Show & Tell: Burning


Some months have a character that’s pretty much set in stone. February, for instance, is usually cold enough to freeze the nuts off a steel bridge. End of story.

March, on the other hand, is often a wildcard, sometimes showing bursts of strengthening sun and making us all look for the snowdrops and sometimes just hammering us with snow/sleet/slush/mud/ice, etc.

Similarly, some movies come conveniently packaged in a genre box tied with a happy-ending bow. And that’s great. Some of my favorite movies are ones where I know in the first ten minutes how things will turn out and that they will turn out well.

But the movies that really grab me and won’t let me go are more like March. They lead me one way and then take quick left turns and by the end (although there isn’t any actual snow), I have no idea where the story is headed.

Tuesday night, we will be discussing a Korean film called Burning, and even with a load of trailers, interviews, and reviews under my belt, I’m not at all sure what it’s going to be about or where it will be headed.

What I do know is that Burning has achieved pretty much universal praise from the critical community. And when a non-Hollywood movie does that, there’s usually something special going on.

Burning is a story of a classic triangle, a high-spirited young woman who hangs out with two men, one rich and one distinctly non-rich, but not a pauper either. The little of the plot I can glean concerns the disappearance of the young woman. Oh, and some greenhouses get burned. That’s it.

So in trying to sell you on the idea of coming to see Burning, I’m going to rely on a few choice phrases from reviews. One reviewer calls it a character study that shades into a mystery and (eventually) a thriller. Another dubs it “engrossing, suspenseful and strange.” And a third warns that the film’s finale “will sear itself into viewers’ memories for years to come.”

Korean directors are now at the forefront of genre-busting, audience-challenging filmmaking, and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. At 148 minutes, Burning will need a little patience, but I expect that the time spent watching it will pay off handsomely both during the movie and during the discussion portion of the entertainment.

And don’t forget that we’re going to be discussing On the Basis of Sex (a biopic about the early career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her fight to bring gender discrimination to court next week.

I hope to see you there.

Paul Goodwin