Burning ★★★½

The World Is More Than Enough 7: Stealing a March

South Korea - 24/30

This was certainly my most anticipated film of this project. Whether or not Burning lived up to that, it's debatable.

What I will say is that I loved the pacing of it. Under normal circumstances, this film would be about an hour too long for me, but at no point did I feel as though it was standing still. Lee Chang-dong consistently shows small progressions in the plot and characters, and I can't honestly say I was ever bored.

There was always something going on - something in the mannerisms of the three central characters, or in the way they talked. Some sounds around them. It's slow, sure, but also not pointledly patience-trying either. I didn't get the feeling Lee was toying with his audience especially, in the way many directors do when pacing a film with few actual physical events happening. There was method to everything here and honestly it's quite the achievement to get the pacing so even when the running time is so lengthy.

The subtlety of it all was where problems were caused, for me. It's so slow and considered that even the slightest jump could be considered a risk if not judged correctly. In the end, I felt everything Lee tried to do, outside of the base mystery here, was at least slightly misjudged. He seemingly wants to talk about toxic masculinity, so at what point did having the otherwise monosyllabic Yoo Ah-in suddenly blurt out to Jeon Jong-seo that she behaves like a prostitute seem like a good idea?

The political aspect of setting it near North Korea and just deciding to have a Donald Trump speech playing. Why include this at all? It didn't feel as though there was anything political here at all, so exactly what was the purpose of this? As regards the notions of class, again, Yoo suddenly leaps from his shell to condemn the "Gatsbys" that populate modern day South Korea, but little more is added to this.

Then there's the basic level mummy / daddy issues that Yoo carries, which seemingly feed into his inabilty to communicate with people, especially women. And then bizarrely topped off by his penchant for tossing off in Jeon's room and possibly not being able to engage with sexual intercourse at all. It's all garnish, this, and I'd like to think that it's not just me and my constant urge for a good thriller or mystery at play.

I actually don't think these things get in the way of that, it's just that they're unnecessary. I don't believe they add anything. And the least said about the bit with the cat near the end, the better.

There's a lot to like here, sure, the central trio of performances included. It's just disappointing to me that Lee felt the need to sprinkle a taut and effective mystery with vague allusions to something more profound when Burning rarely seemed like the time or place for it.

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