Director friend who finally saw Parasite two or three days ago: “I thought Parasite started off quite well. It was intriguing, darkly comedic, and well-paced. Even when it got into the house for an extended period of time, I never felt bored.
“As I was watching the film, I started wondering ‘where have I seen this kind of film before?’ Where have I seen the class struggle play out in this kind of suspenseful fashion? I thought first of Akira Kurosawa’s kidnapping drama, High and Low. The rich old man on top of the hill overlooking the squalor down below and the kidnapper who resides there, who infiltrates his life sanf wants to take away his spoils…but that was much too serious a film while Parasite was definitely more satirical and comedic.
“Then it hit me…of course, Bunuel! The great Don Luis was always mocking the upper classes using his acerbic wit and absurdist point of view.
Here are some Bunuel homages/references from Parasite:
1. Viridiana. To me, this is the most obvious one. The Mother figure, like Viridiana, is described as “simple” and also “gullible”. The most visually telling scene is when the rich family goes camping leaving the servant family to the house where they of course make a mess of things. This is shown in Viridiana when the peasants take over the household of the dead Uncle and begin to defile it (with the infamous Last Supper scene).
2. Exterminating Angel. The husband kept in the basement seems a very strange plot device but that’s what sets in motion the entire second half of the film. In Bunuel’s film it’s the bourgeoise and upper class folks who can’t find their way out the house and soon begin to resort to their basest natures. This is what happens to the poor husband who seems to accept his place in the house and can’t leave either (though he’s more restricted by his prison-like existence). When he does “escape” at the end it’s to wreck vengeance but not on the wealthy patriarch (who he seems to strangely worship) but on the conniving family members.
3. Diary of a Chambermaid. Although less known as his more audacious films, this one has a direct plot parallel with Jeanne Moreau as the lower class maid taking a job with a rich family to manipulate her way to a higher station in life by working for a wealthy family of “hypocrites and perverts” (not my quote).
4. Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. This would be a comparative film in overall tone before it goes off the rails in the final act. I suppose just as Bunuel couldn’t help himself with his subversive atheistic jabs at the Church, Boon Jong Ho can’t help himself but to revel in gory confrontations.
I will agree that the one sloppy bit of plot construction is letting the fired maid back in the house during the rainstorm. That could’ve been fixed very easily but without it there would be no third act…still, could have been an easy fix.