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    New York Film Festival 2018


    Alice Tully Hall Sept. 2018 [photo CK]

    New York Film Festival 2018 (Sept. 28-Oct. 14)

    Filmleaf NYFF 2018 forum thread

    Links to Reviews:

    3 Faces (Jafar Panahi 2018)
    Asako I & II/寝ても覚めても (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi 2018)
    Ash Is Purest White/江湖儿女 (Jia Zhang-ke 2018)
    At Eternity's Gate (Julian Schnabel 2018)
    Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The (Joel, Ethan Coen 2018)
    Burning/Beoning /버닝 (Lee Chang-dong 2018)
    Cold War/Zimna wojna (Paweł Pawlikowski 2018)
    Faithful Man, A/L'homme fidèle (Louis Garrel 2018)
    Family Tour, A/自由行(Ying Liang 2018)
    Favourite, The (Yorgos Lanthimos 2018)
    La Flor (Mariano Llinás 2018)
    Grass (Hong Sang-soo 2018)
    Happy As Lazzaro/Lazzaro felice (Alice Rohrwacher 2018)
    Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry 2018)
    High Life (Claire Denis 2018)
    Hotel by the River (Hong Sang-soo 2018)
    If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins 2018)
    Image Book, The (Jean-Luc Godard 2018)
    In My Room (Ulrich Köhler 2018)
    Long Day's Journey Into Night (Bi Gan 2018)
    Monrovia, Indiana (Frederick Wiseman 2018)
    Non FictionNon-Fiction/Doubles vies (Olivier Assayas 2018)
    Private Life (Tamara Jenkins 2018)
    Ray & Liz (Richard Billingham 2018)
    ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón 2018)
    Shoplifters/万引き家族 Manbiki Kazoku (Hirakasu Koreeda 2018)
    Sorry Angel/Plaire, aimer et courir vite (Christophe Honoré 2018)
    Too Late to Die Young (Dominga Sotomayor 2018)
    Times of Bill Cunningham, The (Mark Bozek 2018)
    Transit (Christian Petzold 2018)
    Wildlife (Paul Dano 2018)




    Official NYFF 2018 poster by Edward Lachman and JR.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-29-2019 at 11:09 AM.

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    SORRY ANGEL/PLAIRE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE (Christophe Honoré 2018)

    CHRISTOPHE HONORÉ: SORRY ANGEL/PLAIRE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE (2018)


    PIERRE DELANDANCHAMPS AND VINCENT LACOSTE IN SORRY ANGEL

    Gay in France in the age of AIDS

    Sorry Angel was released in French theaters 10 May 2018 with its Cannes premiere and received a very high rating from French critics (AlloCiné 4.2).This is Honoré's most overtly autobiographical film yet, in which he returns to what he has called "les jours sinistres et terrifiants" - the grim and terrifying days - of his youth, the two last decades of the previous century. This is the story of young gay man who comes to Paris from the provinces to become a filmmaker. The director, who later learned he was HIV-positive, steps aside from his glamorous muse Louis Garrel here, shifting to the young comic actor (doing serious this time), Vincent Lacoste, as his alter ego. This is Honoré's eleventh feature and he has tried a variety of things, mostly personal, but never overtly gay, or confronting the harsh world of AIDS in the Nineties before. There is ample poetry and more humor, but a different tone and braver stance than he has previously achieved - perhaps a new maturity, certainly a greater honesty. Mostly a series of big, standalone set pieces separated by memorably used music, Sorry Angel is a lot to take in. It is a contrast, perhaps consciously so, to Robin Campillo's tumultuous AIDS and ACT UP-FRANCE film, BPM (Beats Per Minute) - NYFF 2017. This is a French picture of coming of age in the Nineties world of AIDS, for sure, but a personal and private not an activist one. There is no ACT UP scene, little talk of activism.

    He really has two other alter egos in the film, himself at two other, later stages of life, and they are all connected, though tenuously, somewhat sadly, in a narrative of frustrated love. Besides the young Arthur Prigent (Lacoste), who decides to leave Rennes, in Brittany, to try his fortune writing and making films in Paris, there is Jacques Tondelli (Pierre Deladonchamps of Stranger by the Lake - NYFF 2013), a thirty-something novelist and playwright who has AIDS. He and Arthur cruise each other in a cinema in Rennes showing Joan Campion's The Piano Player. Pierre is there momentarily for the production of a play. Arthur is smitten.

    The third, oldest alter ego is Mathieu (film actor and Comédie-Française member Denis Podalydès), Pierre's neighbor, an Honoré of an age he has yet to reach, a character no doubt smitten by Pierre too, but the two are just intimate friends. For much of the film Pierre and Arthur aren't together, or even in the same town. But when Arthur moves to Paris they are, even though Pierre tries to avoid Arthur, because by then he has become seriously ill, and wants to avoid another love affair, because now it is too late. He tries to have Mathieu lie to Arthur and say he's out of town, but he hasn't the heart. And Arthur, touchingly, stays around, undeterred by Pierre's illness. Honoré spares us the grimmer aspects of AIDS illness; Pierre never stops looking good, or having well-coiffed hair. But the physical is not glamorized: as the Les Inrocks reviewer Serge Kaganski says, Honoré excels here at showing the "intriguing osmosis between the sweetness of sex and its crudity," and this is one of the film's memorable aspects. Honoré is boldly willing to, as Peter Debruge says in his Cannes Variety review, admit the "inherent clumsiness of gay sex" willing to show gay men who "fumble and disappoint one another in bed."

    Kaganski calls this Honoré's most successful film since Love Songs (R-V 2008). It does strike a remarkable balance between the demanding and the mainstream, as Kaganski says. There is ugliness, intelligence, charm, wit, and a portrait of an era that avoids generalization or cliché.

    The film jumps around a bit in time, more than halfway through showing Arthur as running a little summer camp for kids, the playful cruising scene of him and Pierre in the cinema early on. In a bittersweet and playful scene Arthur tells his best friends he is moving to Paris. When he does come and Pierre tries to hide from him but then can't, Mathieu reports to Pierre that Arthur's first projects are to visit the Pompidou Museum (it shows him doing so) and attend an ACT UP meeting - which to him, Mathieu snidely says, may be something exotic "like visiting the catacombs." Pierre tries to avoid the dire case of his now dying ex-lover Marco (Thomas Gonzalez), but has two sensual moments with the two of them in the bath, one real, one imaginary.

    Vincent Lacoste is a funny guy. When he appears on the popular French show "On n'est pas couché" people seem to start laughing before he even opens his mouth, and he has an infectious laugh himself. Here, he gets to display a sweet, humane, loving side and extend his chops. But his good humor is felt too, and needed in a story clouded by the tragedies of gay AIDS deaths or their imminence. It's an effort of the film to avoid being gloomy or maudlin while remaining honest. On the whole Honoré skillfully steers in between. Deladonchamps is a somewhat distant, neutral actor, partly because he is so brave in representing the unflattering side of his characters. Podalydès' character is low-keyed and relatively minor (if sometimes hilarious). This makes the naive, generous Arthur come forward even though he's rarely at the center of the action, and we never see him do whatever he does, write, make films, though we do see that he has had a girlfriend, Nadine (Adèle Wismes), just as Jacques has a son, Loulou (Tristan Farge), and a friendly relationship with Loulou's mother (Sophie Letourneur), whom he shares Loulou with 50-50. This makes Sorry Angel as indirect in some ways as Honoré's more beautiful, imaginary films like Love Songs, Dans Paris, or La belle personne, which are partly celebrations of Louis Garrel, a dreamy, straight actor playing straight roles less directly connected to Honoré's own life than the leads here. Nonetheless Sorry Angel is a kind of "coming out" for him, if far from militant or confessional. There are moments of physicality and sex that are pretty blunt, without being graphic.

    It's rather remarkable that Honoré brings all these contrasting elements and moods together into an artistic whole, with some sequences that show his innate cinematic gifts, and particularly a splendid sense of how to use music in a film, as well as a rich background of French pop of the Nineties local audiences will best appreciate. In the end though, on first viewing, it was hard to get my head around it all, or know what to feel. But it still impressed, and my admiration for Honoré remains as strong as ever.

    Honoré also writes novels and plays (little known to anglophone fans), and a related theater piece by him, Les Idoles, about notable men who died of AIDS in the Eighties and Nineties, was recently presented at the Théâtre de l'Odéon in Paris.

    Sorry Angel/Plaire, aimer et courir vite, 132 mins., debuted in Competition at Cannes, May 2018. Screened for this review as part of the New York Film Festival, 30 Sept. 2018. To be distributed in the US by Strand. Metascore 75. As mentioned, French critical rating much higher, AlloCiné 4.2 (based on 20 reviews). At the NYFF public screening, Lacoste and Honoré were present for a Q&A, and Lacoste did not fail to show his fey humor, or Honoré his eloquence and honesty.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-27-2019 at 09:51 PM.

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    Private life (tamara jenkins 2018)

    TAMARA JENKINS: PRIVATE LIFE (2018)


    KATHRYN HAHN AND PAUL GIAMATTI IN PRIVATE LIFE

    A brutal and overly realistic satire of middle-class, middle-aged New Yorkers trying to have a baby

    Critical response has been mostly positive to this 5 October Sundance-Netflix release, Tamara Jenkins' first since her 2007 The Savages. It concerns a very bourgeois New York intellectual couple entering middle age whose relationship is pushed to the edge by the writer wife's struggle to get pregnant via fertility treatments. Wider recognition of the film may be limited, however, as Oswen Gleiberman suggested in his Variety review, for two reasons: Netflix ownership may make its theatrical life very limited, and people who have not struggled with fertility treatments to have a child may have trouble relating.

    I have not, and I did have some trouble. Jenkins seemed to pump up the shocks - or was it just that the reverb of the overloud sound in the theater distorted every crinkled paper bag or line of dialogue? The underlining was unnecessary. The couple's sufferings were intense enough. The result was to turn a narrative already hovering between the Kafkaesque and the deadly dull into a horror movie. All the while one knows it's meant to be funny, and sometimes there are indeed laughs. But every moment is so belabored, Jenkins lacks the slightest lightness of touch. She reportedly took ten years to bring this movie to fruition - another prolonged, abortive effort like the one depicted. Though deeply informed on its subject, Jenkins' film just seems to meander on and on. It might have worked better as a mini-series.

    This has been compared to Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale (NYFF 2005), likewise a "very New York" story much celebrated at a New York Film Festival. Dave Erlich praised this film in his Sundance Indiewire review for not dwelling on intellectual snobbism in depicting its New York intellectual couple despite their accomplishments and their hip East Village dwelling. So what? The Squid and the Whale may be as self-satisfied as Jeff Daniels' smug writer father trumped by his ex Laura Linney and the awkwardness may outweigh the laughs, but Baumbach's film had broader implications than this one.

    As the story begins, in medias res, 41-year-old Rachel (Kathryn Hahn, mostly appealing) and 47-year-old Richard (Paul Giamatti, serviceable as ever) are undergoing a procedure at a Manhattan fertility clinic where he masturbates and the resulting sperm is transferred to her by medical technicians. He is shown pornography he doesn't respond to, and later it turns out he has ejaculated but produced no sperm. He has only one testicle. They look into adoption, and at the same time pursue what medical experts say is their only remaining option of having a child that's genetically in part their own. That is using the host egg of a young woman that's then impregnated with Richard's sperm and transferred to Rachel's uterus to be raised to term. But the egg won't be hers, and Rachel doesn't like this idea. All these things require painful and expensive shots.

    A new development arrives when Rachel and Richard unexpectedly take in a step relative's daughter who has withdrawn from college, Sadie (Kayli Carter). Sadie brings a welcome note of energy and enthusiasm, and so does the actress. Sadie wants to live in New York and her hosts soon arrive upon the idea that the fertilized egg could be hers, an idea she readily - no doubt too readily - takes to. After much hesitation and awkwardness and the shocked opposition of Sadie's mother, they go ahead with this, with Sadie too now receiving the painful and expensive shots. But as has been obvious for some time, this couple is on a highway to nowhere, and the ending is unsatisfying. While this film clearly appealed to the friendly New York Film Festival debut audience, its downbeat aspects, as well as a focus on white privilege that now feels passé, will make it a long slog for many.

    Private Life, 127 mins., which debuted at Sundance Jan. 2018, also showed 1 Oct. in the New York Film Festival, where it was screened for this review. It opens in US theaters 5 Oct. 2018 (at IFC Center, NYC) and simultaneously on the Internet (Netflix). Metascore 78.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-02-2018 at 10:02 AM.

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    NON-FICTION/DOUBLES VIES (Olivier Assayas 2018)

    OLIVIER ASSAYAS: NON-FICTION/DOUBLES VIES (2018)


    JULIETTE BINOCHE AND GUILLAUME CANET IN NON-FICTION

    A midlife-crisis comedy of adultery set against a changing French publishing world

    Whether it is called Non-Fiction or the more resonant Double Lives, Olivier Assayas' energetic new film is a sharply edited, very smart, very French non-stop intellectual farce full of debates and speculations about the rapidly changing worlds of old and new media. Print may be dying out - but is it? Children and old people love to read books, except retirees prefer E-books - cheaper, lighter weight and with the option of larger print. Do people read any more? Are Tweets the epigrams of today? Twitter, the Internet, E-books (narrated by celebrities), blogs, "fake news," are constantly being discussed.

    Meanwhile husbands and wives and lovers and mistresses must be juggled, and this is done with the same dexterity and sangfroid one would bring to business deals or politics. And by the way, do politicians ever have the public in mind or just power and money? And are publishers interested in content or only in commodities? In Double Lives (now emerging as the English title), which debuted at Venice and showed also at Toronto, Assayas considers the state of print in the digital age from the point of view primarily of his two couples, who dance around each other.

    Alain (Guillaume Canet) is an old-fashioned print publisher (though he is constantly toying with going electronic). Selena (Juliette Binoche), Alain's wife, is a busy actress on popular TV. Laure (Christa Théret) is digitally updating Canet's company, and has something else going on with Alain. Léonard (Vincent Macaigne) is a somewhat sleazy novelist of "auto-fiction" (he cannibalizes his many affairs into the next book). He is perhaps down on his luck because Alain isn't offering to publish his latest novel, though he has published the others. Léonard's wife Valérie (Nora Hamzawi) works for a politician.

    Rapidly cutting from one scene of fast dialogue to the next Assayas changes venues at a bracingly rapid clip, playfully introducing possibilities that are blithely reversed in the second half in the manner of certain classic comedies, like the sale of a publishing house, or its dropping of Léonard from Alain's list, only to reverse them later and at the end, things may be pretty much back where they started, except the publisher has dropped his mistress and the celebrity has dropped her lover. The dialogue's the thing, with a few brief interludes in bed, a book talk, an interview on Radio France, a trip to the country and to the grand estate of a mogul, Marc-Antoine, played in a brief appearance by Pascal Greggory.

    Everyone looks a little different, Canet more severe, Binoche less glamorous, Gregory less eccentric, Macaigne - well, Macaigne is always Macaigne, but like all the players, his dialogue and part are so good and his delivery of them so fluent the focus is on them and not the actor per se. "Double Lives" because each character has a serious job to do - Assayas is fine here at showing them at work (or trying to get away with what they do, like Léonard and his personal scandal novels) but also is seen as someone with a messy private existence, with peccadillos their partners may or may not know - or care - about. And in the end also the questions of media have both been taken seriously and dismissed as, perhaps, not such a big deal after all - if only young people would get their noses out of their "devices."

    Assayas' new film again shows his almost unique ability among today's French directors to surprise us, and perhaps himself, with a brilliant treatment of new material - which nonetheless returns to classic themes.

    Non-Fiction/Doubles vies (Double Lives), 108 mins., debuted at Venice 31 Aug. 2018, also showing at seven other festivals including Telluride, Toronto and the New York Film Festival, where it was screened for this review. It will be distributed by IFC/Sundance Selects in the US. Metascore 83. Not out in France till Jan. 2019.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-03-2018 at 06:08 AM.

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    A FAMILY TOUR/自由行 (Ying Liang 2018)

    YING LIANG: A FAMILY TOUR (2018)



    Moments of the pain of exile

    I know Ying Liang only from his first feature, Taking Father Home. I saw it in San Francisco at the 2006 SFIFF with the young Travis Kirby, whose review for Filmleaf said he found its low budget and amateurish cast distracting. A negative response from the Chinese government to Liang's third film, When Night Falls (2012), led him to move to Hong Kong, where he made this, his first film in six years, set in Taiwan. In an online New Yorker article Richard Brody points out that there was a retrospective of Ling's work at Lincoln Center in 2009. Brody says Ling is "one of the greatest filmmakers in the world" and calledA Family Tour " the best dramatic feature I’ve seen (so far)" in the current New York Film Festival. There must have been a lot of progress since 2006, but Brody's comments indicate that technical polish has been slow to come in Ying's work.

    A Family Tour is autobiographical. Its focus is a filmmaker (in this case a woman) out of favor with the Chinese government and living in Hong Kong, who seeks a long-delayed reunion with family members, hiding their real relationship. Jay Weissberg says in his Variety review that even as far back as Taking Father Home Ling has been casting "a sharp, unflattering light on Chinese society deformed by decades of Party rule." A Family Tour is a portrait of the heartbreak of exile and to a lesser extent a satire of people who succeed in China by playing the dominant materialistic game. There is no problem with the acting this time. However a fifteen-year-old American as Travis was back then might find it nearly as tedious as Taking Father Home.

    This is because Ying's method is to focus on a series of ultra-specific, almost realtime sequences steeped in the tedium of the quotidian. Except this complicated attempt for a filmmaker daughter in exile, Yang Shu (Gong Zhe), her husband the Hong Kong-born and legal Hong Kong resident Cheung Ka-ming (Pete Teo), and their feisty, intractable four-year-old son (Tham Xin Yue) to meet with her mother from mainland China, Chen Xiaolin (Nai An) in Taiwan is not only a rare event, but probably not likely to happen again. Chen Xiaolin is walking with a cane, and turns out to be on the brink of an unspecified operation. She is not well, and collapses and is temporarily hospitalized during the tour.

    The film Yang Shu is in exile for is called When Night Falls. The reason for this charade, is that the only way ordinary citizens of mainland China can come to Taiwan is to join an organized tour. But the family is hounded constantly by Peng ("33," also co-scriptwriter), the annoying female tour supervisor, and by other tour members and cab drivers with prying questions or suspicions or worries about their status. Their little son has been coached not to reveal that Chen is his grandmother.

    Yang Shu, who is also here for a new film being shown at a film festival, at fist seems withdrawn, distracted and angry. It takes her some time to open up to her mother, whom initially she doesn't even think she can find words to talk to after their years of separation. They have had only periodic conversations online. Relations aren't helped when Yang’s mother gives her a pencil recording of an intimidating police visit she received when her daughter's last film was showing in a festival (which the authorities, in Ying's case, tried hard to block).

    Chen has never seen the boy in person, explaining why he is skittish with her, and only at the very end consents to pose with her for a selfie, which she will treasure. Chen refuses their request that she go to live with them in Hong Kong. She partly justifies, or makes the best of, her revelations that her husband's grave will be moved and her house will be demolished in China's endless renovations. She says the compensation offered isn't bad. She insists on returning, and Yang Shu's husband insists on accompanying her. We also learn about her husband's political persecution, more than her daughter had previously known.

    This is a very specific, and very sad film. It is mired in details. Yes, Ying's knack for the humdrum detail is remarkable, but this means the film is also sometimes tedious. Moments of poetry come in actual poetry and journal entries spoken by Yang Shu. There are also moments of playfulness or humor, but they seem all-too brief. This is a bad trip.

    I watched A Family Tour at a small public NYFF screening in the FSLC Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center that began with the announcement that Ying Liang had been prevented from coming, due to visa problems in Hong Kong - the same problems repeatedly alluded to for Yang Shu in this film. His statement was read, in a strong French accent, in which he cut himself short saying he did't want to give an impression of sadness, because that isn't the way his life is. But, well, sadness is the overwhelming impression. Except that, unyielding and unfun as this film is, it is in its way a well-made film, a film of intense commitment and conviction, and those are never anything to be sad about. (For more details about the film, see Sam C. Mac's Slant review as well as Jay Weissberg's Variety review, from Locarno, as well as Joe Bendel's review on JC Spins,, which points to some aspects not mentioned elsewhere, including parallels between China today and the worse times of the Cultural Revolution, with family members again forced to sever ties to protect each other.

    A Family Tour/ 自由行 (Zi You Xing, "Free Travel"), 108 mins., debuted at Locarno 1 Aug. 2018, also showing at Vancouver and the New York Film Festival, where it was screened for this review 3 Oct. 2018.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-04-2018 at 08:03 AM.

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    BURNING/BEONING 버닝 (Lee Chang-dong 2018)

    LEE CHANG-DONG: BURNING/BEONING 버닝 (2018)


    JUN JONG-SEO AND YOO AH-IN IN BURNING

    A resonant slow burner thriller

    Burning, Lee Chang-dong's first film in eight years, won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes this year and was nominated for the Palme d'Or. It features the Korean-American actor Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Sorry to Bother You) suave and assured in his first starring role in a Korean film, but well matched by the other two leads. This is South Korea's Best Foreign Oscar entry for 2019, and it's certainly clear why. Burning is a brilliant film that takes a Haruki Murakami short story that appeared in The New Yorker in 1992, adds flavor from Faulkner, and deepens the mix with details and twists that will thrill and haunt you. (Faulkner also wrote a story in 1939 called "Barn Burning," the title of the Murakami story.)

    Lee doesn't make many movies, but when he does, they're worth waiting for. This is a mystery and a character study that's astonishing in its richness. Part of the brilliance is how Lee and his co-author Oh Jung-Mi work with the limited details of Murakami's story, making them more resonant without unduly embroidering them, retaining unexplained elements, adding satisfying touches. This turns into a love triangle more intense than the original story's - to put it mildly. And the class differences are further heightened and allowed to simmer, as well as the mystery.

    Action begins with Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in) a boyish, inexperienced young man who wants to be a writer. He grew up in a village, abandoned by his mother young, raised by his farmer father whose anger problem is about to lead to jail time due to an act of serious violence against an official for which he refuses the apology that might gain him leniency, an issue frustrating and angering to Jongsu that threads through the film.

    Jongsu has a menial delivery job that leads him by chance to Haemi, (Jun Jong-seo) a young woman in scanty clothing advertising a product come-on on he street. Haemi recognizes Jongsu, though he doesn't know her, and eagerly chats him up. She explains to him that they grew up in the same village and went to the same school. She asks him how she looks. She admits she's had "work" done, but in school the only thing he said to her was that she was ugly. He doesn't remember.

    They go on a date that night and have sex in her little apartment, where she has a shy cat named "Boil" that never comes out. On this first date she has revealed she studied with a mime and can mimic things like peeling a fruit so realistically you think the fruit is there. She tells him about the "Little Hunger" and the "Big Hunger." The Big Hunger is a need to penetrate the meaning of life. For that, she wants to travel. She gets a trip to Africa somehow, to Kenya, and they arrange for Jongsu to come to her little flat whiles she's away to feed Boil. The memory of their first night there stimulates Jongsu to masturbate looking out the window whenever he makes these kitty runs.

    The big jolt comes when Jongsu drives his old truck to the airport to meet Haemi after her trip and she arrives accompanied by a man, Ben (Steven Yeon), who winds up driving off with Haemi after dinner in his fancy late-model Porsche that a friend has brought to the restaurant. Ben is handsome, assured and rich. More than once we visit his sleek modern apartment. Ben won't reveal the source of his wealth, but he's superficially quite friendly to Jongsu. He cooks pasta for the three of them. He invites Jongsu to a gathering with well-off friends. Jongsu is never explicitly treated like an ignoramus or a peasant. Yoo Ah-in, who, despite the emphasis on Yeon especially in the US press, is the film's protagonist and the character with the most screen time, makes Jongsu an intriguing character, conveying his uncertainty, a goofiness, an old-fashioned politeness, and at times a feral energy, hinting at a repressed, perhaps inherited, rage. As for the smug, easeful Ben, he seems to have projects, but he only says he likes to "play," with the hint that conveys of deviance or amorality. Haemi says he's merely rich. Jongsu, spinning off a line in Murakami's story, says there are many Gatsbys in Korea now. No doubt there are many Jongsus too.

    Jongsu has lost Haemi to the Porsche and the poshness, and yet he is more interested in her than ever and she seems still interested in him. Perhaps Ben's hold over her is sinister? When it seems Ben and Haemi have been missing for a while, they call Jongsu and immediately come, in the Porsche, to Jongsu's family farm, near the North Korean border - which Ben thinks a fun fact. He brings a picnic supper and French wine. When he passes around a joint, Ben reveals his habit of harmlessly (without larger injury to property or men) setting fire to greenhouses. This happens every couple of months. He hasn't done one since the Africa trip, so he's due. He's been scouting them in Jongsu's area, he says and has found one quite near the farm, but he won't say where.

    The dope and this story prompt a vivid dream in Jonngsu of himself as a child in front of a burning greenhouse, filling the screen with its bright yellow flames. Did he set the fire? It's only a dream, but it plants a seed. From then on Jongsu covers the whole region around, sometimes breathlessly running, casing greenhouses, looking for the one Ben may have torched, in his eager frenzy almost torching one himself. Meanwhile, as this futile, anxious search continues, Haemi disappears. Her phone line dries up, and she is not at her apartment. Jongsu is worried about her cat starving. Ben confirms that he has lost touch too, says she's gone up "like a puff of smoke."

    The action of Burning is studded with mysteries and dead ends, but it takes a very specific and decisively violent shape in the final reel. This slow but wonderful film, which is full of hints of class, jealousy, sex, rage, mystery and unexpected violence, leaves haunting traces that linger long in the mind. One of the year's best films.

    Burning, 148 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2018, and showed in at least two dozen other international festivals. Screened for this review as part of the New York Film Festival 4 Oct. 2018, with Steven Yeun present for a Q&A. Metascore 96%. US theatrical release begins 26 Oct. (NYC) and 2 Nov. (LA), SF Bay Area 9 Nov. 2018.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-02-2019 at 09:58 AM.

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