Burning ★★★★½

Look, there is so much to talk about when it comes to Burning, but my brain is like mush at the moment so I’m not going to embarrass myself by attempting anything too long winded. I think it’s safe to say that most great cinema deserves multiple viewings, but films like Burning absolutely require it. Though very quiet and slow paced, the experience was thoroughly engaging and littered with metaphor. Within only a few scenes it’s evident that this film has something to say; and while I think I managed to retain most of the themes and ideas being dissected, I’m positive I’ve merely scratched the surface. Walking into Burning I was slightly nervous, having never seen any of Lee Chang-dong’s previous work and knowing only the vaguest of plot information, I wasn’t sure if it would end up being “my thing”, but thankfully going in as blind as possible proved to be the ideal move. I was almost immediately swept up in seeing where this story would take me, even before things really take a turn towards the mysterious. Chang-dong’s hyper-realistic meditative style is rather hypnotic and he tastefully dabbles in some surrealism that only further propels the films eerily uncomfortable mood. All the more impressive is how expertly Chang-dong weaves the films many complicated themes through the narrative. It’s especially timely in its examination of toxic masculinity. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg in beginning to analyze this film though, as it’d be impossible to process all the metaphor and context with just one watch, but what is clear is that it’s pretty damn brilliant. Nothing is inauthentic. Every moment is earned. Burning is one of those films that, if you’re willing to lean far enough into it, will take you on an immersive journey that somehow grips you both tightly and gently all the way to its very end. It’s conclusion also brought on this subconscious thought I occasionally have during films as great as this in which a scene played out and I muttered to myself, “Cut to Black...”, and then it did. That’s always a joy to experience, especially in the theater.

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