Burning ★★

A movie that pantomimes being a masterpiece. I can't stand the pretense behind this entire thing, and it really rubbed me the wrong way. The ultimate in arthouse smugness. In hindsight, it just seems like Chang-dong's more ostentatious flourishes (the deliberate pace, the distended runtime, his gesturing towards larger themes) are merely an attempt at masking the simple and ultimately inconsequential story at the heart of the film. The whole movie operates at an icy remove, and it's ambiguous to the point that it never truly involves the audience or invites any real interest in the narrative, only kicking into a higher gear near the end when it faintly resembles Hitchcock's Vertigo. And for all the thematic shorthand deployed throughout the film, I'm still unconvinced that it has anything meaningful to say about masculinity or the socioeconomic climate in South Korea. The ending lands with a thud. It's just a needlessly circuitous and overblown drama slathered in an arthouse gloss. The year's biggest disappointment, for me, and it's a shame that this dethroned Maren Ade's fantastic Toni Erdmann for highest jury grid score in Cannes history.

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