelli heralds what is to come. He shows us what everybody will see whan when they look at her: a body.

    Adriana is young, beautiful and joyful. Bored with her humdrum life, she craves for fun, fame, luxury, parties. She encounters agents, managers, directors, would-be artists. She radiates with «joie de vivre». She ripples with sex and has some easily and happily. She is obviously gifted for the pleasures of life.

    But from one encounter to another, we watch her being used, misused, abused, shattered. The film well depicts this ruthless world of predation that so many other movies have described as well, but the point of view is different. At that time, a female look on the world of cinema (or any other world) was rare. Pietrangelli here joins directors like Mizoguchi in their love, respect and defense of women.

    Eventually, we find out that Adriana, first presented as a nice, delightful bimbo, is a really moving and unexpected woman, and we come to understand the bitter irony of the original title. Nobody knew her well because nobody really cared to.
    Thus the movie is also a «lesson» of cinema. What do we see, what do we want to see when we watch actresses, and women? What do we miss?

    This movie is a rare gem with a great b&w photography.

  • Written by lezard on 03.03.2020

    Where shall I start?

    This movie by Alexei Guerman is so unique that it's difficult to know where to begin with. The plot: on a foreign planet, people still live in the middle age and the leaders have managed to shatter any attempt at the appearance of a Renaissance. Explorers from the earth are sent to watch and investigate this world. Of course Guerman tells us about our world and his (a decaying USSR and a newly-born maffia ridden Russia) and the observation is irrevocable.

    Have you ever felt a movie physically? Not watched it, felt it, really, like say you want to shake your hair after they've caught the rain. A movie like a thick forest through which you have to dig every step. A movie which watches you as much as you watch it, where actors regularly address the camera, a maelström of confusion.

    It's a black and white world, a world of snow and cold. The pictures are genuinely fantastic and we move around and inside middle-age paintings from Brueghel to Bosch.

    Sensations really matter as much as the story itself that we often fail to grasp. It's not a real problem since the weirdness that the movie conveys is worth experimenting. Guerman aims at unsettling us with uneasiness. We wander endlessly in an atmosphere of blood, sweat, excrement, spit, snod, sperm and the first ground is often «barred» by a series of hanging obstacles, strange tools and instruments, smoke, pieces of clothing, hanged corpses. Cold, fog and snow cover this world of misery and suffering where people are puppets in a grotesque and crual show.

    You have NEVER seen anything like this!
    Resist the temptation of going away and take the Guerman tour, which, as the film unfolds, becomes mesmerizing.
    Something you'll NEVER forget.

  • Written by lezard on 25.02.2020

    The early 50's. America still sees itself in white. Mc Carthy's obsession for communism ruins thousands of lives. The cold war is The USA daily bread. The cinema, as always a mirror of the American life, is full of witch hunts, in films noirs (Pick Up on South Street, I Was a Communist for the FBI...) as well as horror movies (The Thing from Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers..). The threat clearly comes from the east and the cold.

    Robert Aldrich, who has just directed two iconoclastic western movies (Vera Cruz and Bronco Apache) tackles the film noir and litterally dynamites the genre.

    The opening scene is like a slap in the face.
    Night. Two naked legs run on a road. The soundtrack is a breathing, between panting and orgasm. The credit list unfolds, backward. A woman, naked under her trench coat stands in the middle of the road. Mike Hammer manages to stop his car, in a screech of tyres. She hops in. A police road block. A woman, runaway from a psychiatric asylum is on the run. She takes Hammer's hand and pulls it between her bare legs. Silent deal. The road block once passed, the car is stopped by gangsters. Hammer knocked out. The woman tortured.
    Kiss me deadly indeed! Only one motto: survive!
    Hammer wakes up in hospital. The investigation starts and follows the classic steps: witnesses, suspects, false leads, threats, explosions, gunfights... Still, we know from the beginning it's not a classic movie. Everything seems new. The framings, the rythm give the movie a paranoid emergency. Numerous shots of stairways, corridors, distorting depth of field. We are in a sick America, a suspicious America. The characters are often alone in the shots whic conveys a suffocating atmosphere. The villains are mean, the vamp tempts but the hero isn't a hero anymore and our landmarks are no longer valid . Hammer isn't kind-hearted Bogart. He nearly pimps his secreatary, is way more cruel than the hoods and thrives on torturing the suspects.

    The investigation comes to an end. Grande finale. Once more Pandora opens the box. Fire takes over and the sea seems to erase humanity.

    A great hallucinating, exhilarating movie. A lesson in film directing.

    Kiss me Deadly! Vavavoum!

  • Written by lezard on 08.02.2020

    A lost motel run by a misfit. Janet leigh, undressed. Does it ring a bell ?

    This scene was watched by Alfred Hitchcock (who must have been inspired) before he actually shot it and made a masterpiece out of it. But the movie we are talking about is « Touch of Evil » by another genius: Orson Welles.

    The movie begins with a piece of anthology : a 3-minute-12 long sequence shot. Of course, every movie-maker would gulp at the sheer virtuosity of the scene, but rather than the very performance it highlights, it is its absolute relevance and the way it heralds the whole movie which fascinates. It starts with the timing of a bomb and ends up on a kiss, which litterally triggers the explosion, a brilliant idea. Between the 2 moments, a carnival of sound and pictures unfolds, illustrating what the movie is about : the crossing of (all) borders. Seldom have we heard such an invading and essential soudtrack as well.

    The movie is set in a border-town between the USA and Mexico. Corruption, smuggling, violence are everywhere. Vargas (C. Heston), a Mexican cop married to an American (J. Leigh) comes to help detective Quinlan (O. Welles) in an investigation.

    The plot is thin but matters much less than the toxic, stifling atmosphere. The picture itself seems corrupted and many framings are twisted. Everything looks as excessive, distorted and fat as Quinlan's body. It is a theatre of shadows, a carnival of lost souls, the sunset of a decaying world. Gang rape, hallucinations, drugs. Very rare and stunning scenes in the puritan America of the 50's.

    « Touch of Evil » is the baroque poem of the night, a somnambulic ambulation between 2 worlds : a hybrid border-town, a grey zone between law and order, good and evil, rough bars, sleazy motels, industrial no-man's land. Borderline characters flirting with insanity, silhouettes, nightmares.

    Final scenes among oil-wells where machines, like Welles himself, fumble deep into the world's heart to dig out the blackness/darkness it hosts.

    Welles, as usual is a monster of an actor. His funeral oration is recited by Marlene Dietrich, like a ghost right out of a Von Sternberg movie : « He was some kind of a man ! »

    This movie has the beauty of the devil.

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