It may feel like a lifetime ago now but it was only back in February when Jane Fonda opened that golden envelope and sent the film world into rapture. The cinematic sensation of 2019, Parasite became the first non-English language film to win the Best Picture Oscar, throwing Bong Joon-ho’s searing societal exposé firmly into the global spotlight. Sadly, because obviously we can’t have too many nice things all at once, our attentions soon turned away to another rather more urgent viral phenomenon and the Parasite craze began to feel more and more like a hazy dream.

But just as we’ve started to wonder whether it was all just a hallucination, in swoops Bong to return us to those heady pre-Covid days. Originally scheduled to arrive in UK cinemas in April, we’re now finally being blessed with a black and white version of Parasite, landing on Curzon’s Home Cinema streaming service on the 24th and also available with the film’s Criterion release from October.

Bong worked with cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo to regrade the entire film from colour to a gorgeous-looking monochrome palette, explaining there was much more to the process than just being able to “put it in a computer and turn it into black and white.” The two have experience in this arena too, having previously worked together on a black and white version of Bong’s Mother back in 2009.

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Courtesy of: Curzon Artificial Eye

Obviously we will have to wait and see what this Parasite re-skin adds to the razor-sharp, inky black humour and Machiavellian characters of Bong and Han Jin-won’s screenplay or Hong’s intricate, probing cinematography. Personally I’m hoping that the black and white revamp will only further sharpen the film’s satirical edge, the accentuated darkness of each frame bringing each character’s darkest compulsions bubbling to the surface – something Kubrick finessed so perfectly with Dr. Strangelove many years ago. But whatever your thoughts on this alternate version, who can pass up such a perfect excuse to revisit this pitch-perfect toppling of class divisions?

Of course shooting in black and white has never really gone out of fashion, though it’s rare to see a blockbuster dabble in the format nowadays. But the idea of completely re-releasing a film with a black and white regrade seems to be a growing micro-trend, spurred on by filmmakers like George Miller. The Australian’s celebrated Fury Road, the fourth instalment in the Mad Max series, is arguably one of the best action films of all time. And Miller never hid his desire to see it in black and white.

The version we saw, and loved, in 2015 with its wild, untamed colour palette, came out of over 20 years of development purgatory. After its rapturous reception, Miller finally got his wish and announced the release of the “Black and Chrome Edition”, which stripped everything down to monochrome. He immediately declared it “the best version of the movie“, in his eyes.

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Courtesy of: Warner Bros

Indeed, it proved to be a wonderful project that gave this style of heavy metal filmmaking a more biblical, painterly quality and served as a defiant final statement for a film so plagued by production issues. Fury Road‘s epic sand-swept plains are a hugely different beast to witness in this colour-drained version, and though I imagine most people soon reverted to the original cut, few could fault Miller for committing to such an unusual experiment.

That such experiments continue is a welcome signal that studios can be persuaded to support directors revisiting their visions post-release. Steven Soderbergh quickly emerged as another key player in this mini-movement with his Extension 765 website (where he has experimented with re-cutting films like Heaven’s Gate and Psycho)—though of course you could argue that this idea has been slowly burning for as long as the director’s cut has existed.

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Courtesy of: Curzon Artificial Eye

The recent surge in more experimental cuts—and support from distributors in getting these films into fans’ hands—is truly exciting. Whether it ends up being a short-lived fad we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s clear that it’s far from a cynical cash-grab. Bong revealed that he’d finished the black and white cut before the colour version had even premiered at Cannes and that it made the film feel “more intense.” 

It is a suitably unpredictable move from two ever-surprising filmmakers and, with 2017’s Logan having also received a special one-night “noir” re-release and the recently released samurai video game Ghost of Tsushima offering a black and white filter called “Kurosawa Mode”, who knows whether we’ll see more directors throwing their films into the retro ring in future.