3 Movies Like Burning (2018) On Criterionchannel

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Burning ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Vague statement alert: Burning is not a movie that you “get”; it’s a movie you experience. Based on a short story by Murakami, it’s dark and bleak in a way that comes out more in the atmosphere of the movie rather than what happens in the story. Working in the capital Seoul, a young guy from a poor town near the North Korean border runs into a girl from his village. As he starts falling for her, she makes an unlikely acquaintance with one of Seoul’s wealthy youth (played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, pictured above.) This new character is mysterious in a way that’s all-too-common in South Korea: young people who have access to money no one knows where it came from, and who are difficult to predict or go against. Two worlds clash, poor and rich, in a movie that’s really three movies combined into one - a character-study, a romance, and a revenge thriller.

Though the drag scene is alive and well today, Paris is Burning is an important reminder that it didn’t always used to be that way. Over the course of seven years, Director Jennie Livingston leads us underneath the crime-ridden streets of 80s New York, where a glittery drag subculture is flourishing, despite all odds. Leading the community are the so-called mothers, the best performers and most fashionable of them all, tasked with inspiring and caring for newcomers. Nevermind that they’re shunned by society and suffocated (sometimes literally) by hateful homophobes and racists; when there is a ball, all that matters is that they strut, dance, and put on the best damn show of their lives. What they do is art, and Livingston makes sure to exalt the craft and pride that goes into it. At the same time, intimate interviews with iconic queens like Pepper LaBeija and Willi Ninja reveal the heartbreaking nature of the community. Most, if not all, have endured some form of abuse, and many risk their lives to earn a decent living. But again, Livingston refuses to reduce them to pure tragedy; she gets them to share their wonderfully big dreams, then gets us to hope along with them that they might just come true.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dorian Corey, Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija, Sol Williams Pendavis, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja

Director: Jennie Livingston

Rating: R

Once banned by Chinese censors, Suzhou River depicts love and obsession amidst the gritty, urban underbelly of Shanghai. As the film is portrayed through an anonymous videographer, seen only by his hands, it’s easy to fall in love as he does, with the mesmerizing Meimei (Zhou Xun), performing as a mermaid in a dive bar. However, he can’t seem to trust her, as she flits in and out of his life, with no clear notice. Likewise, the tragic romance told by motorcycle courier Mardar can’t be trusted, given that the river’s inhabitants warped it into folklore. Faces can’t even be trusted, especially with the double casting of actress Zhou Xun as Meimei and as innocent rich daughter Moudan. Because of these contrasts and its ambiguity, Suzhou River sweeps us into an alluring, mysterious tale, but reminds us not to get caught by the current.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Jia Hongsheng, Nai An, Yao Anlian, Zhou Xun

Director: Lou Ye

You can tell Drugstore Cowboy was written by someone who has been through drug abuse and incarceration himself. This is the kind of film that has to be lived, not researched. It’s realistic, sure, and it gets at the interiority of a drug user with ease. But there is no judgment to be found here, no preachy criticism or misguided glorification of a hardened lifestyle. Bob (Matt Dillon) and his wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch) have created a nomadic, transient life that allows them to live on drugstore lootings one district at a time, while looking out for each other and the other couple they live with, Rick (James LeGros) and Nadine (Heather Graham). They chose this outlaw life, and because of the agency the film affords them, there is joy to be found despite their difficulties. It’s an authentic story, elevated by imaginative editing, a jazzy, heart-thumping score, and believable performances by a quartet of capable actors.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Beah Richards, Eric Hull, George Catalano, Grace Zabriskie, Gus Van Sant, Heather Graham, James Le Gros, James Remar, Kelly Lynch, Matt Dillon, Max Perlich, Michael Parker, Ted D'Arms, William S. Burroughs

Director: Gus Van Sant

Rating: R