This period thriller-thing was an improvement over Belmonte. As with that movie, it’s sometimes hard to tell what it’s adding up to narratively, but it effectively builds atmosphere. Where this is all going must be more apparent to Argentinians of a certain age than it was to me. I did notice that whenever two dudes have a disagreement, one of them ends up disappeared into the desert, which gave me flashbacks to the post-Pinochet doc Nostalgia for the Light.

Darío Grandinetti (from Talk to Her) publicly psychoanalyzes a rude stranger into freaking out and committing suicide. Neighbors call Darío “counselor,” but he’s obviously not a mental health counselor, just a respected lawyer, who is close with government man Vivas who wants to “buy” a house that isn’t on the market because its previous owners disappeared before they could sell (leaving behind bloody handprints, how sloppy), so now the paperwork’s all a mess.

Eventually a famous Chilean detective (Pablo Larraín regular Alfredo Castro, the dog trainer in The Club) will come around asking questions about the suicided man, who turns out to be Vivas’s wife Mabel’s brother. While we wait for the detective plot to kick in, all the sidetrack scenes are intriguing… Mabel freaks out at a museum… a government official welcomes three American cowboys whose performance was postponed by a previous official… Darío’s family attends a slow-mo rodeo and has a great time while an animal is slaughtered to mournful string music… his wife encounters a stranger while peeing in the woods during an eclipse.

The Wives:

The Men:

According to Michael Sicinski, Naishtat is “a highly experimental filmmaker aim[ing] for greater accessibility,” so it’s be interesting to see his earlier features. I remember hearing things in Cinema Scope about El Movimiento. V. Rizov in Filmmaker summarizes Rojo: “A really unpleasant lawyer kills a guy because he can and then commits all kinds of similarly unsavory bullshit. The movie is, nonetheless, very fun…” and Adam Nayman writes more about cynicism and disappearance.

Jeez, this is the second time in a few months that I’ve watched two current 4:3 movies in a row. I suppose this one justifies it with the VHS tape tie-in (though what can justify the VHS tapes), and The Lighthouse is set on a lighthouse so I’ll allow a taller ratio… Nightingale maybe just for the period setting, overall the weakest 4:3 justification of the bunch, and I just dug the look of The Mountain so it can take whatever ratio it wants. D’Ambrose said that he made each of his shorts to work out a different filmmaking problem, and it seems like he’s still working things out – he’s almost got a movie, but this felt more like an exercise. Of course then I watched the credits and changed my tune; this is obviously the latest high masterpiece from savvy executive producer Brandon Bentley.

Keith (left) with the disappeared David (Bingham Bryant of Spiral Jetty):

Somebody Up There Likes Me star Keith Poulson meets David, who is writing about a late, controversial political theorist, and gives Keith a job itemizing the videotapes from the theorist’s travels and describing their contents. “I rarely saw anyone in any of these recordings. Their importance was unclear.”

There’s a riot and murder or two, but the movie describes these in documents, maintaining its quiet, measured tone in the main action. A wordless art gallery scene worked for me, the talky panel on translation did not. “Do you think this is uninteresting?” was the first line I heard upon resuming the movie, after pausing to see if anything was happening in the news (D’Ambrose told Filmmaker that scene died in Berlin and he hoped the NYC in-crowd would find it funnier). On the plus side: the great Tallie Medel (The Unspeakable Act).

Style quirks: studio-audience applause over the first shots of actors… blackouts between scenes are video-green… small roles are filled out with a bunch of film critics I read… of course lotta close-ups on documents. Phil Coldiron does not appear, but wrote a major Cinema Scope article on D’Ambrose, which I can only partly follow.

Vadim Rizov:

Consistently clipped editing keeps the tone fluid: humor is in the cuts, and the film is never needlessly dour, deliberately refusing to dutifully find its way to a neatly summarizable Statement About The Zeitgeist.

D’Ambrose:

I don’t think of Todd and Karen and most of the characters as “intellectuals” – I can’t take them seriously as thinkers, I think of them as part of a milieu … I’m grateful I didn’t end up calling the movie The Millennials, which was the original title.

Awkward Jongsu bumps into former classmate Haemi (Jong-seo Jun), who looks extremely cute peeling and eating a nonexistent orange. I thought about the orange for the rest of the movie – not really there, but appearing to be – as the story ambiguously unfolds, Jongsu constantly frustrated and starting to pin all his problems on the guy Haemi brings back from abroad before disappearing, Ben (Steven Yeun, union leader of Sorry To Bother You). Uncertainties pile up until Jongsu takes decisive action at the end.

It’s the promo still, but I really like it:

Blake Williams in Filmmaker:

The margins of the central enigma are steeped in uncertainty, every character untrustworthy — enhanced by an intensely unsettling mise en scène that feels simultaneously sacred and profane at every instant. Characters subtly morph — psychologically, physically — over the course of its running time, to the point where I was questioning my own perceptual stability; a remarkable effect that, in retrospect, is absolutely part of the film’s design. As I mentioned earlier, Burning could, in addition to being exemplary cinema, easily coast on being a handsome piece of genre-singed social commentary — the outward villain, Ben, is referred to as a “Gatsby” at one point, expressing a widespread ire toward those effortlessly, unconscionably wealthy Korean men who somehow dominate the country.