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Title [Media Analysis] “Burning” Receives Accolades at 71st Cannes Film Festival
No 74 Inquiry 415 Date 2018.05.25

The Cannes Film Festival, one of the world’s three major film festivals, closed after a 12-day run starting May 8 in the city of southern France. Starting with Chunhyang by Im Kwon-taek in 2000, Cannes has invited Korean films every year, and has selected one or two Korean movies as runners-up in the “In Competition” section almost every year since. In addition to Oldboy winning the Grand Prix in 2004, Korean films have won awards at the Cannes for Best Director (Chihwaseon [Painted Free] in 2002), Best Actress (Secret Sunshine in 2007), Jury Prize (Thirst in 2009) and Best Screenplay (Poetry in 2010). Shin-Sung-Ga-Jok (La Famille Sacrée) of 2001, which was presented in the Short Films category of In Competition, should be mentioned as well. These films let the world know the potential of Korean movies. This year, Lee Chang-dong’s Burning was among the films selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The Spy Gone North by Yoon Jong-bin was also invited to the Midnight Screening segment, but neither film earned an award. The news was rather disheartening, as many film people and local media had talked about Burning as a likely award winner after it premiered at the Grand Theatre Lumiere.


Director Lee Chang-dong featured by Le Monde. (Source: Le Monde)


The May 18 issue of French newspaper Liberation published a favorable review of Lee Chang-dong’s cinematic world in an article titled “Burning.” The writer said the movie was more powerful, transparent, and magnificent than any other movie he saw during the Cannes Film Festival, although watching the film 10 days into festival may not have put it into its best light. The writer said the movie’s allure lies in its intensity, and the jury of Cannes must have felt the same level of joy as the general audience. He also added that the film should win the Palme D’Or, and if it doesn’t, he might as well burn his press card.


Le Figaro reviewed Burning with focus on the movie’s two main characters. (Source: Le Figaro)


On the same day, Le Monde wrote about the intensity of Lee Chang-dong. It noted that the film’s sudden, yet superb conclusion makes the imagination more solid. The newspaper also mentioned Lee’s political career as the minister of Culture and Tourism and his experience of being blacklisted under the Park Geun-hye administration. Another newspaper, Le Figaro, analyzed the film in an article titled “Burning, dangerous illusions.” The writer made comparisons between the movie and Haruki Murakami’s “Barn Burning,” the short story which the film was based on. Lee elegantly dives into the blanks of Murakami’s short story about a man who sets fire to an abandoned barn just to feel joy and draws Murakami’s world into his own Korean version. Whereas Murakami likes complex plots and uses elegant touches, Lee’s film is more rustic and has the powerful charms of a thriller hidden beneath its melodramatic surface, he wrote. The article said that in conclusion, Lee created a beautiful movie by rewriting an original with respect for the Japanese author’s spirit. Although Korean films have failed to win awards at Cannes in the past few years, they are continuing to raise new issues and receive accolades.


Ji Young-ho (Correspondent of KOFICE in France)