Sex, envy and pyromania make for a riveting mystery in Lee Chang-dong’s masterfully crafted Murakami adaptation Lee Chang-dong’s Burning is a superbly shot and sensuously scored movie, a mystery thriller about obsessive love taken from a short story by Haruki Murakami but with something of Patricia Highsmith or maybe the kind of Ruth Rendell novel that Claude Chabrol might have filmed. It’s a psychological drama set in the modern consumerist Korea of the callous Gangnam-style rich and poor young people who often go invisibly to ground, pursued by credit-card debt. Burning is based around an enigma – a vanishing – whose solubility or otherwise becomes progressively less important to the protagonist than his hurt feelings, his wounded love, his damaged soul and his toxic male envy. Yoo Ah-in gives a tremendous performance as Jongsoo, a country boy from Paju, near Panmunjom on the 38th parallel, a rural area where you can hear the echoes of propaganda announcements from the North. He has an open, friendly, slightly goofy face that belies a thoughtfulness: Jongsoo wants to be a writer and admires American authors like William Faulkner and F Scott Fitzgerald. His mum walked out when he was a kid, and his angry, lonely farmer dad – a military veteran with a fierce collection of knives – is in legal trouble for assaulting a government inspector.
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