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Movie review: The South Korean dark comedy-drama leaves an indelible mark on the viewer

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Parasite follows the Kim family, a mismatched bunch making the best of their impoverished situation in South Korea.

I had never been to a foreign language film before "Parasite." It's an embarrassing thing to admit for someone who fashions themselves to be a cinephile, but that's just the way it is. I've lived a sheltered life up to this point, okay?

The experience wasn't really all that different. You sit in the seat, stare at the screen and take in the art – add some light reading of subtitles and it's virtually identical.

"Parasite" truly is unlike any movie I've ever seen. Not because it's in Korean, but because it draws you in and clings to you from the start. It's a dark comedy, a family drama, a horror film and a political statement. Its characters are captivating and its message is poignant.

The story follows the Kim family, a mismatched bunch making the best of their impoverished situation in South Korea. The Kims are your typical, modern family with a goofy dad, no-nonsense mom and rebellious kids, but they are held back by the oppressive system under which they live.

A plan is hatched to get them out from under the boot of capitalist society: The son, Ki-woo, takes up a job tutoring a rich teenager in English, profiting off the ignorance of the girl's mother and financial success of her father. The Parks are obscenely rich – the perfect target for an even grander scheme.

So the Kims decide to incrementally insert themselves into the Park family's lives – the father as the personal driver, the mother as their maid, the sister as the "art therapist" for the Parks' overzealous son. It's a ploy for everyone in the Kim family to start earning their keep while steadily siphoning money away from the Parks, all while the richer of the two families has no idea that their workers are related.

What follows is a biting commentary on class, capitalism and the complexity of family – subjects deeply woven into the lives of rich and poor people around the world, whether here or South Korea. The themes are universal and the lines are memorable, even more so because viewers who don't speak Korean have to read them scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

Words matter in this movie – it is tightly written and witty as can be – but the actions of the characters are what tell the full story. The Kims' actions against the Parks are increasingly reprehensible, but the viewer is made to sympathize with their plight. The Parks represent an oppressive economic system – or so it seems, until you realize that they did nothing personally to hurt the Kims. The Kims, also, engage in borderline sociopathic behavior to achieve their desired goals.

It is the Parks' wealth juxtaposed with the Kims' lack thereof that makes the Kims the protagonists, but both families appear to be the victims of the same ugly reality. That isn't to say that we should completely sympathize with the Parks, who are clearly a flawed bunch in their own ways, but I think the viewer is right to feel uneasy about the Kims' methods of seizing the means of production.

What a journey this movie is. You'd be hard-pressed to find something in the world of cinema that keeps your eyes glued to the screen more than what transpires in the final hour. To paraphrase what other critics have said time and again, "Parasite" starts as one kind of movie and morphs into something quite different and shocking. It is absolutely worth seeing in theaters, even if you're some shmuck like me who's never seen a foreign language film before.

Go online and find a local theater that is screening "Parasite," watch it and think about what it has to say. This is the kind of movie that stays with you, whether you like it or not.

Arts & Leisure briefs

Learn to concoct your own confections at CCC

The Chehalem Cultural Center will stage "Intro to Chocolate Making: Truffles & Bark" from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 7 for attendees age 16 and older and all skill levels.

Chef Ellen Rodriguez Orocio will instruct on making chocolates using a polycarbonate mold and employ various techniques to create bon-bons, hand-dipped truffles and chocolate bark. Students will leave with about four dozen chocolate creations

Students, which pay $15 for the class, should bring a chef's knife, Tupperware containers, a water bottle, apron and a writing utensil.

For more information, call the CCC at 503-487-6883 or visit

I-5 Connection Chorus will perform Dec. 14

WILSONVILLE – The I-5 Connection Chorus, which features some singers from Newberg, will hold its annual Holiday Concert Celebration at 2 p.m. Dec. 14 at Meridian United Church of Christ, 6750 Boeckman Road. Under the direction of new conduct Gary Young and new accompanist Ardeth Fulmer, the chorus has been preparing new music and "working hard to produce a crisp, clean sound to make this the best performance ever," according to a press release from the organization.

The chorus has been performing for years and this year will add holiday caroling at local venues to their performances.

For more information, call Dennis Mefford at 425-495-1752 or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Heritage Center will hold its annual holiday bazaar

McMINNVILLE -- The Yamhill Valley Heritage Center will hold its annual Handmade Holidays Bazaar from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 7 and noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 8 at its headquarters at 11275 S.W. Durham Lane.

More than 50 vendors will be on hand, including local artisans displaying pottery, soaps, textiles, jewelry and wood carvings. Music, food and a silence auction are set as well.

Admission is free with a food donation for Yamhill County Action Partnership (YCAP). For more information, visit or the organization's Facebook page.

Choir will perform winter songs from many cultures

McMINNVILLE -- The McMinnville Women's Choir will hold its annual winter concert, "Turn the World Around," at 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 7 in the great room at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries, 544 N.E. Second St. Doors open an hour before each performance and the concerts are expected to last about an hour, with an informal social time after each performance.

Tickets, which are for sale at as well as at the door, are $12 for adults (online) or $15 at the door; children under 18 of age are free.

This year's concert features winter songs from a variety of cultures and holiday traditions – including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the organization's social media page at

Community presentation of 'The Messiah' set for two dates in December

 The McMinnville Oregon Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will present "The Messiah" Christmas program at 3 and 6 p.m. Dec. 1 and 3 in the McMinnville church, 1645 N.W. Baker Creek Road, and at 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 8 in the Newberg LDS chapel at 1212 Deborah Road. Community members from Newberg, Dayton, Amity, Yamhill, Carlton, and McMinnville will participate. For more information, call Darrin Harding at 971-241-0159.

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