Director: Lee Chang-dong
Stars: Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, Jeon Jong-seo
Some films, you end up enjoying and forgetting by the time you hop in your Uber on the way back home. Others tend to sit with you, making you question what you watched and if the end result was actually what you thought it was. Burning, the latest film from South Korean director Lee Chang-dong, is firmly the latter.
Burning follows Lee Jong-su, an awkward man who reacquaints himself with Hae-mi, a childhood friend who he’s not seen in years. After becoming friendly enough to get intimate, she dips to Africa, leaving Jong-su to feed a cat of hers. When she returns, she introduces Jong-su to a new friend, Ben (Steven Yeun of The Walking Dead fame). Ben’s an interesting character; at one point, Jong-su calls him “the Great Gatsby,” which fits Ben and his peers. As Jong-su gets to know Ben, and gets jealous of his relationship with Hae-mi, he finds that Ben seems to be harboring a secret.
Mind you, this all happens within the first hour or so of the film. The other 90 minutes find Jong-su spiraling in a world of confusion, trying to figure out who or what Ben is, and what his relationship with Hae-mi truly is. It’s a story that doesn’t rush to show its cards, and even when it does reveal its hand, it’s hard to tell if you’re getting the full picture. It’s a satisfying end to a tale that’s told precisely, with intriguing conversation and beautiful visuals. Modern cinema at its finest. —khal