Burning

Burning ★★★★

I have mixed feelings about this one. It was perfection for long stretches and bewildering in bursts.

Things I loved:

- It has the most beautiful frames of any 2018 film -- composition, light, color, focus -- particularly out in Paju.

- It's so comfortable with silence, allowing the actors (particularly Yoo Ah-in and Jun Jong-seo) to dig deep and the audience to participate by filling in their thoughts and emotions. It opens a lane to empathy. I admire films that can do that.

- Some of the long takes are unimaginably transfixing. Hae-mi's sunset hunger dance set to Miles Davis stands out, but this is full of patient, poetic moments where the characters are exposed and ultimately devour themselves.

Things I disliked:

- Ben is an infuriatingly cryptic sociopath. His behavior seemed so divorced from any sort of human reality and served only to manufacture a mystery. His confidence and style give him a real presence, but otherwise being around this guy would be unbearable.

- Jong-su telling Ben about his father makes that side story unnecessary. It tells us what we're supposed to take from it and telegraphs exactly how Jong-su is going to behave.

- I think Jong-su's farm being blasted with North Korean propaganda was supposed to show just how far away he is from Ben's suave lifestyle, but throwing Donald Trump into the mix really confused things. Doesn't it encourage the viewer to try and find the political narrative? It was really distracting.

Things I dunno about: (Spoilery)

- Hae-mi is positioned as a total manic pixie dream girl, but only in the eyes of Jong-su, right? She has more depth and agency than it seems, which ends up fueling the mystery. So her characterization is... OK?

- Jong-su is possessive, Ben is trophy hunting, but how do the homoerotic undertones add to the commentary on male entitlement and toxic masculinity? The sex scene between Jong-su and Hae-mi is mirrored pretty closely in the tense finale featuring Jong-su and Ben. I'm really unsure what to make of that.

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