Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
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JamesF
Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:36 pm

Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#26 Post by JamesF » Fri Nov 23, 2018 2:26 pm

nitin wrote:
Wed Nov 21, 2018 4:29 am
Do we have a release date for Thunderbird’s release of Burning on blu ray yet?
I don’t work there anymore so can’t say for certain, but as far as I know it’s being released in UK cinemas in early Feb, so I assume the Blu-Ray will come out in early-June, once the theatrical window has elapsed.

So glad to see others loving this film as much as I did; I’m heartbroken I don’t get to work on it!

obayoshi
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#27 Post by obayoshi » Mon Nov 26, 2018 4:50 pm

I had the opportunity to see this film two days ago. Burning was a wonderful, nearly-impeccable film. The thick aura of mystery that permeates throughout the entire film was really something to behold. The movie resolved in a way that hit just the right spots for me. It inspired me to pick up a Murakami novel, now I'm nearly finished with The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

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Persona
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:16 pm

Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#28 Post by Persona » Fri Nov 30, 2018 5:48 pm

I had mixed feelings about the length of the film as regarding some of its more tangential scenes, but all in all it was quite the extraordinary work. Lee's vision really has an impact at the same time that the film seems to have a deep understanding of Murakami. When Jongsu explains that he doesn't know what to write about because the world "is a mystery" to him, yeah, wow. I read the story this was based on yesterday and that line's not in there, but that line really gets Murakami, and the film was just a beautiful expression of that non-theme. Some marvelous, poetic details and sequences, perhaps none better than the Miles Davis dance at dusk, which is going to linger with me for quite some time.

Top 5 of the year, to be sure.

edit: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/ ... rning.html

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#29 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Dec 12, 2018 12:30 pm

Definitely Murakami: jazz, wells, missing cats, lax and unresolved narrative, passive and disaffected protagonist, cute, quirky, inscrutable female inexplicably attracted to the protagonist, vague geopolitical background.
SpoilerShow
I also took the final murder to be part of the story Jong-su begins to write. Not only is the drifting camera shot of him typing at the window followed by an unprecedented shift in perspective, but it's the only time Jong-su takes any real initiative or shows any will. I took it to mean that while he's shy, passive, and not fully formed as a person in the world, he can transcend his limitations in his art and will in some sense float away and above the things holding him back. Whether or not Ben is actually a murderer or whatever is less the point than that Jong-su finally commits to something. Violent revenge does in fact give meaning to events. Jong-su the writer doesn't imagine an ending that does or could explain the mysteries of the world, just one in which there is meaning for himself, as a person. It's probably no accident Jong-su escapes at the end bloody and naked as a babe: it's a kind of rebirth for a character, written or otherwise, who before that point seemed hardly able to do anything.

I'm not sure Ben is successful as a character. He's meant to be opaque, but he's so opaque that you can read whatever you want into him. A lot of the commentary being draped over him is no more or less persuasive or justified than a given theory about whether or not he's a murderer. Ben may as well be a ghost or angel. Indeed, part of me wondered, given the time he takes to instruct Jong-su, to encourage him and give him advice, just the inexplicable way he takes on this boring and unemotive lump--I wondered if we are meant to suspect that he's a guardian angel for Jong-su of some weird kind, organizing a series of mysteries and inexplicable events to jump start Jong-su's life, to compel him out of inaction, give him something finally to write about. Given that all the narrative events happen to Jong-su, you can certainly read it this way. But of course there's no more evidence that this is the case than, say, Ben is a murderer. But perhaps that's the problem: it's no trick to make the world mysterious if you give people no discernible motivations or character. There's almost no point thinking about Ben: he's a series of actions without context. You can say anything about him because there's nothing there.

The Faulkner angle is interesting. He's Jong-su's favourite writer because Jong-su identifies himself with Faulkner's characters. Faulkner wrote about rural Americans trapped by the burdens of home, family, history, and the violence and despair permeating all three, and whose lives are ones of endurance rather than progression. I guess we're meant to see Jong-su as similarly trapped by a legacy of familial violence and rural despair, with a hostile enemy made of fellow Koreans sitting just beyond the horizon.

Inexplicable moment: am I right in remembering Hae-mei not having breast implants in that first sex scene? That she suddenly shows up with them is, yeah, odd. I don't know anything about recovery times for breast augmentation surgery, but it seems like Jong-su sees her every couple of days. Was there a stretch of time in there I missed? If not, the only time she could've gotten them is during the Kenya trip, meaning she wouldn't've been in Kenya for obvious reasons. Perhaps this feeds back into the idea the whole thing was orchestrated by Ben from the first moment (hence the non-existent cat who nevertheless eats and defecates on schedule).

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#30 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:02 pm

Further thought: Relating to that monologue about how women have it rough, I think Hae-mi's sudden and uninhibited admission she got plastic surgery is a reference to the huge current trend in Korea of women having eye-opening surgery to look more western, ie. beautiful. I know very little about Korean society, so I can't tell if her forthrightness here is part of her character or a common feature among young Koreans, ie. it's so common that the taboo has been lifted and people talk about it as they would a new hair style.

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Persona
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#31 Post by Persona » Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:50 pm

I am with you on all that. The theory about what is being written is really interesting, and only adds to the film's intrigue for me, but also in keeping with the idea that intrigue isn't necessarily meant to lead to firm, grand conclusions...

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BenoitRouilly
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#32 Post by BenoitRouilly » Wed Dec 19, 2018 8:24 am

Mr Sausage wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:02 pm
Further thought: Relating to that monologue about how women have it rough, I think Hae-mi's sudden and uninhibited admission she got plastic surgery is a reference to the huge current trend in Korea of women having eye-opening surgery to look more western, ie. beautiful. I know very little about Korean society, so I can't tell if her forthrightness here is part of her character or a common feature among young Koreans, ie. it's so common that the taboo has been lifted and people talk about it as they would a new hair style.
You've got it right. Koreans speak very naturally about their plastic surgery (in the street, celebrities on TV shows...), whether it's double eyelids or somewhere else... And they even got as far as ask you bluntly if you've got any work done. It's not a taboo, it's not indiscreet.
Just like they talk frankly about overweight (even when it's not obvious), and encourage you to exercize more. They're not shy / embarassed about commenting your physique.
Plastic surgery is so common that high-school girls get it as a present from their parents. So it's not surprising at all to hear Hae-mi "brag" about having it done.
There are even stories about fathers sueing their spouse because their children are ugly and don't look like their mother (because she had surgery done before the wedding)

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hearthesilence
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#33 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Feb 02, 2019 2:57 am

MoMA is screening all of Lee Chang-Dong's films this upcoming week, and they kicked things off with a screening of Burning with an introduction and Q&A with Lee himself. He understands some English, but a translator was used the entire time. That slowed things down but no matter - he was extremely generous with his time, letting the Q&A run for what was probably a full hour. (At the end, he even asked for one more question, and not just one more question, but one from a woman as nearly all the questions thus far had been from men.) Afterwards, he stuck around to sign autographs (yes, I asked him to sign my copy of Poetry) and pose for selfies with fans.

Tough to remember it all, but he mentioned that NHK originally approached him about doing a film on this story, which is how things got started. Pre-production started in 2016 but there was a delay to clear up some rights issue with the story. As a result, one of their actors had to leave for a prior commitment, and that's when someone (I can't remember but I think it was his co-writer) suggested he talk to Steven Yeun. He goes to meet Yeun who (perhaps jokingly) says it was fate given the circumstances that led to this meeting which hadn't been originally planned.

What clinches the role for Yeun was when Lee asks him what he's been reading. When they were writing the script (and long before they met Yeun), Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra was on their mind, specifically the part where Zarathustra warns of humanity losing interest in anything more substantial, preferring simple and easy pleasures. Unfortunately, humanity doesn't get what he's saying and think this is wonderful. Lee says this is the current state of the world. So flash forward to Lee asking Yeun what he's been reading, and he says Nietzsche. Lee (perhaps jokingly) says maybe Yeun was right about fate after all.

Later on someone asked about Murakami's involvement. At one point he asked to see the scenario, but he gave no input and said nothing the rest of the time. Lee presumes that they both have an understanding that it's best to leave another artist to do their own work without interfering. His response reminds me of Dylan's approval but non-participation and non-input in I'm Not There, and just as Haynes had no idea what Dylan thought (and Dylan liked the film a lot, FWIW), Lee doesn't know what Murakami thinks of the film.

In response to another question, it's mentioned that the film's ending (or rather what Yeun's character actually did or did not do in the film) is intentionally ambiguous, but for Yeun that can't work because he needs to know for motivation. At the end of the shoot, Lee asked Yeun what he believed his character did or did not do, and Yeun simply said he'd rather not say. So presumably he came up with an answer in his head out of necessity, but he has not shared what that is. It's also mentioned that they were very careful in how they used Yeun's facial expressions in the film as it was key to the film's ambiguity.

I'm missing quite a bit of material, but regardless it was an excellent Q&A, especially since Lee is rarely able to make these types of appearance in NYC.

nitin
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2014 6:49 am

Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#34 Post by nitin » Sat Feb 02, 2019 6:07 am

Thanks for that heartsilence, appreciate the thorough summary.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#35 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Feb 02, 2019 12:21 pm

You're welcome. I also remembered one other detail about Lee and Yeun's meeting. Yeun said he could connect with the material because he understood the emptiness that's felt by the two male leads. He explains this to Lee by telling him how difficult it was (presumably psychologically, not financially) when he was an unknown, struggling actor. When overnight he achieved a great deal of fame, attention and (like his character) pretty much everything he'd want in terms of material things, to his surprise the feeling of emptiness became worse. So it sounds like that was the starting point in building his performance.

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Finch
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#36 Post by Finch » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:57 pm

This is my favourite film of last year as well though Shoplifters and Hale County This Morning This Evening could possibly still knock it off the top spot. I loved the mood this film creates and the dance at dusk scored to Miles Davis was sublime. The soundtrack for this film was excellent across the board, and I agree with the vast majority here that the film while deliberately paced did not feel like two and a half hours long. When the camera moves away from the window as Jong-su sits at the typewriter I thought this is the end and then the film threw me a curveball by continuing
SpoilerShow
but the final scene explained why we had the lingering shot on the knives in Jong-su's cabinet early on
. I look forward to unpacking it further when the Blu-Ray comes out (Well Go USA have it, no?).

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goblinfootballs
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#37 Post by goblinfootballs » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:49 pm

Finch wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:57 pm
I look forward to unpacking it further when the Blu-Ray comes out (Well Go USA have it, no?).
Yes, March 5th.

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senseabove
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Re: Burning (Lee Chang-Dong, 2018)

#38 Post by senseabove » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:11 pm

It's on hoopla now, another streaming service some folks will be able to access through their public library, btw.

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