Festival du Nouveau Cinema: Burning (2018)

Burning (2018)


Director (& screenplay): Chang-dong Lee

Cast: Ah-In Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jeon

Eight years after Poetry, Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-Dong adapts Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s novel on the coded twists and turns of a love triangle. After a chance encounter with Haemi, a former girlfriend, Jongsu, a young courier, agrees to feed her cat while she goes to Africa. To Jongsu’s chagrin, she returns in the company of a mysterious, rich stranger, Ben. A powerful social message and bewitching lyricism lies behind this patient but fascinating thriller. It is an odyssey to the heart of uncertainty and it will haunt you long after the credits have rolled. – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

First of all, lets clear the air that I have never read or heard of the source material that Burning is adapted from so there is no comparison to be made. What I offer is the film experience as a whole.

With that said, Burning is an intriguing story to say the least. Albeit, a slow paced, slow burning sort of film experience. The idea here is a really good one from its first act of our main character, Jongsu meeting again his high school friend, Haemi who he develops feelings for and ends up agreeing to feed her cat while she goes to a dream vacation to Africa. At the same time, he has a change in his life as he goes to take care of his father’s property and we slowly learn why as his back story unfolds bit by bit as well. Things change in the second act upon Haemi’s return with a new friend, Ben, an offputting yet social and rich young man. There are so many awkward and comedic moments that show off each of these characters. It also helps that the movie was generally in three or four acts. From meeting Haemi to Jongsu waiting for her to get back to their time spent with Ben and then Jongsu’s search.

Ah-In Yoo plays the young courrier Jongsu who seems very much like a wallflower. He doesn’t have a direction and follows around Haemi and easily follows others in what they do and doesn’t make a first move while he does find joy in some of the little things. He is a quiet and introvert character that we see have a decent amount of development throughout the film. On the other hand, Haemi is an odd ray of sunshine. She is expressive and very much an open book even in her weird obsession with her search for the hunger of the meaning of life and such. Which leads us to our final character and a familiar face, Ben played by Steve Yeun who I have never seen speak Korean let alone expect to be in a Korean film. His character is mysterious but its almost too obvious that he has something more because of just how he answers all questions vaguely. But there is a very great moment of reveal when things link together and that is what I liked about it.

Mysterious phone calls, missing crush and dark secrets are the basis of Burning. Its a character study set in the midst of a thriller. At some point, it gets a little blurry in the second half as the movie drags on for longer than it feels necessary. It feels like a tighter execution might have rendered it more fun to watch. That really is the one complaint I have of this film. The cast themselves do a fantastic job and the director takes great care in framing the shots and the details with lighting and atmosphere. All things I like to watch and see in films.

Double Feature: Mayhem (2017) & Newness (2017)

Double feature time!

Can I just say how excited I am to talk about these two movies? By far, the most excited I’ve felt in a while. I might actually discuss Newness and films of that sort in a video, once that initial video gets edited…

Let’s just get right to it then!

Mayhem (2017)


Director: Joe Lynch

Cast: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Dallas Roberts, Mark Frost, André Eriksen

A virus spreads through an office complex causing white collar workers to act out their worst impulses. – IMDB

Over the top violence is what Mayhem is all about. Its extreme and over the top and every bit of it is just all kinds of fun. It goes way out of control. Its makes us wonder how much people repress their feelings at work and just how a virus like this would just be absolutely nuts. For what the film wants to achieve, it definitely seems like they got there.

mayhem 2017

Their two leads played by Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving are incredibly awesome. Just because they each had their own objective and eventually also grew to trust each other despite the virus in their systems. Plus to find their emotions amplified without any barriers gave them their own credibility. The best comparison I had when I was watching this captivated was the movie was structured like The Raid, where they started at the bottom floor and worked their way to the protected yet infected shareholders at the top to get what they deserved. Except this was much more comedic. This gave them the opportunity to defeat one person or barrier after the next and many times it was playing on events that happened at the beginning of the movie before everyone’s virus started kicking in. Mayhem may have its predictable bits that a story like usually has but the non stop action and crazy spiral of events makes it hard to turn away from. Its entertainment at its very best.

Overall, Mayhem is a definite worthy watch if you are into this type of bloody and violent horror comedy. Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving are great as the leads but that doesn’t take away from the myriad of supporting character they need to get through that represent the exaggerated roles in the company as they move up the corporate ladder.

Newness (2017)


Director: Drake Doremus

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Laia Costa, Danny Huston, Courtney Eaton, Matthew Gray Gubler, Pom Klementieff

In contemporary Los Angeles, two millennials navigating a social media-driven hookup culture begin a relationship that pushes both emotional and physical boundaries. – IMDB

I love movies like these ones and Drake Doremus seems to have hit a winner with this one, especially when compared to the previous movie of his that I reviewed called Equals (review). With Newness, it takes us on a journey through the relationship of millenials trapped in the world of online dating. Perhaps this story might not hit the chords for a lot of people on every level but at some level, it will highlight its rawness and realness of relationships whether it be the struggle to communicate and be open about their feelings or whether its about knowing whether you have crossed the line from liking to loving someone and perhaps for some, its learning when you are willing to settle down instead of always searching for what this movie is called, Newness. I personally have a soft spot for this type of movie topic, especially when it rides the border of being in the steamy romance category while still delivering a deeper message.


While I do enjoy a lot of the films that Nicholas Hoult has been a part of, I can’t say I’m a big fan of his acting. However, in Newness, it feels like he grasped the role in such a believable way. In fact, I’d go to the extent to say to date, its my favorite role of his. It helps in romance movies that the actress is also doing a fantastic job in portraying her role. Laia Costa literally stole the show. She felt real and we watched Marty and Gabi grow on screen and find ways for their relationship to work and create a balance for their desires and struggles but still remain together. Their characters weren’t perfect. They made mistakes and had to get through it together. Fact is, it made them real and genuine. They were also paired up with some great supporting roles. Gabi meets this rich divorced man called Larry, played by Danny Huston who wakes her up a little on his perspective of relationships. While Marty has talks with his best friend, Paul who shares a lot of insight on his thoughts on relationships. Different characters at different stages in life giving their own perspective on relationships as these two tried to work out their own was what it needed.

Newness probably isn’t for everybody. It deserves a bit of an open mind on this subject and probably a more forgiving view on the trial and errors of the path the two main characters take. Romance films have been pretty lackluster of late but Newness is definitely one of my new favorites. In my mind, Newness is about the bumpy road in relationships and finding the same pacing as your other half until you reach the same page. People change as they go through the different things in their own lives and the people they meet and we don’t all have a defined road map of how to navigate relationships, love and all the feelings that go in between. Newness may be about millenials (which I apparently am considered) but it delivers a much deeper aspect of relationships, much less about the events but what these decisions did for the characters to allow them to develop. I love a great story with fantastic character development and Newness had all of that.

On a side note: Its peaked my interest on Drake Doremus’ directorial efforts to take a look as it seems on a quick glance that he has a love for making romantic films of all kinds.