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« "I dont know. You erased me." | Main | "The Savages", Also Revisited »
Friday
Oct052018

Coming Very Soon: Oscar Submissions "Burning" and "Border"

NYFF/TIFF screenings from Nathaniel R


"My what lovely posters!" he said, as he struggled to decide how to review two pictures that are best seen cold, knowing as little as possible. "But people don't buy tickets / get excited about movies without knowing something," he reasoned with himself about reviewing both South Korea and Sweden's Oscar submissions which are opening in US theaters very soon.

"Okay, okay," the purist in him, responded. "I'll say a little something about each but only if I can limit my discussion to the posters! People absolutely shouldn't watch the trailers." "Deal" his practical self muttered rolling his eyes, having been through this existential crisis of movie blogging numerous times. "Proceed..."

BURNING (Lee Chang-dong) Opening in select cities on November 9th

The poster designers behind Burning, South Korea's Oscar submission from the great auteur Lee Chang-dong (Poetry, Secret Sunshine) had a difficult task. How do you sell a hypnotic mystery that you can read multiple ways provided you fully embrace both its danger and it's winking nod to metaphors? How do you convey the intense feelings of isolation and disconnectedness the movie conjures even though it's about three people who are very much entangled?

The new poster, superimposing a young woman, arms stretched to heaven, over the image of a lone man in an empty country road is a great solution. Even better the large silhouette is lifted from the movie's best and arguably most pivotal scene about halfway (two-thirds?) through the movie, in which restless Hae-Mi (Jeon Jong-seo in a remarkable debut) dances by herself, suddenly oblivious to the two men she's hanging with. The background photo is from the movie's wandering aftermath. Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) has said something awful to Hae-Mi, severing their fast friendship, and become thoroughly unnerved by an unexpected confidence from city-slick Ben (Steven Yeun in a mesmerizingly smart star turn) who he likens, not unwisely to the Great Gatsby. Afterwards Jong-su is continually wandering his home town's lonely roads searching, but for what? 

The other solution, individual character posters, is a more familiar tactic but nearly as true to this particular movie in which Jong-su, far left, is often staring stupefied at people and things he doesn't quite grasp, including the unknowable Ben who he sort of idolizes (note the camera angle), and Hae-mi who he's fallen hard for but who will clearly always be moving on. She's always on the move in search of something. But what? 

 

BORDER (Ali Abassi) Opening in select cities on October 26th

The new poster to Border, up top, is a snapshot of a moment of intense abandon betweeen customs officer Tina (Eva Melender) and a man named Vore (Eero Milonoff) who has intrigued her from the first moment they met. She has finally let down her guard around. The clarity and color of the image is something -- it's as bracing as cold lake water. You can feel the wooded air around them, too, as they swim.

As beautiful and attention grabbing as the new poster is, I actually prefer the first teaser poster, a stranger and more evocative image that is an interpretation of what's onscreen rather than an actual still. In the image Tina appears to be buried in the earth, not unhappily. She doesn't much like people -- she's been teased all her life for her ugliness -- and she's far more at home with her own company in the woods behind her home.  You can practically taste the dirt and smell the grass and flowers. Smell, not sight, is the key sense in Border since Tina has an unusual ability to sniff out emotions (particularly fear). Our first look at her is a comically unflattering closeup of as she sniffs the air while passengers walk by her station.

If something isn't right with a traveller, Tina will always root it out. With Vore, though, her senses fail her and she can't get enough and needs to know why. It's a wonderfully weird often surprising movie that is utterly Scandinavian to its bones, but also surprisingly Hollywood in its narrative commitment to the procedural genre.

P.S. Oscar chances? I'd like to think that the Executive Committee will save Burning in the Best Foreign Language Film Race because it's probably too challenging for the first round of voting but it's memorable enough to have a solid shot competing with only 8 other films in the final. That said this is a highly competitive year so who knows what they'll feel compelled to save. As for Border I'm at a loss. I assumed it was going to be a nutso crowd pleaser but it seems to be more divisive than I was expecting with audiences. I could see it going either way but I hope the film manages at least a surprise nomination in Best Makeup and Hair. 

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Reader Comments (7)

Omg, I'm DYING to see Burning, and those posters only make it harder to wait! I don't think it makes it into D.C. until November, though.

I never watched "The Walking Dead," but I'm really hoping to see Steven Yeun's star rise. He's got a quiet charisma and was surprisingly sexy in "Sorry to Bother You."

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

Burning is one of the best films of the year, and if there were any justice it would be a shoo-in for s Best Foreign Film nomination. But I'm not optimistic. If the committee is obtuse enough to not nominate Oasis, or the magnificent Secret Sunshine, ignoring Burning for European mediocrities like Never Look Away or Girl should be a snap.

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Is Burning in the same league of his other movies, Poetry specially?

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I was mixed on Burning out of TIFF, but I must say that it's the one film that I keep coming back to.

(And is it just me or does Yoo Ah-in spend the whole movie with his mouth agape?)

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Burning A+

October 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvangelina

Cal -- i didn't think it was at Poetry's level but it's pretty damn good.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Like Evan, I too was initially somewhat nonplussed after seeing Burning, and yet it is the film that I think about most ever since TIFF. Especially that lingering response to a question asked of Jong-su in regards to the type of novel he was writing: "...I don't know what type of novel I should write...the world is an enigma to me". Or Ben comparing himself to a rain that turns into a flood, sweeping 'things' away. The more I think of the movie, the more it haunts me. I will be very disappointed if does not get nominated

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIshmael

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