Burning ★★★★★

Burning is a staggering film; a beautiful, mesmerizing and disturbingly lovely thriller that observes what it means to live in a divided world pulsating with an eerie menace, sensuality and ambivalence. There's an immensely rewarding patience to this thing, it's a textbook slow-burn thriller that never betrays it's methodical, meandering pace; zeroing in perfectly on the meticulously imagined trio of leads. All three are magnificent; Ah-in Yoo's central performance is really open and natural; he's an open book from the start and plays perfectly off of Steven Yeun's ambiguous, cryptic and slyly menacing work as a mysteriously rich, overtly charismatic dreamboat boyfriend.

I'd be remiss not to praise the female in the middle of it all, Jong-seo Jun's Haemi; who plays a pivotal role in one of the most beautiful scenes I've seen in a long time. Three friends relaxing in the Korean countryside, smoking weed and watching the sunset. North Korean propaganda echoes in the background, and everything is draped in a velvety light that slowly fades away as the sun disappears. Haemi gets up, the otherworldly sounds of Miles Davis fill the space, and she begins dancing. It's not sexual, it's a glimpse into this veiled, mysterious character we know so little about; and more than anything it suggests that she's desperately seeking some sort of communion with the world and an understanding of her place within it. This ties into the larger idea of this film and the titular transformation; how something as simple and elemental as fire can build from within, stemming from things like a broken home, sexual frustration or lost love and be manifested as a means to annihilate things with enormous power. In the end, you're left with a challenging blend of catharsis, ambivalence and tragedy; a film that feels wildly subversive and immediately magnificent.

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