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Burning
Lee Chang-dong Sør-Korea, 2018
Burning is a well-crafted film. With Lee, the cinematic style specific to each of his movies is always tied closely to its central concerns. In Burning, this relates not only to the use of light, but also the ways in which he frames even the simplest actions in order to create a ‘cloud’ of the not-quite-visible.
April 18, 2019
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Jongsu doesn’t really understand Haemi’s interest in the ‘Great Hunger’, the Kalahari bushmen’s quest for meaning in life, but the way his resentment of Ben’s privilege and confidence evolves into paranoia and rage matches a global, inchoate anger, especially amongst the young.
January 31, 2019
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It’s a highly discomfiting, richly confounding take on the thriller, with wealthy, viciously indifferent maybe-villain Ben (Steven Yeun) as unsatisfying an object of prey as Jeon Jong-soo’s Haemi is as an object of romantic affection.
January 05, 2019
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Lee Chang-dong’s most alluring film depicts a gauzy youthful ardor that foments obsession and imbues an otherwise desultory aspiring writer with a sense of purpose.
January 02, 2019
All three of the film’s main characters are dispensed with by Lee in this unsentimental movie that shows human connection as fragile and masked when the friends are unequal.
December 17, 2018
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The movie feels like an extended stalemate between two very different master storytellers [Lee and Murakami], though the clash of sensibilities is also instructive, pointing to a tension in contemporary life between individualist and systems-based philosophies.
November 30, 2018
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There is narrative resolution but no hard-won satisfaction of suspicions confirmed; its signs have ricocheted a little too hard between clue and coincidence, left us too tired for revelation. The mystery of Haemi’s disappearance is technically ‘solved’, but becomes supplanted by one grander: the mystery of a world that tantalises with the hope of futurity while locking its millions of subjects in a cold impasse.
November 14, 2018
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What’s impressive here is the way Lee, as in his previous films, deftly mixes a sense of immediacy with a tremulous undercurrent of menace and uncertainty.
October 26, 2018
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“Burning” is Lee’s first film in eight years, and it is a bleak and almost Darwinian vision of the world, survival of the fittest laid bare in sometimes shocking brutality.
October 26, 2018
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A flawless exercise in suggestiveness, in which images, characters, and lines of dialogue are relentlessly, unmistakably doubled.
October 26, 2018
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The two-and-a-half hour epic lives and breathes the tiniest ambiguities of every waking moment, refusing to come to anything resembling true clarity, but in its way offering as clear a depiction of the stresses and concerns of modern life.
October 25, 2018
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Lee slowly foregrounds the uneasy violence that flickers through the Murakami to stunning, devastating effect.
October 25, 2018
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A film with such a diffident, often passive protagonist must generate its tensions and attractions elsewhere—memorable supporting players, a tactile atmosphere, a complex sense of the social sphere, an emphatic emotionalism—and Burning, for all its accretion of portentous minutiae, manages this only sporadically.
October 25, 2018
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After only one viewing, I didn’t find Burning as devastating a film as Secret Sunshine or Poetry, but I’d gladly watch it again and probably I’d see more in it.
October 15, 2018
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Whereas the tragedies in Lee’s previous films Poetry (2010) and Secret Sunshine (2007) felt destined, this one, a magnificently expanded version of Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” is much closer to life itself, where nothing is certain but death and taxes, and everyone’s motives are clearly rooted in their material conditions rather than their stick-to-it-iveness or the hand of God.
October 12, 2018
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As with biblical readings, interpreters of Lee’s rightly lauded film have to work with what’s there; but—in both cases—there’s a lot there, so much so, in fact, that a very loaded text can, in effect, be treated almost like a tabula rasa, or a new document in Microsoft Word, inviting a would-be novelist to shake off his writer’s block and get on with the business of creation.
October 08, 2018
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The film arrives at a place where everything Jong-su does is sort of explainable, but also possibly just a fevered mind working overtime and constructing rationales after the fact to justify acting off id; at day’s end, he seems like a “nice guy,” with all the misogynist overtones that comes saddled with. (Ah-sin’s IRL activities rhyme nicely with his character.) I emerged pleasantly confused and remain so.
September 06, 2018
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Foregoing much of the openly emotional and productively melodramatic flourishes of his past work, Burning is Lee’s most cerebral, psychologically engrossing film to date, a moral tale in the guise of a thriller that finds the filmmaker and former novelist bending the rules of genre to more readily resemble allegorical fiction.
September 05, 2018
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Watching Lee’s much-anticipated new movie Burning, his first feature in eight years and one of his bleakest yet, you come away feeling seduced, not punished. Like all his best work, this film is as interested in negotiating our emotional distance from his protagonists as it is in all of the bad luck that befalls them.
September 04, 2018
The mesmerizing and mysteriously beautiful scene that occurs in the middle of Burning seems to come out of nowhere. . . . The shot continues for I’m not sure how long, but I wished it had been forever. Soon after, she disappears from the narrative, which turns into a male, closeted homoerotic psycho-drama—a very good example of one, but a genre of which I’ve already had more than enough to fill a lifetime.
July 03, 2018
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It might be the director’s best film. Lee began as a novelist, and I think that his movies have always betrayed his literary origins. Burning is no exception, but every elegant contrast and parallel comes to cinematic life here, and Lee’s filmmaking has reached a new level of refinement in the eight years since Poetry.
July 03, 2018
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An elegant film mingling drama with understated comic moments.
June 27, 2018
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Another clear competition highlight that won only the international critics’ prize (and unanimous critical acclaim) was Lee Chang-dong’s tense, haunting multiple-character study Burning. The South Korean director’s first film in eight years amplifies the coy between-the-lines ambiguity of a Haruki Murakami short story into a tour de force of negative space and epistemological uncertainty.
May 29, 2018
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Lee, who in his 60s remains enough of an angry young man to repeatedly title his works-in-progress “Project Rage,” has imbued Murakami’s observant disaffection with simmering, ultimately explosive anger.
May 27, 2018
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Lee Chang-dong has created a beautifully languid and creeping piece of cinema. Foregrounding the male gaze and introspective from a distance, it glides forward punctuated by jazz and deep unsettling orchestral drones. Its violent undertones, sexuality and ambiguity concerning what is real carries it forward in a dreamlike set of scenes where not much changes, but things are still undoubtedly happening.
May 25, 2018
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More than any of his previous film, I actually thought most of David Lynch while watching Burning. As though trying to capture the negative space of one of the American master’s “women in trouble” narratives, Burning often felt like Fire Walk With Me turned inside out, operating exclusively on the periphery of the underworld that Lynch drives his audiences into.
May 18, 2018
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Always, Lee’s patient, expansive vision aims to reveal. If Secret Sunshine was a methodical excavation of melodrama, Burning is a masterful explication of “simultaneous existence.” It’s a film that understands the power of suggestion—the force of a silent, fiery nightmare—and “rings to the very bones.”
May 18, 2018
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The film’s three central performances each nail the characters’ intricately defined psychological dynamics, as Yoo locates equal parts repressed pain and earnest longing in Jongsu, who suffered years of abuse by his now-incarcerated father, while Yeun, in his first leading Korean film role, offers an immaculate portrait of a psychopath.
May 18, 2018
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Lee Chang-dong’s dexterity with the telling minutiae of human interactions ensures that Burning makes for an emotionally gripping film. I’m not sure he sticks the landing, however: The finale, while it doesn’t actually resolve anything, felt to me more convenient than convincing. But maybe that’s because I had too much invested in these characters.
May 17, 2018
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