Burning ★★★★

Given its title, calling Lee Chang-dong's Burning a "slow burn" feels a little bit too easy, however apt the phrase might be. Around here, the forestry service routinely engage in an activity called "controlled burning," wherein the rangers intentionally ignite sections of overgrown forested area and let them burn under controlled conditions. This strengthens the ecosystem, filling the soil with nutrients and removing overcrowding and dead underbrush. "Slow burn" is tired... "controlled burn" -- that's the phrase I'm going with to describe this film, for Lee Chang-dong is in complete control of all of the "burning" that takes place within his film.

Comparisons to Parasite abound, from the similar cinematography (both films utilizing the talents of Hong Kyung-pyo) to the themes related to class/social differences, but Burning is very much its own film: and a good one. The way that Lee works with tropes as common as the lost girl and the unreliable (very Faulknerian) narrator in exciting, new ways is refreshing. It may've taken an 8-year gap for Lee to follow up 2010's Poetry, but the controlled burn of Burning makes it seem like it was worth the wait.

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