BURNING – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Phenomenal is the first word I can think of to describe the new Korean language film Burning from director and co-writer Chang-dong Lee. The story of the film is expanded from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” and is a portrait of a romantic triangle of sorts. We see Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in), an aspiring young writer who after graduating university is just floundering working as a part-time delivery man. It’s on one of his runs that he meets a young woman he knew from childhood, Haemi (Jeon Jong-seo), who is about to embark on a trip to Africa to see something called “the Great Hunger” dance. She too is a part-time worker and has saved up for this big trip. She asks him to look after her extremely shy cat Boil. The two of them start a sexual affair before she leaves for her two-week dream vacation. During that time the quiet and reserved Jongsu feeds and cares for a cat he never sees and masturbates on her bed to feel close to Haemi. He has also moved back to his childhood humble home to care for the place as he awaits his father’s trial for assault to conclude. Enter the third part of the triangle Ben (Steven Yeun), who Haemi met on vacation and has brought him back as a boyfriend. He’s a Gatsby-esque good looking man who is six or seven years their senior. Ben has a mysterious source of income and a very unusual hobby he tells Jongsu about when they get high together.
Everything about Burning is at a perfect pitch to create a tension-filled ride. Mowg composed the tremendously haunting score that goes hand in hand with the painterly cinematography of Hong Gyeong-Pyo. The way the film shows us the busy, cluttered sense of life in the big city and then paints us this portrait of uneasy calm out on the farming town near the border to North Korea is stunning and sublime.
Burning is a tense, multiple-character study. The shy intelligent young writer coming into his own. The lonely girl next door that grew up to be a beauty but is touched by melancholy. And the reptilian-like rich man that looks like he has it all but has never shed a tear in his entire, entitled life. The movie accumulates a series of unanswered questions and unspoken motivations to conjure a mood of uncertainty as it takes us to an unexpected ending that will have you talking about it well after the credits have rolled. I know this film will be with us at Oscar time and I am calling it a “Must See Film.” I give this movie an A+ rating.
Directed by Chang-dong Lee
Written By Jungmi Oh, Chang-dong Lee (Screen Play), Haruki Murakami (Short Story)
Selig Rating A+
Running Time 2hr 28min
Drama / Mystery / Foreign
Limited Release November 9th Th Angelika Film Center Dallas & Plano
Starring: Yoo Ah-In, Steven Yeun, Jeon Jong-seo
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.