Burning ★★★★½

Adapted from a Harao Murakami short story, Burning is Lee Chang-Dong’s first directorial effort in a decade. Living on a ramshackle farm on the North Korean border, Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in) is an aspiring writer who falls for the free-spirited Haemi (Jun Jong-Seo) after a chance encounter. When she leaves on holiday, Jongsu agrees to feed her cat at her tiny urban apartment. When Haemi returns, she has company in the shape of the cosmopolitan and vaguely sociopathic Ben (Steven Yeun) and a love triangle-of-sorts develops. The questionable existence of Haemi’s cat is one of many uncertainties embedded in this superbly crafted, mysterious slow-burn; not least the enigma of Haemi herself; who pervades the film with a Hitchcockian undertone. Similar to Ceylan’s recent The Wild Pear Tree in it’s depiction of a college graduate/spurned lover returning to the humdrum existence of his family home, Burning marries it's socioeconomic undercurrent with a blend of romantic frustration and familial abandonment. Some of it’s metaphors are a little heavy-handed and the pacing is leisurely but Lee Chang-Dong compensates through his rich, melancholy-tinged direction. Featuring excellent naturalistic performances from its three leads, a subtle but effective score and beautifully-crafted cinematography; Burning is a wonderfully ambiguous, multifaceted thriller.

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