Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Sure, your Great Uncle fought in the Korean War, and you drive a Kia, and you get your nails done at a Korean nail salon, and you watch the news on your 55-inch Samsung QLED Smart 4K UHD TV. Maybe you even know that South Korea is located near that similar-named country where Kim Jung-un tests his scary nuclear missiles.

But what do you know about South Korean culture – movies, for instance?

If you’re a serious film buff, you may have seen “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” or “Oldboy.”

Or maybe you watched the sci-fi thriller “Snowpiercer” without realizing its Korean pedigree.

While South Korean films often get eclipsed by the constant barrage of Hollywood blockbusters, there are notable cinematic entries coming from that faraway Asian peninsula.

“Burning” is one worth your viewing. And it’s showing Jan. 3 at Tropic Cinema as part of the ongoing Cinematheque Series.

Directed by Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong, “Burning” won the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique prize at Cannes Film Festival. Counting “Burning,” Lee has directed six feature films (“Green Fish,” “Peppermint Candy,” “Oasis,” “Secret Sunshine,” and “Poetry”).

An intriguing mystery drama, “Burning” is based on a short story called “Barn Burning.” But as it turns out, the reference is to burning greenhouses, not barns.

Here, we meet aspiring novelist Lee Jong-su, a young man who helps out on the family farm. One day he bumps into Shin Hae-mi, a childhood friend who is planning a trip to Africa. He falls for her. But she returns from her trip with a strange guy named Ben in tow. Ben confides to Lee that he has an unusual hobby – burning down greenhouses. Then, Hae-mi disappears. Can this professed arsonist be behind it?

And if so, what can Lee Jong-su do about it?

Question is, what would you do about it?

The answer will show how well you understand the Korean mind.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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