“The world is a mystery to me,” the awkward, aspiring writer Lee Jong-su tells his new “Gatsby-like” acquaintance Ben, at a moment of a maximum queasiness in Chang-dong Lee‘s Burning. The film is a mystery to us, not just in its genre mechanics but in terms of how we are supposed to engage with it: Burning talks and moves like a mystery, lingering on images in ways we’ve been trained to recognize as meaningful, before trailing away like smoke.
The nice thing about unique and distinctive voices (or those voices that you know, from general hubbub, must be unique and distinctive), across mediums and across genres, is that when you finally get around to experiencing them, they very rarely are anything like you assumed.
There are a lot of ways a filmmaker can be hard to like. They might make incredibly long films, or incredibly slow films, or incredibly slow, long films; they might be hard to track down, or hard to find in decent-looking formats; they might make wonderful films but be awful in real life.