Lee Chang-dong was in town last month for celebratory, sold-out screenings of BURNING, his trenchant epic of dislocation and revenge—and the writer-director’s first film in eight years.
Greatly expanding on his original source material—Haruki Murakami’s ambiguous short story “Barn Burning”—Lee told an enthusiastic American Cinematheque crowd that “no matter what your age, race, class, or gender, a sense of rage is permeating the world today.” To frame this phenomenon, Lee has drawn from another tale of rage, William Faulkner’s story that shares a title with Murakami’s.
The exponent of the filmmaker’s concerns is Jong-su—an aimless, unpublished writer played with soulful veracity by Ah-in Yoo—who quickly attempts to establish a relationship with Haemi (Jong-seo Jun), a childhood acquaintance he runs into during one of his dead-end delivery jobs.
Added to the mix is a Delonesque character Ben (Steven Yeun)—rich and idle but for his habit of burning greenhouses—who insinuates himself into Jong-su and Haemi’s lives to deleterious effect.
(Indeed, a creeping shadow of Antonioni hangs over Lee’s film, and the performative mysteries of ethnic appropriation in La Notte and L’Eclisse are slyly referenced in BURNING’s masterful mise en scène.)
Through January 17.
207 North Maryland Avenue, Glendale.
With Lee Chang-dong and Justin Chang in conversation
Sunday, January 13, at 7:30.
6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Through December 13:
1332 2nd Street, Santa Monica.
5240 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood.
Steven Yeun post-screening conversation at the recent New York Film Festival.
From top: Jong-seo Jun in Burning; Ah-in Yoo (left) and Steven Yeun (2); Lee Chang-dong (right) and Hirokazu Kore-eda, the writer-director of Shoplifters; Yoo. Image credit: Well Go USA Entertainment.