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By critical consensus a masterpiece, and the highest ever rated film on the Screen International’s eagerly pored-over Cannes jury grid, Burning, like previous record holder Toni Erdmann, left the Competition officially prizeless but showered in glory. A love triangle and a mystery, it concerns an earnest young writer’s (Yoo Ah-in) jealous crush on a mercurial woman (Jun Jong-seo) who takes up with a handsome, prosperous companion (Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead).
“Not a lot actually burns in Lee Chang-dong’s Burning… But the cumulative effect of all its perfect moments, all its perfectly true, unexpected and consequential scenes, is scorching. The embers are banked up so gradually and relentlessly that it’s not until a few hours after the ending of this elusive, riveting masterpiece that you are far enough away to appreciate the scale of the conflagration…
It is based on a skeletal short story by Murakami Haruki in the same way a spreading oak is based on an acorn… The absolute precision of craft, from Hong Kyung-pyo’s unerring camera placement to [the] stunningly variegated and cleverly deployed score, illuminates a trio of performances that are little short of miraculous… The narrative is slippery as silk, eliding from romance to tragedy to mystery to something more unsettling… This sense of surprise and inevitability is a hallmark of truly masterful writing… and such skillful direction that it feels like you’re suspended within the story in an invisible tangle of glances and exchanges, secrets and lies, tricks and cruelties and lucky shafts of reflected sunlight.” — Jessica Kiang, Sight & Sound