This film won the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Palme D’Or. It has won countless other awards, all over the world, including for its cinematography. We are showing it because it sounds like an exceptional foreign language film.
Burning tells the story of three individuals and a mysterious incident they experience. Lee Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in) bumps into an old friend, Shin Haemi (Jeon Jong-seo), on a part-time delivery job. Haemi asks Jongsu to take care of her cat while she leaves on a trip to Africa. When she returns, Haemi introduces Jongsu to Ben, a man she met in Africa. One day, Ben and Haemi pay Jongsu a visit, and Ben reveals his secret interests to Jongsu. One critic said it ‘will leave you breathless’. The South Korean thriller is so stealthy that it doesn’t act like or present itself as a thriller. Instead, it skillfully weaves a tale so layered in its mysteries that it casually constricts itself around you, and by the time you come up for air, you realize you can’t.
When Haemi returns, she’s joined by Ben (Troy native Steven Yeun), a well-to-do, Porsche-driving playboy-type. The three of them begin a fraught friendship, with undercurrents of jealousy from a romantic and social standpoint; Lee doesn’t understand the nature of Ben and Shin’s relationship, which slowly eats away at him, and is exacerbated by Ben’s cool-headed emotional distance. When Shin disappears, his madness consumes him.
Burning is a true slow burn; Chang-dong (who also co-wrote the script) does a masterful job laying out his trail of breadcrumbs without ever giving away the full loaf. He’s aided by a trio of wonderful performances; Yeun, especially, gives a seering, slick, haunting performance that is among the year’s very best. And Jong-seo’s beguiling sunset dance, set to Miles Davis’ Générique, paints a lasting visual, invoking politics, class strife, sexuality and human connection, all set against a colorful sky and a fading sun. Like Burning, it’s unforgettable.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall