Cannes Palm d’Or winner ‘Parasite’ is a brutal look at social inequality

“Parasite” is a polished effort, tightly scripted with scenes seamlessly merging into one another, despite the occasional bit of overacting. (Supplied)
Updated 11 June 2019
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Cannes Palm d’Or winner ‘Parasite’ is a brutal look at social inequality

  • “Parasite” is Bong’s best work since “Memories of Murder,” “The Host” and “Okja”
  • It is a brutal portrait of class hierarchy and how it pushes people to turn to crime

CANNES: The Palm d’Or award at the recent Cannes Film Festival in France went to an Asian title for the second consecutive year.

While Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” won the honor in 2018, South Korean work “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho clinched this year’s edition. Both movies touched on a similar theme — dysfunctional people driven to despair by inequality. Men and women come together in “Shoplifters” to form the loosest pretense of a family, in order to steal a living, but “Parasite” features a real family who try to better their lives by worming their way into a super-rich household.

A brutal portrait of class hierarchy and how it pushes people to turn to crime, “Parasite” is Bong’s best work since “Memories of Murder,” “The Host” and “Okja.” But the real beauty of this film is its ability to weave the story through an array of bumbling, almost comical, characters.

Family patriarch, Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), is brought to tears of laughter by the most mundane of his children’s achievements. “Does Oxford have a course in forgery?” he asks his daughter, Ki-Jung (Park So-dam), as she replicates a degree for her brother, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), before guffawing at his own levity.

When Ki-woo gets a chance to coach the daughter of a rich businessman, Park (Lee Sun-kyun), he leaves behind his struggling days of folding pizza boxes, and brings his sister, mother and father into the prosperous household with him. Ki-Jung begins to teach Park’s son, her mother becomes a maid and Ki-taek the chauffeur. The family’s days in a dark and damp apartment with a leaking roof are over. Or, so it appears, until a series of incidents lead to an unexpected climax.

“Parasite” is a polished effort, tightly scripted with scenes seamlessly merging into one another, despite the occasional bit of overacting. The movie might not match “Shoplifters,” but Bong’s effort is South Korea’s most impressive production in quite some time.


Lefaucheux revolver ‘Van Gogh killed himself with’ up for auction

Updated 17 June 2019
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Lefaucheux revolver ‘Van Gogh killed himself with’ up for auction

  • Van Gogh experts believe that he shot himself with the gun near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise north of Paris
  • The seven-millimeter Lefaucheux revolver is expected to fetch up to $67,000

PARIS: The revolver with which Vincent van Gogh is believed to have shot himself is to go under the hammer Wednesday at a Paris auction house.
Billed as “the most famous weapon in the history of art,” the seven mm Lefaucheux revolver is expected to fetch up to $67,000 (€60,000).
Van Gogh experts believe that he shot himself with the revolver near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise north of Paris, where he spent the last few months of his life in 1890.
Discovered by a farmer in 1965 in the same field where the troubled Dutch painter is thought to have fatally wounded himself, the gun has already been exhibited at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
While Art Auction, who are selling the gun, say there is no way of being absolutely certain that it is the fatal weapon, tests showed it had been in the ground for 75 years, which would fit.
The Dutch artist had borrowed the gun from the owner of the inn in the village where he was staying.
He died 36 hours later after staggering wounded back to the auberge in the dark.
It was not his first dramatic act of self-harm. Two years earlier in 1888, he cut off his ear before offering it to a woman in a brothel in Arles in the south of France.
While most art historians agree that Van Gogh killed himself, that assumption has been questioned in recent years, with some researchers claiming that the fatal shot may have been fired accidentally by two local boys playing with the weapon in the field.
That theory won fresh support from a new biopic of the artist starring Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate.”
Its director, the renowned American painter Julian Schnabel, said that Van Gogh had painted 75 canvasses in his 80 days at Auvers-sur-Oise and was unlikely to be suicidal.
The legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere — who co-wrote the script with Schnabel — insisted that there “is absolutely no proof he killed himself.
“Do I believe that Van Gogh killed himself? Absolutely not!” he declared when the film was premiered at the Venice film festival last September.
He said Van Gogh painted some of his best work in his final days, including his “Portrait of Dr. Gachet,” the local doctor who later tried to save his life.
It set a world record when it sold for $82.5 million in 1990.
The bullet Dr. Gachet extracted from Van Gogh’s chest was the same caliber as the one used by the Lefaucheux revolver.
“Van Gogh was working constantly. Every day he made a new work. He was not at all sad,” Carriere argued.
In the film the gun goes off after the two young boys, who were brothers, got into a struggle with the bohemian stranger.
Auction Art said that the farmer who found the gun in 1965 gave it to the owners of the inn at Auvers-sur-Oise, whose family are now selling it.
“Technical tests on the weapon have shown the weapon was used and indicate that it stayed in the ground for a period that would coincide with 1890,” it said.
“All these clues give credence to the theory that this is the weapon used in the suicide.”
That did not exclude, the auction house added, that the gun could also have been hidden or abandoned by the two young brothers in the field.
The auction comes as crowds are flocking to an immersive Van Gogh exhibition in the French capital which allows “the audience to enter his landscapes” through projections on the gallery’s walls, ceilings and floors.
“Van Gogh, Starry Night” runs at the Atelier des Lumieres in the east of the city until December.