A great film can transcend time. It doesn’t matter if it was made in 1954, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, or in 2019, like Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite. Great films rise above generational divides and language barriers, enabling us to appreciate their artistry no matter how “different” they appear.
For the fourth installment of Colin’s Weekly Movie Reviews, I took a look at two masterpieces (the aforementioned Rear Window and Parasite) and one almost-masterpiece (the surreal Beasts of the Southern Wild).
- Year: 2019
- Director: Bong Joon-Ho
- Grade: A+
- “Pick of the Week,” Favorite Films of the 2010s
Parasite, a South Korean thriller directed by Bong Joon-ho, is truly one of the greatest films I’ve seen in quite some time. First of all, it doesn’t start as a thriller, but rather a comedy on class struggles. The extremely poor, basement-dwelling Kim family concoct a scheme in which they infiltrate the lives of the Park’s, an extremely rich family living across town. Through elaborate cover stories and forged documents, the four Kim’s are respectively hired as the Park’s tutor, therapist, driver and housekeeper. Rarely is a foreign film so laugh-out-loud funny.
About halfway through, Parasite quickly turns from comedy to tragedy, and it only gets darker from there. I won’t reveal the twists, but I’d have to say that there hasn’t been storytelling so unique since Being John Malkovich. I was completely captivated by which directions the film might take, and then in total disbelief when it took them. There was no choice but to immediately watch it again as soon as it was over.
The ending to Parasite is one of the best I’ve ever seen, yet from start to finish, everything about the film is as close to perfect as you can come. Kudos to Bong Joon-ho for creating something so totally and utterly unique in an era of watered-down half-assery.*
(*Of course, that means HBO is now planning a Parasite TV show)
But that’s unfair to Parasite. Sure, the last three years in moviemaking have been largely inferior to the rest of cinematic history, but this is a film that deserves to stand alongside the supreme masterworks of the medium. From Goodfellas to The Godfather, from Red River to The Red Shoes, Parasite proudly joins the all-time pantheon.
- Year: 1954
- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Grade: A+
- Favorite Films of the 1950s
Having recently broken his leg, photographer L.B. Jeffries is confined to a wheelchair in his second-story apartment during one of the hottest summers in memory. How boring does that shit sound? Well, it results in the most suspenseful film that Alfred Hitchcock ever made, namely because, just like L.B. Jeffries, we also can’t leave the room.
Voyeurism has always been the central theme in Hitchcock’s work, but in Rear Window, the director takes things to the perverted extreme. The camera never leaves the apartment, and can only peer out the window in the same manner as our paranoid peeping tom. We soon become familiar with the entire layout of the courtyard below — who lives where, and what goes on behind closed doors. Jeffries believes that one of his neighbors is a murderer. From a distance, we see that he might be right. The longer we watch, the more guilty we feel.
Starring James Stewart in one of his finest roles, Rear Window is an all-time classic. No other film, save for maybe The Shining and Das Boot, is as claustrophobic as Rear Window. In terms of direction, this is Hitchcock’s greatest work. In terms of ambiguous morals, it’s only topped by Vertigo.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
- Year: 2012
- Director: Benh Zeitlin
- Grade: A-
“Once there was a Hushpuppy, who lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.”
I’m not sure what Beasts of the Southern Wild is all about, but I’m positive that it’s something deep. Because the overall meaning is so ungraspable, I’m hesitant to give it a higher grade. But the surreal spell that the film casts is undeniable.
Beasts takes place in a dystopic near-future, or maybe it doesn’t, somewhere in the backwoods bayou of Louisiana, or maybe it isn’t. The story is a magical realist fantasy told from the P.O.V. of a six-year-old black girl named Hushpuppy, as she and her dying father try to make ends meet in one of the poorest locales imaginable. Meanwhile, the melting ice caps resurrect a herd of prehistoric aurochs that threaten all of civilization.
In Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut, he utilizes a shaky, hand-held aesthetic to emphasize the film’s dreamlike atmosphere. But the real star is first-time actress Quvenzhané Wallis, who perfectly embodies the naïveté and determination of a child trying her best to survive. It’s a heartwarming film, and the aurochs are cool to look at. Isn’t that meaningful enough?