Burning ★★★★

77/100

No conflagration here, just embers that smolder in the brain for days. Unlike Lee's previous films—adored by others, too floridly melodramatic for my taste—Burning operates at a slightly disoriented remove, with multiple structuring absences juxtaposed against a single galling omnipresence. There's nothing terribly subtle about this approach, thematically speaking; even the calculated ambiguity gets undermined (a tad too much at one point, imo—thinking of the wristwatch), allowing those who'd prefer a conclusion to arrive at one. But shivery frissons abound in the filmmaking, which I'd argue represents a quantum leap for this director. Sometimes it's as mysteriously simple as Lee racking focus for no apparent reason, suddenly more interested in background foliage than in the foreground actor. Sometimes Mowg's spare yet urgent score seems to be performing slow trepanation on the protagonist as he searches for nonexistent clues. At its most blunt, Burning still keeps you enticingly off-balance. On paper, I might well have despised the final scene, which does something I tend to dislike (in an ending); as shot, one particular element on the soundtrack dominates, and I could scarcely breathe myself.

Second viewing may well bump this into best-of-the-decade consideration.