Burning ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Have had this movie lodged in my brain since I watched it a month ago and I think the most impressive part for me is how well Lee Chang-dong translates the perverse voyeurism of Hitchcock onto this. A lot of Vertigo comparisons have been made for obvious disappearance, fantasy and voyeurism reasons but I was reminded of Rear Window too. In the sense that the key to that film is the wandering paranoid camera that reflects the bedridden war journalist's raw desire for a story; it doesn't matter that he's eventually right about the murder that took place because any moral reasoning for his watching is undone by the selfish yearning we've been implicated in as audience members as he unconsciously sacrifices the lives of his neighbors for something to interest him. In short: his investigative actions are broadly moral but his reasons are entirely questionable.

A similar dynamic is built here as we are made to empathize with Jong-su's subjective POV through a series of class-based slights; having us float along with him and sink into his worldview, gradually accumulating and identifying with his financial discontent, male resentments and thwarted fantasies about Hae-mi that all eventually build to an act of brutal violence that is overtly laid out and understood as cathartic and maybe even deserved (there's maybe a bit too much circumstantial evidence for ben to be completely absolved) but still feels intensely icky because we know that even if it wasn't and ben was innocent (which the film does build enough questions of ambiguity and subjectivity into to be possible) that this pent-up, primal aggression and indignation would still exist and need some kind of destructive outlet. 

On rewatches, I am just so enthralled with the way this formally lulls you into its subjectivity and practically has you screaming "yeah fuck this rich pretty boy sociopath" as it seamlessly moves from its class-based intimacy into the realm of noir/mystery/Hitchcockian obsession over a lost, beautiful woman, etc. only to have the destructive and ambiguous final image make you retroactively question every instinct the film has trained you to have. It's understandable frustration and eventual catharsis wrapped up in icky feelings of projection and justification, and I thought that on subsequent viewings and with knowledge of the film's shape the trick would get tired but if anything it's worked on me even more.

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