Posts Tagged ‘“Burning”’

Ah-in Yoo, Jong-weo Jun, Steven Yeun

“BURNING” My rating: B 

148 minutes | No MPAA rating

Class warfare, economic hardship, generational conflict and, who knows, maybe even a murder are the issues swirling around in  “Burning,” a film that seems in no hurry to get anywhere but in which, we realize much later, every moment counts.

Chang-Dong Lee’s drama — South Korea’s official nominee for this year’s Oscar for Foreign Language Film — centers on Jong-Su (Ah-in Yoo), a twenty something living on the economic edge in modern Seoul.  It’s not clear exactly how Jong-Su survives. We see the army veteran lugging bagged clothes around the streets, but whether his business is legit or not is never plumbed.

He’s schlepping his way through the day when he stumbles across Hae-Mi (Jong-Seo Jin), with whom he grew up in a rural farming community.  Hae-Mi is now employed as a sort of model; clad in a cheerleader outfit she hawks bargains on the sidewalk outside a department store.

She’s bouncy and adventurous and claims to be on a spiritual quest.  After bedding the bowled-over Jong-Su she asks him to feed her cat while she goes searching for inner truth in Africa.

Jong-Su agrees (he never sees the cat but the food bowl keeps emptying and the litter box keeps filling); moreover he uses his visits to Hae-Mi’s one-room apartment as an opportunity to masturbate.  He may not be a very demonstrative guy, but it’s pretty clear Jong-Su is smitten.

Which makes it all the worse when Hae-Mi returns from Kenya with a new guy in tow.  This is Ben (Steven Yeun, late of cable’s “Walking Dead”), who is clearly playing in another league.  Ben dresses well, drives an expensive sports car, seems utterly unimpressed by anything (at one point he claims never to have wept) and, when asked what he does, replies “I play.”

Jong-su, who wants to be a novelist (though we never see him writing), takes to calling this new acquaintance “the Great Gatsby.”

At least Ben lets the puppylove-tormented Jong-Su  hang out with him and Hae-Mi.  One one particular weekend the three party on Jong-Su’s rundown family farm (his divorced father is in jail after an altercation with a neighbor); during a marijuana-steeped evening Hae-Mi does a naked dance as the sun sets and Ben reveals to Jong-Su that his hobby is setting fire to the ugly plastic-draped greenhouses that litter the landscape.  (more…)

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