Beoning [Burning] (2018)

Beoning
Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writer: Jungmi Oh, Chang-dong Lee
Based on: Haruki Murakami‘s short story Barn Burning
Cast: Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun, Soo-Kyung Kim, Seung-ho Choi
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2018
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Plot:
Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo) meets Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun) again by chance: they grew up in the same neighborhood when they were kids and are now both pretty much on their own in the big city. Hae-mi asks Jong-su to watch her cat while she goes on a trip to Africa. As he is quite smitten with her, he gladly agrees. When she returns, though, things don’t really take the romantic turn Jong-su had hoped for. Instead Hae-mi introduces him to Ben (Steven Yeun) who she met on the trip. Jong-su is in euqal parts jealous of and fascinated by the richer, suave Ben who he doesn’t trust at all.

Burning starts off well but loses steam in the last third or so, leaving me with an overall feeling of disappointment: despite many good qualities, the film could have been more in my opinion.

The film poster showing a man in a hoody running through a sunset landscape.
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Noruwei no mori [Norwegian Wood] (Haruki Murakami)

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (here my review of the movie adaptation)

Plot:
Toru just started university in Tokyo when he runs into Naoko. Naoko used to be Toru’s best friend Kizuki’s girlfriend but after Kizuki committed suicide, they fell out of touch. Toru and Naoko start hanging out, then sleep together but afterwards, Naoko disappears. After a bit Toru finds out that Naoko is staying at a sanatorium. While she is gone, he meets Midori who is pretty much everything Naoko is not. Even though Toru is completely devoted to Naoko, his friendship with Midori deepens.

Murakami writes wonderful prose and that’s true for this book as well. But it took me pretty long to get into it and in the end the book just didn’t satisfy me.

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Noruwei no mori [Norwegian Wood] (2010)

Noruwei no mori
Director: Anh Hung Tran
Writer: Anh Hung Tran
Based on: Haruki Murakami‘s novel
Cast: Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi, Kiko Mizuhara, Reika Kirishima, Tetsuji Tamayama, Eriko Hatsune

Plot:
Toru (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) just started university in Tokyo when he runs into Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi). Naoko used to be Toru’s best friend Kizuki’s (Kengo Kôra) girlfriend but after Kizuki committed suicide, they fell out of touch. Toru and Naoko start hanging out, then sleep together but afterwards, Naoko disappears. After a bit Toru finds out that Naoko is staying at a sanatorium. While she is gone, he meets Midori (Kiko Mizuhara) who is pretty much everything Naoko is not. Even though Toru is completely devoted to Naoko, his friendship with Midori deepens.

This movie did not work, neither as a film of its own, nor as an adaptation of the novel. It was way too long and disjointed. At least the cast was mostly fine and the cinematography nice.

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Penelope (2006)

Penelope, Penelope, why can’t more movies be like you?

Just so you know, I absolutely loved every frickin detail of this story. Starting with the plot, continuing with the characters, ending with set/production/costume design. Oh, and let’s not forget the beautiful message this movie sends, which actually makes sense.

Penelope is the daughter of a rich, aristocratic family. Unfortunately, she was cursed and is born with a pig nose. In an attempt to keep her safe until the nose is gone and the curse lifted, her parents lock her in at home and bring her one blue-blooded husband contender after the other, in the hopes that he’s Mr Right.

The setting is magical realism (tor has a great essay up on magical realism), the style reminded me of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium or Big Fish. And it really made me want more movies set in worlds like that. In literature, it’s pretty prevalent (think Gabriel García Márquez or Haruki Murakami among others), in movies, it’s not. Very sad.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Christina Ricci is a wonderful Penelope, sweet and naive, but also strong and powerful, filled with purpose and a sharp mind. Catherine O’Hara is the well-meaning mother of everybody’s nightmares. James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods and Russell Brand (who is everywhere nowadays) complete a perfect and very funny cast.

As I said before, I loved the design of the whole thing – Penelope’s clothes, her room, the city… it all fits the general mood of the movie and is just extremely pretty. And magic.

What it boils down to is that it’s a wonderful fairy tale that reminds you that the world is kind of enchanted. When you look at it closely.

And it’s actually a movie that got 10 out of 10 points on my list.

Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami)

Kafka on the Shore is a novel by Haruki Murakami (who btw. has a beautiful homepage with Random House). Like almost everything else he writes, it’s magical realism. Like everything I’ve read from him so far (which isn’t a lot, truth to be told), it’s wonderfully written, engaging, intelligent, but not too intellectual (too intellectual = reading it with a dictionary and an encyclopedia close by so you understand it), entertaining, interesting, outspoken, sexy, … Long story short, it’s everything you want a novel to be.

I really, really loved all the characters. There wasn’t one I thought was ill-conceived or not likeable. 

It’s a book to read again and again. Perfect.