Parasite is an excellent film, one that’s ferociously entertaining, eviscerating of class and capitalism disparities, and relentlessly rewatchable. How’d you like to rewatch it… in black and white? That’s right — Neon, the film’s US distributor, just announced that director Bong Joon Ho has prepared a special black and white version of his masterpiece, and it will screen in select theatres in New York and Los Angeles.
For the director, black and white cinema has been a dream for some time, with classic films like Nosferatu embedding into his consciousness. He explains:
Cinema was black and white in the very beginning. There was a time when films were only in black and white, and even throughout the 40s and 60s when color films came into the picture, there were numerous films still in black and white. Black and white is the origin of cinema. Although I became a filmmaker in the 2000s, I idealize the beautiful black and white films by Renoir, Fellini, Kurosawa, John Ford, and the beautiful cinematography of Gregg Toland. I always had this desire to create a black and white film which was shared by my cinematographer Hong Kyung Pyo… I’m extremely happy to present PARASITE in black and white and have it play on the big screen. It will be fascinating to see how the viewing experience changes when an identical film is presented in black and white. I watched the black and white version twice now, and at times the film felt more like a fable and gave me the strange sense that I was watching a story from old times. The second time I watched it, the film felt more realistic and sharp as if I was being cut by a blade. It also further highlighted the actors’ performances and seemed to revolve more around the characters. I had many fleeting impressions of this new version, but I do not wish to define them before it is presented. I hope everyone in the audience can compare their own experiences from the color version and find their own path to PARASITE in black and white.
Wow, wow, wow, does this sound intriguing and incredible! This isn’t the first time Bong Joon Ho has desaturated one of his films — he and his DP Hong Kyung Pyo “digitally changed my film MOTHER into black and white after it was completed and released. Thankfully, it doesn’t require a huge budget to do so in this digital age, so the cinematographer re-filtered the entire film into black and white, meticulously adjusting the contrast and density for every shot with my help.” And this particular version of Parasite has been a long time coming — he prepared this version even before the film’s Cannes debut. Will there be a version of this black and white odyssey released on a special edition blu-ray, a la The Mist, Logan, or Mad Max: Fury Road?
Parasite in black and white will be presented in Los Angeles by the American Cinematheque, screening at the Egyptian Theater on Friday, January 31. In New York City, the film will be presented by Film at Lincoln Center at the Walter Reade Theater on January 30th, and then screen January 31st – February 6th at the Francesca Beale Theater. For more on the Oscar-nominated film, check out its recent win at the SAG Awards.