Although we’ve always prided ourselves on our coverage of the international film scene, 2018 marked the first time a foreign-language film topped The A.V. Club’s list of the best films of the year. That film is Burning, South Korean master Lee Chang-Dong’s minimalist comic noir about underemployed everyman Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), his unrequited crush Hae-mi (Jun Jong-seo), and the smug sociopath who upends both of their lives, Ben (Steven Yeun, in his first major Korean-language performance). In his rave review of the film from the Cannes Film Festival, our film editor A.A. Dowd called Burning:
[A]slow dramatic simmer that intensifies gradually over two-and-a-half perfectly measured hours, until it reaches a shocking and powerful crescendo ... Refusing to hold our hand, Lee lets the meaning of certain discoveries and conversations and decisions reveal themselves over time, masterfully linking our dawning awareness with Jong-soo’s. The larger subject here is hierarchies of class and privilege; Burning makes social status the elephant in every room, coloring the relationship among his three characters through a pronounced power imbalance. This conflict plays across three perfectly judged performances, including an arrogantly, chillingly relaxed turn from Yeun that should help any Walking Dead fans still bummed about Glen’s role in the series get over their melancholy right quick.
We’re giving away five copies of Lee Chang-Dong’s Burning on Blu-ray courtesy of the film’s distributor, Well Go USA; to enter to win yours, email us at email@example.com with the subject line “Boil” and your full U.S. mailing address (no P.O. boxes, please) by 1 p.m. CT tomorrow, Tuesday, February 26. We’ll pick winners that afternoon, and notify them by email.
Burning is out on digital now, and hits DVD and Blu-ray on March 5.