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Review: In ‘Burning,’ Love Ignites a Divided World

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burning love movie review

By Manohla Dargis

  • Oct. 25, 2018

One of the most beautiful scenes in a movie this year — in many years — comes midway through “Burning.” Two men and a woman are lazing around outside a home. They’re in the South Korean countryside, near the border with North Korea, where the squawk of propaganda drifts in and out from loudspeakers. Now, though, in the velvety dusk light, the sound of Miles Davis’s ethereal trumpet fills the air, and the woman begins swaying, taking off her shirt. She is dancing for the men, but mostly she’s dancing in what feels like ecstatic communion between her and the world.

Desire, ravenous and ineffable, shudders through “Burning,” the latest from the great South Korean director Lee Chang-dong. Set in the present, the movie involves the complicated, increasingly fraught relationships among three characters whose lives are tragically engulfed as desire gives way to rage. The story has the quality of a mystery thriller — somebody goes missing, somebody else tries to figure out why — one accompanied by the drumbeat of politics. The larger, more agonizing question here, though, involves what it means to live in a divided, profoundly isolating world that relentlessly drives a wedge between the self and others.

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The story opens the day that a young delivery man, Jongsu (Ah-in Yoo), meets a young woman, Haemi (Jong-seo Jun), in a chaotic, anonymous city. She works as store barker, dancing in scanty clothing while tempting shoppers with raffle prizes. Haemi hails Jongsu and reveals that they know each other from their hometown — he has no memory of her — then blurts out that she’s had plastic surgery. Later, she reminds him that when they were young he once crossed a street to tell her she was ugly, news she casually delivers while searching for a reaction that never comes.

Jun gives a physically open, natural performance that works as a lovely counterpoint to Haemi’s cryptic actions — she has an unseen cat, peels an invisible tangerine — while Yoo invests Jongsu with a reserve that suggests social awkwardness that can seem self-interested. (Slack-jawed, Jongsu hunches like a man in retreat or a teenager who hasn’t settled into his adult body.) Despite his seeming indifference to Haemi, he responds to her friendliness, and before long they’re in bed. This nascent intimacy abruptly ends when she leaves on a trip. When she returns with a wealthy enigma, Ben (Steven Yeun), the three form an awkward triangle, a configuration that derails Jongsu.

The movie is based on “Barn Burning,” a 1992 short story by Haruki Murakami that throbs with unspoken menace and shares its title with a far more blatantly violent 1939 story by William Faulkner . Lee nods at Faulkner (a favorite author of Jongsu whom Ben begins reading), but takes most of his cues from Murakami’s story. Lee retains its central triangle and some details, while making it his own by, for instance, changing the Miles Davis music . Mostly, Lee slowly foregrounds the uneasy violence that flickers through the Murakami to stunning, devastating effect.

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Film Review: ‘Burning Love’

A proud anti-Semite galvanizes the world into embracing its bigotry in Alberto Caviglia’s deliriously bold mockumentary.

By Jay Weissberg

Jay Weissberg

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burning love

Unfortunately a lot of people will get their knickers in a twist denouncing Alberto Caviglia for daring to make a mockumentary about anti-Semitism— mainly people with no sense of humor, nor an understanding of how best to draw attention to prejudice. “ Burning Love ” is a deliriously funny, at times shockingly biting satire designed as a news feature on the disappearance of a young man who galvanizes the world into being proud of its latent anti-Semitism. Targeting the right demographic will be a challenge: A local release in October barely left a mark, though brave Jewish fests should celebrate this ferocious pic for thinking outside the box.

Part of what makes the film so clever is the way Caviglia reveals the hollowness of “tolerance,” knowing that beneath this overused word lies an ocean of prejudice. “Burning Love” is the mockumentary equivalent of “The Simpsons,” exposing through exaggeration by making its protag a likeable bigot whose off-the-charts anti-Semitism seems, on the one hand, ridiculously hyperbolic, yet on the other feels only slightly embellished. Sadly, the timing is ideal for the film, given the amount of chauvinism unapologetically spouted by so many of the world’s politicians these days.

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The entire film is done in the form of a “60 Minutes”-style news story about the disappearance of Leonardo Zuliani (Davide Giordano), whose campaign to remove any shame in being anti-Semitic makes him an internationally beloved figure. “He was an example for our generation,” says one follower. In classic reportage style, Caviglia “interviews” family members, colleagues and Italian celebrities (playing themselves) to trace how Leonardo came to embrace his bigotry, inspiring a crusade that made others equally proud of their hatred.

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As early as 9, Leonardo (Tommaso Mercuri) was reading anti-Semitic magazines and bullying his Jewish classmate Mario (Manuel Mariani) via violent, “Itchy and Scratchy”-style anti-Semitic cartoons he would draw. Support came from his priest, Don Ciro (Massimiliano Gallo), who tells his class the Jews killed Jesus, but then Leonardo has a crisis of faith when he discovers Jesus was Jewish (“Hava Nagila” sends the boy into paroxysms of rage).

Once older, Leonardo starts an NGO to counter the rise of “antisemiphobia” (fear of anti-Semites) and makes a film titled “Afraid to Hate” which galvanizes a world looking for an excuse to embrace their bigotry without shame. He links up with the Nerd League (a pun on the Northern League, Italy’s right-wing anti-immigrant political party), and in a series of audaciously hilarious initiatives, leads a campaign to eliminate all traces of Jews and Judaism first from Italy, and then the world.

If there’s one flaw in “Burning Love” (aside from a slight repetitiveness that invariably affects most mockumentaries), it’s that audiences best equipped to appreciate its fearless satirical wit are the ones least in need of the lessons it imparts: in other words, progressive Jews who can extrapolate Caviglia’s trenchant humor and project it beyond anti-Semitism to encompass all the phobias, including Islamophobia, xenophobia and homophobia. Others may find themselves perplexed, discomforted, or about as ready to guffaw as a roomful of Germans watching a comedy about the Holocaust.

Tech credits are nicely in keeping with the look of TV reportage, mimicking an assortment of formats for the maximum amount of authenticity. Actors convey the perfect amount of earnestness, and cameos by major Italo figures are often inspired.

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 5, 2015. (Also in Ventana Sur.) Running time: 95 MIN. (Original title: “Pecore in erba”)

  • Production: (Italy) A Bolero Film release of an On My Own production. (International sales: True Colors, Rome.) Produced by Luigi Musini, Olivia Musini. Co-producer, Renato Ragosta.
  • Crew: Directed by Alberto Caviglia. Screenplay, Caviglia, Benedetta Grasso, with Paolo Cosseddu. Camera (color/B&W), Andrea Locatelli; editor, Gianni Vezzosi; music, Pasquale Catalano; production designer, Andrea Castorina; costume designer, Sara Fanelli; sound, Alessandro Bianchi; associate producers, Paola Levi, Ricky Levi; casting, Stefania Roda.
  • With: Davide Giordano, Anna Ferruzzo, Omero Antonutti, Bianca Nappi, Mimosa Campironi, Alberto Di Stasio, Lorenza Indovina, Francesco Russo, Niccolò Senni, Paola Minaccioni, Marco Ripoldi, Josafat Vagni, Massimiliano Gallo, Carolina Crescentini, Vinicio Marchioni, Antonio Zavatteri, Massimo De Lorenzo, Francesco Pannofino, Tommaso Mercuri, Valerio Cerullo, Manuel Mariani, Francesco Arca, Corrado Augias, Tinto Brass, Gianni Canova, Claudio Cerasa, Ferruccio De Bortoli, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Fabio Fazio, Carlo Freccero, Giancarlo Magalli, Enrico Mentana, Giulia Michelini, Vittorio Sgarbi, Kasia Smutniak, Mara Venier. Narrator: Michele Bruno.

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Two childhood friends, who grew up in a farming village outside of Seoul, meet as adults, at random. They haven't seen one another in years. They go out for drinks and reminisce. The young woman has been studying pantomime, and she shows off some of what she has learned. She pantomimes eating a tangerine and her gestures are so specific you could swear the tangerine was really there. He is amazed at the illusion. She tells him that if he ever is hungry for anything, he can create it on his own like this. 

Everyone is hungry for something in "Burning," the new film from South Korean master Lee Chang-dong . How that hunger manifests, and what hunger even signifies, is up for debate. The debate itself is too dangerous to even be spoken out loud, since it threatens the class status quo. Based loosely on Haruki Murakami's short story Barn Burning , "Burning" is Lee's first film  in eight years , and it is a bleak and almost Darwinian vision of the world, survival of the fittest laid bare in sometimes shocking brutality. The three main characters circle warily, looking at each other with desire, mistrust, need, never certain of the accuracy of their perceptions. Lee's explorations require depth and space. It's a great film, engrossing, suspenseful, and strange.

Jongsu (Ah-in Yoo), the young man enraptured by the pantomime, dreams of being a writer. His favorite author is Faulkner, because—he says—every time he reads a Faulkner story, it feels like his own. This makes sense since it takes a while for us to understand the layout of Jongsu's life, so hazy is it with strange relationships, missing figures, blank spaces. His father is in trouble with the law for assaulting another farmer, although the details remain vague. His mother took off when he was little. When he runs into Haemi, (Jong-seo Jun), a girl he grew up with, dancing outside a store giving off raffle tickets, he almost doesn't recognize her. "Plastic surgery," she grins. Almost before he knows what has happened, he and Haemi have sex, and he agrees to feed her cat while she takes a trip to Africa. Rattling back and forth between Seoul and the family farm in his battered pickup truck, he is caught in an in-between state, dreaming of Haemi, waiting for her return, shoveling food for the cows, or putting out food for her cat—a cat who is never seen or heard. It's impossible to avoid the speculation that there is no cat, that Haemi made it up. But for what reason? 

When Jongsu picks up Haemi at the airport on her return from Africa, he is chagrined to discover Haemi has a man in tow, a man named Ben ( Steven Yeun ), whom she met on her travels. The two are clearly now an item. Jongsu has a weird feeling that Ben is no good, that something is really "off" about the guy. Ben drives a Porsche, his apartment is huge and filled with beautiful artwork, he doesn't seem to have a profession. Jongsu says to Haemi, "There are so many Gatsby's in Korea." If Ben is Gatsby, then that would make Jongsu Nick Carraway and Haemi Daisy. The closer Jongsu gets to the heart of Ben, the more he sees that there's no "there there." Ben is dangerously void, maybe even a sociopath. (Yeun gives a truly chilling performance.) The class critique in "Burning" is as unsubtle as F. Scott Fitzgerald's was, and it creates unbearable tension, rage crackling off the screen. When Haemi demonstrates the Kalahari Bushmen's "hunger dance" for Ben and his friends, Jongsu notices how uncomfortable everyone is, hiding their mocking smiles. He catches Ben yawning during Haemi's dance. Haemi, so alluring to the appreciative Jongsu, is a creature of fun for these empty city slickers. Jongsu starts to feel like Haemi may be in some kind of danger.

"Burning" takes place in a world of fluctuating and amorphous borders, invisible yet pressing in on the characters. Jongsu's village is on the border of North Korea, where the air is pierced with shrieking propaganda from a loudspeaker across the hills, creating a sense of emergency among the gentle pastoral landscape, like some attack is imminent, like something dreadful lurks beyond the horizon. Haemi's cat is literally Schrodinger's cat, caught in a borderland between being and non-being. The food vanishes, the litter box is full, but the cat never manifests. The phone rings repeatedly at Jongsu's farm, but no one's on the other end. Just empty space and dead air. Images and motifs repeat, creating a fractal effect. Closets are important: each character has a closet containing secrets, mysteries (a shaft of reflected light, a gleaming knife, a pink plastic watch). Fire is important: For Haemi, it's the fire that the Kalahari Bushmen dance around. For Jongsu, it is the bonfire of his mother's clothes in the backyard, one of his only clear memories from childhood. And for Ben, as he casually admits to Jongsu, almost daring Jongsu to be shocked, it's the greenhouses he burns down in his spare time. "You burn down other people's greenhouses?" Jongsu asks. Ben, smiling smoothly, his face telling no tales, nods. 

In one extraordinary sequence, Haemi and Ben drive out to visit Jongsu on his farm. The three sit out on the patio, get stoned and watch the sun set, the tree leaves rustling overhead, the light growing dimmer and dimmer. Haemi takes off her shirt and dances on the patio, staring off at the hills of North Korea, her silhouette undulating against the pink and purple glowing sky. Both Jongsu and Ben are frozen in their seats, as they watch her fluid gestures, her primal openness to the beauty of her own experiences. Jongsu had seen this in her when she pantomimed the tangerine. He fell in love with this part of her. Ben yawns again. By the end of the dance, she is in tears. Jongsu now knows that Ben is, apparently, an enthusiastic amoral arsonist. There's a serious and alarming sense of danger, only you can't really point to its source. The whole of "Burning" feels like this. 

There's so much disorienting background noise in “Burning," the traffic, the ringing of the phone, the street music, the loudspeaker blaring North Korean propaganda, Trump on the television in the corner of the room. It's hard for anyone to keep their thoughts straight; it's hard to believe what might be staring you right in the face. The tension between "what is" and "what isn't," started with Haemi's beautiful tangerine pantomime, is in urgent operation throughout. Things are never what they seem. Or, perhaps, they are, and that's even worse to contemplate. The tangerine is delicious but it's invisible. It won't provide sustenance for long. The cat was never there. Haemi made it all up. Greenhouses don't provide space for things to grow, they just stand there in the fields waiting for the arsonist's match. 

Sheila O'Malley

Sheila O'Malley

Sheila O'Malley received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island and a Master's in Acting from the Actors Studio MFA Program. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

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Film credits.

Burning movie poster

Burning (2018)

148 minutes

Yoo Ah-in as Lee Jong-su

Steven Yeun as Ben

Jun Jong-seo as Shin Hae-mi

Kim Soo-kyung as Yeon-ju

Choi Seung-ho as Lee Yong-seok

  • Lee Chang-dong

Original Story

  • Haruki Murakami

Director of Photography

  • Hong Kyung-pyo

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"Absolute id crashed into absolute the uptightset man in America shook hands with just about the loosest."

(Mark Feeney on the 'Elvis meets Nixon' meeting)

"Elvis is everywhere"

(Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper)

"...especially in the South, they talk about Elvis and Jesus in the same breath"

(Michael Ventura, LA Weekly)

"The image is one thing and the human being is's very hard to live up to an image"


(Elvis Presley, Madison Square Garden press conference, 1972)

"Elvis was a major hero of mine. I was actually stupid enough to believe that having the same birthday as him actually meant something"

(David Bowie)

"No-one, but no-one, is his equal, or ever will be. He was, and is supreme"

(Mick Jagger)

"I wasn't just a fan, I was his brother...there'll never be another like that soul brother"

(Soul legend, James Brown)

"Before Elvis there was nothing!"

(John Lennon)

"There were rock 'n' roll records before Heartbreak Hotel, but this was the one that didn't just open the door…it literally blasted the door off its rusted, rotten, anachronistic hinges…. unstoppable, fundamental and primordial shift in not only musical... but social, political and cultural history"

(JNP, BBC website)

"Elvis, the musician, is largely a relic belonging to the baby boomer generation...Elvis, the icon, is arguably one of the most potent symbols of popular culture"

( Dr. John Walker)





-By EIN contributor Harley Payette.


Elvis expert Harley Payette explores the excitement & seduction of Elvis' March 1972 recording 'Burning Love'.

For some reason or another, “Burning Love” Elvis’ last Top Ten Billboard US Pop Hit (#1 Cashbox) and his last Top Five Pop Hit on any chart has fallen out of favor amongst Elvis’ fans and pop critics. Once upon a time, this ’72 classic was the only consensus late period Elvis pick. Casual fans knew it and when it hit the streets in ’72 it was greeted with almost unanimous praise from critics including Robert Christgau who picked it as one of the ten best singles of the year.

Oddly enough, as the reputation of Elvis’ 70s work has increased with fans, his most famous late period work has fallen into the background. The record seldom makes lists of great singles. It’s seldom written about or analyzed. It’s been omitted from some ‘70s oriented radio formats. Latter day critics have dismissed it as self-parody and even fans have called it overrated, preferring to lavish praise on Elvis’ generally worthy ballad work of the period. Whatever the reason, the record doesn’t quite have its steam anymore; it’s a shame because “Burning Love” is, even 34 years later, one of the great pop singles- sexy, funny and subversive.

When folks think of “Burning Love” today they think of that ending, one of the great payoff hooks in all of pop music. Yet for most of its playing time, the record is a seductive tease offering innuendo about the dangerous urges below its surface but extremely careful not to lay them out bare. This contradiction makes it something of a rare piece in that it offers both seduction and consummation. In many ways, the record can be seen as an up tempo variation of Roy Orbison’s pop bolero format where a performer gradually builds the energy level until a sudden violent burst of emotion is let loose in the final seconds often knocking the listener back. What’s amazing about “Burning Love” is that we’re already excited and it still knocks us on our heels.

Left: The Colonel's 1972 LP.


Right: Ernst's 1999 CD.

Kicking off with a crunching electric guitar lick, overdubbed by the song’s composer Dennis Linde, the record immediately grabs your attention. Soon after Linde is joined by a percussive almost steroid driven organ and, for the first time on an Elvis studio side, a furious drum roll from Ronnie Tutt. By the time, Elvis and the band kick in we’re almost breathless in anticipation.

Amazingly, Elvis’ awe inspiring presence, by 1972 an almost supernatural occurrence, takes us a down a notch. He’s all restraint. While Tutt’s stomping beat and Linde’s guitar keep the speed and energy, Presley gives us a vision of sexual implosion. While he increases the heat and the melodic quality of the song with well placed asides like an “mmm” or a “yeah” , his phrasing is completely naturalistic: no screams, no words broken into a thousand syllables, no self-conscious vocal curlicues. Elvis lets his voice and Linde’s lyrics handle the suggestion, which was absolutely the right decision. With lyrics as direct as “Burning, Burning, Burning and nothing can cool me” and a heavy beat, there’s no need to topple into hysteria. The listener gets what you’re singing about.

Don’t let that fool you into thinking that this isn’t great singing though. Electing on most of the record to sing in more of a lightly pinched higher nasal tone than he generally used in the 1970s, Elvis’ vocal has kind of a keening quality to it that not only gives the lyric a desperate, helpless air but also is filled with implication. Robert Christgau said Elvis made the line “the flames are now licking body” sound like an assignation from James Brown’s backup band. He was right. By drawing us in, Elvis sets our imaginations wild.

As usual, he’s a master of timing. He rips through the line “You’ve gone on and set me on fire” and lets it hang for a few taunting seconds as if he’s accepted a dare.

And while he knew enough not to overpower Linde’s lyrics (the best he ever wrote in his solid but unspectacular career), he also knew when to let us lose a few words. On the chorus for example, the line “And your kisses lift me higher/Like the sweet song of a choir” fits the music very awkwardly. But Elvis, who has by now shifted the speed of his phrasing, sings to the beat instead of the words so you never notice the wordiness.

This is important because the chorus, throughout the song, provides with our only release from the tensions built up in the verses. The tempo is accelerated, a piano joins in and JD Sumner and the Stamps on vocals echo Elvis. Adding to the tensions, from the second verse on, is the relentless clucking of a cowbell, an often overused point of emphasis that here succeeds in creating more drama than it did on any record outside of “Honkytonk Women”.

With tensions almost at the breaking point at the end of the second chorus, Elvis decides to extend our anxieties a little further by stepping back for one of the most unusual breaks on a 1970s record. It’s not an instrumental break because the emphasis is on the open throated harmonies of the Stamps. They never sang better. While their white gospel, almost chorale, sound made some of Elvis’ records sound dated and corny, here they are completely appropriate in that they create a sense of awe at both Elvis and the song’s subject matter. Singing without a lead, they increase our awareness of Presley’s lead and we desperately want him back to lead us through the end of this erotic journey we’ve started. They also contribute to our sense that what is happening to the singer is not something that you encounter every day.

Meanwhile the musicians are going through everything they have in the arsenal including some devastating rolls by Ronnie Tutt and a weird heavily echoed guitar chord at the end by James Burton. We’ve left Kansas, Toto and rolled into a land of sin that would probably kill Auntie Em.

Featuring some of Linde’s best lines, the final verse and chorus are almost overwhelming in their sense of urgency. When Elvis says, “I’m a burning a hole where I lay,” all ambiguity is laid away and we know we’ve reached our destination.

This is not the tease; this is the act itself. Just when we think we’re finished, Presley and his group give us a climax as well. A second after Elvis gives an encore reading of the title phrase, the Stamps come up singing “Hunka, hunka burning love” and Elvis follows and soon it’s a full out call and response shouting battle. It’s a crude phrase but in this context, that crudeness gives it power. By the end of the song, they’re not even sticking to the script. They’re improvising even cruder phrases, trading mocking falsetto wails. By the time we’re out, it’s more funny than sexy emphasizing not only the cosmic absurdity of the sex act but also the sense of joy and release that comes from letting out. It only lasts- maybe- 20 seconds but those are 20 of the most ingenious seconds ever captured on record.

So powerful they are, that “hunka hunka Burning Love” became an instantly identifiable catch phrase used not only in assessments of Elvis but for reference and emphasis in unrelated pop culture ephemera like the TV series the Facts of Life a decade after the fact.

Once a listener has heard “Burning Love” they seldom forget it. Lots of people can take credit for that as “Burning Love” emphasizes the fact that pop music works best as collaboration. There is of course, Presley’s skill as singer but also his chops as a bandleader, producer and editor. The decision to place so much emphasis on that great end hook reveals Elvis’ commercial genius never deserted him. Other versions of the song either omit this part (Arthur Alexander) or throw it away (Linde). Even more, you can see on that hook that Elvis never completely lost his sense of play.

Credit must also be given to the Stamps and the TCB Band who all knew right where to take this tune. Then there’s Dennis Linde who created a wonderfully constructed pop song.

Some fans might be surprised that Elvis was actually reluctant to record this classic number. Recorded just after his separation from then wife Priscilla, Elvis was not in the mood for a rocker. Producer Felton Jarvis, though, knew Presley and Linde’s song were perfect for one another. Recognizing that he had a serious minded Presley, Jarvis used his wiles to get Presley to record the song and kept him at it until he got an inspired take. Jarvis, who is sometimes unfairly singled out by Elvis fans for incompetence, showed he did indeed know how to make a pop record when he got Linde to do that guitar intro.

All that inspiration and talent makes it kind of a shame that the song does not get its due today. While “Burning Love” falls a little short of the super elite singles like “Suspicious Minds”, “Mystery Train” and non-Elvis sides like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, “Billie Jean” and “Like a Rolling Stone” it can stand without apology next to those monuments while it towers over most everything else. (Must have been tough in ’72 to go back to something like “Take it Easy”.) The record is final proof that Elvis’ pop genius never deserted him and even in 1972 he was still the King.

A classic Elvis single - The collector's classic red vinyl version.

Burning Love's international chart statistics: BURNING LOVE

Date  - Chart Position - Weeks in Chart 08-19-1972 02 15 US (Billboard) 08-19-1972 01 16 US (CashBox) (1 wk #1) 08-26-1972 02 16 US (RecordWorld) 09-16-1972 04 11 Canada 09-30-1972 07 09 UK (Guinness) 09-30-1972 05 08 UK (NME) 10-05-1972 06 00 Ireland 10-12-1972 28 12 France 10-15-1972 42 25 Japan 10-26-1972 07 03 Austria 11-13-1972 31 04 Germany 11-25-1972 19 05 Holland 12-01-1972 06 06 New Zealand 12-15-1972 07 08 France[2] 00-00-1972 07 15 Australia (NSWales) 00-00-1972 08 07 Australia (Vic) 00-00-1972 12 00 Sweden 00-00-1972 10 00 Belgium (BRT) Number of countries: 13 Ditto, where it hit #1: 1 Ditto, where it did Top 10: 8 Number of weeks - Total / #1: 106 / 1

(With thanks to FECC's ' Mr Statistic' for the above details)

This Spotlight written by EIN contributor Harley Payette. -Copyright, July 2006-

Click to comment on this article.

This Spotlight written by EIN contributor Harley Payette.

Left: CD5 from the German 1997 'The 100 Top-Hits Collection'.
Elvis on stage in his 'Burning Love' or Red Matador jumpsuit.
(updated August 2005)
(Presley Commission)

Quote:"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"

(Dr. Gary Enders)

Quote:" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"


Quote:"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"

(humorist Dave Barry)

Quote:"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"

(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")

Quote:"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"

(Nick Tosches)

Quote:"He was the most popular man that ever walked on this planet since Christ himself was here"

(Carl Perkins)

Quote:"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody...hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail"

(Bob Dylan)

Quote:"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"(Sir Paul McCartney)

burning love movie review

Burning Love

Burning Love (2012)

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burning love movie review

The Meaning Behind The Song: Burning Love (Film Mix) by Elvis Presley



Elvis Presley’s iconic song “Burning Love” has captivated audiences for decades with its energetic melody and passionate lyrics. The film mix version of this timeless classic, featured in the 2022 film “ELVIS,” brings a fresh interpretation to the song, adding a new layer of depth and intensity. As a longtime fan of Elvis and his music, this song holds a special place in my heart. Today, I would like to delve into the meaning behind the lyrics and explore the emotions that this song evokes.

Table of Contents

The Burning Passion

From the very first verse, “Burning Love” sets the stage for a scorching, uncontrollable desire. Elvis sings about feeling his temperature rise, the flames burning through his soul, and the girl who has the power to set him on fire. The lyrics vividly depict the overwhelming intensity of love, likening it to a fever that consumes one’s mind and body. It’s a representation of a love that cannot be easily tamed or extinguished.

Elevated by Love

The chorus of the song brings a shift in tone, expressing the transformative power of love. Elvis compares the effect of the girl’s kisses to the sweet harmonies of a choir, lifting him higher and brightening his world. The love he shares with her becomes an all-encompassing force, illuminating his existence and bringing him joy. This imagery conveys the idea that love has the ability to elevate us beyond our ordinary lives, infusing them with meaning and purpose.

Consumed by Desire

In the second verse, Elvis further delves into the overwhelming nature of his passion. He feels his temperature rising and acknowledges that nothing can cool him down. The intensity of his love is so profound that he jokingly suggests he might turn to smoke, but he still feels perfectly fine. This stanza serves as a testament to the all-consuming nature of desire, overpowering reason and logic.

Burning Love as an End or a Beginning

In the third verse, the lyrics take a slightly darker turn. Elvis sings about the flames coming closer, licking his body, and the feeling of slipping away. The sense of urgency and desperation is palpable as he pleads for help. The imagery of burning and the physical discomfort associated with it can be interpreted as the turmoil that love can sometimes bring. It can either consume and destroy, or it can be the catalyst for rebirth and transformation. The choice between these two outcomes lies in the hands of the individuals involved.

The Hunk of Burnin’ Love

As the song reaches its closing moments, Elvis repeatedly emphasizes that he is just a “hunk of burnin’ love.” This line encapsulates the primal, raw, and unapologetic nature of his emotions. It serves as a reminder that love can often strip away our carefully constructed facades, leaving us exposed and vulnerable.

“Burning Love (Film Mix)” by Elvis Presley is an electrifying song that captures the essence of passionate love. Its lyrics delve into the intense emotions associated with desire, showcasing both the uplifting and consuming aspects of love. Through his powerful vocals, Elvis immortalizes the burning passion that so many of us have felt at some point in our lives. This song continues to resonate with audiences across generations and stands as a testament to the lasting impact of Elvis’s music.

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Burning love, common sense media reviewers.

burning love movie review

Delicious parody of dating shows full of innuendo, drinking.

Burning Love Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Satire is the name of the game here, not genuine e

Many of the show's characters are venal, vicious,

Some cartoonish violence over absurdities such as

Lots of flirting, some kissing, and plenty of innu

Bleeped cursing: "Oh f--k me!" exclaims a bachelor

Contestants frequently drink onscreen and some act

Parents need to know that Burning Love is a parody of dating shows like The Bachelor , and it's just as suggestive as what it mocks. Women on the show wear brief, bare outfits and there's a lot of discussion about contestants' looks. There's a good deal of flirting, kissing, and many sexual situations…

Positive Messages

Satire is the name of the game here, not genuine emotion, but the show clearly makes fun of reality TV and the culture that surrounds it. The singles looking for love choose or reject each other on nonsensical reasons; a dad is roundly mocked for loving and mentioning his son too often.

Positive Role Models

Many of the show's characters are venal, vicious, shallow, and ridiculous; look elsewhere for realistic characters to emulate. This is just for laughs.

Violence & Scariness

Some cartoonish violence over absurdities such as two men scuffling over whether one of the men's names is really a girl's name.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Lots of flirting, some kissing, and plenty of innuendo, like when a woman pushes a man up against a wall to kiss him and then another man sandwiches the woman salaciously. We also see a bit of blurred nudity when one man decides to go to the bathroom near a campfire. Sexual innuendo includes a man saying he's slept with many of his cousins, and a man who says he's had sex with people who were unconscious.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Bleeped cursing: "Oh f--k me!" exclaims a bachelorette when she sees a handsome man. There are also many veiled references to body parts, as when a bachelorette suggestively asks suitors to "hold her box" (while holding an actual box).

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Contestants frequently drink onscreen and some act drunk, slurring words, stumbling around. One contestant is ejected due to his drunkenness. A man discusses an emotional trauma while gulping down glasses of brown liquid.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Burning Love is a parody of dating shows like The Bachelor , and it's just as suggestive as what it mocks. Women on the show wear brief, bare outfits and there's a lot of discussion about contestants' looks. There's a good deal of flirting, kissing, and many sexual situations, like when a woman pins a man up against a wall and kisses him wetly while another man writhes against her from behind. Sexual innuendo is also frequent. Cast members drink constantly and sometimes act drunk, slurring words and bursting into tears. Viewers also see occasional blurred nudity, as when a man squats to use the bathroom in front of a crowd. There are bleeped curses on every episode, and unbleeped ones too: "I'm not into making gay s--t," a male contestant says when a female one asks him to make a puppet.

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What's the Story?

Even if you've never watched dating shows like The Bachelor , BURNING LOVE's delirious takeoff of televised dating games will likely strike your funnybone. On the first season, virile hunky fireman Mark Orlando ( Ken Marino ) looks for love from a cast of female contestants; on the second, Julie Grisselwhite (June Diane Raphael) does the same with a bunch of gents. On each episode, contestants go on ridiculous dates such as making puppets and putting on a puppet show, guzzle booze, participate in one-on-one interviews with avuncular host Chris Harrison (Michael Ian Black), and hope that they'll make the cut and stick around next week.

Is It Any Good?

If you've watched Party Down , Wet Hot American Summer, The State , Veronica Mars or Children's Hospital , you will recognize many familiar faces on this absolutely hysterical series. The Burning Love cast apparently likes to work with the same people over and over and we're the happy beneficiaries who get to see much-beloved comedic actors like Paul Rudd , Adam Scott and Martin Starr working together again.

The subject being parodied -- televised dating competitions -- are ripe for mockery, and the Burning Love cast finds it, from hilariously dead-on contestant interviews with candles burning in the background to rejection ceremonies in which a woman kisses a South Asian man and says in surprise "You kiss normal! That's nice!" If you're not laughing at the many absurdities delivered by some of the funniest people alive, you must be either dead, or asleep. As for teens, if they enjoy poking fun at reality TV and can handle the edgy stuff, they'll find just as many laughs as parents.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Have you seen any of the shows that Burning Love is parodying, such as The Bachelor or The Bachelorette ? Must you have watched these shows to appreciate Burning Love ?

Watch The Bachelor and then watch Burning Love . How closely does Burning Love parody various aspects of The Bachelor , such as the candles burning during one-on-one interviews?

Why are dating shows so popular on television? Why do viewers enjoy watching singles find potential matches? What about this concept is appealing or interesting to viewers? Would it be as interesting if the contestants were unattractive?

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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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‘Burning’ Review: Love Triangles, Class Envy Fuel Three-Alarm Thriller

By Peter Travers

Peter Travers

This stunning, slow-build thriller from South Korean director Lee Chang-dong sizzles with a cumulative power that will knock the wind out of you. Burning starts like a romance in the manner of The Talented Mr. Ripley as poor boy Jongsu, an aspiring writer played by Yoo Ah-in, falls under the spell of Haemi (Jun Jong-seo), a free spirit in skimpy attire who hawks products on the streets. He doesn’t recall that they were once school chums; she remembers that he called her “ugly” back then. Jongsu is stuck in the country taking care of the ramshackle farm near the North Korean border owned by his quick-tempered father, who’s been arrested on an assault charge against a neighbor. But after the couple have sex in her small apartment, he is so taken with the young woman that he agrees to take care of her cat, Boil (she found him in a boiler room), while she vacations in Africa to feed her “great hunger” for life experience. Visiting Haemi’s apartment every day, Jongsu masturbates while staring out her window at a wider world that seems beyond his means.

It seems like a small-scale story of two young dreamers — until makes an abrupt gear shift when he arrives at the airport to pick up Haemi only to find her in close company with Ben (Steven Yeun), a rich, handsome playboy she met abroad. The hotshot drives a Porsche and casually mentions his occupation isn’t work but “play.” Intoxicated by the perfume of Ben’s lifestyle, Jongsu finds himself in a competition in which this unfailingly polite and generous new friend seems to hold all the cards. So what if Haemi says he’s the only she can trust — Ben can feed her great hunger. They pay a surprise visit to his dad’s farm, where they smoke weed and the young woman dances naked outdoors. “Only whores do that,” snaps the jealous Jongsu. Later, while she’s asleep, Ben confesses that he does have a vice. He likes to torch greenhouses for the sheer pleasure of watching them burn.

What happens next is something audiences should discover on their own, except to say that suspicions are aroused, someone goes missing and Jongsu goes looking to for answers. Lee and co-writer Oh Jung-mi have adapted their script from Haruki Murakami’s short story Barn Burning, which not coincidentally is the title of a 1939 story by William Faulkner, the protagonist’s professed favorite writer. The ensuing game of cat-and-mouse creates shivers of suspense. But Lee is not asking audiences to sit for two and a half hours to watch a whodunit. Burning ignites themes of family, class, envy, crime, rough justice and what Faulkner called “the human heart in conflict with itself.” With invaluable help from cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo, editors Kim Hyun and Kim Da-won, composer Mowg and trio of stellar performances, Lee has crafted a hypnotic and haunting film that transcends genre to dig deep into the human condition. You won’t be able to get it out of your head.

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‘Burning’ Review: Lives, Like Love, Are So Easily Set Aflame (Fantastic Fest 2018)

‘Literary’ can sometimes be a contentious term in the world of film criticism. Too often, films that are described as literary carry certain negative connotations: they are overlong, underwritten, and too dependent on performance to deliver the filmic elements that audiences seek out. But make no mistake: while there may not be a single scene in Lee Chang-dong ’s Burning that is not allowed the maximum allotment of space, the tensions contained within this film are indeed paid off in the end.

Jong-su ( Yoo Ah-In ) is a writer without a story. Having graduated from college and finished a stint in the military, Jong-su has made his home in Paju, a city a short drive from his parent’s farm on the North Korean border. One day, Jong-su has a chance encounter with Hae-mi (newcomer Jeon Jong-seo ), a childhood acquaintance who invites him into her life with an affection that catches Jong-su by surprise. The two seem on the verge of romance until Hae-mi returns from a trip abroad with Ben ( Steven Yeun ), a wealthy businessman who took a shine to Hae-mi during their shared layover. As Ben begins to take his place alongside Hae-mi, Jong-su’s jealousy causes him to slowly withdraw from her life, leaving her exposed to the dark secrets held by his rival.

South Korea has long been known for its revenge stories, and rest assured, there is an element of revenge in the film’s methodical narrative. But Burning has no interest in seedy underworlds or maniacal serial killers; much of the film is focused on the central love triangle, with an uncertain Jong-su feeling slowly diminished in the presence of Ben’s wealth and power. Burning takes time to explore the economic divide between Ben and Jong-su, making it clear that both men have been conditioned to believe that Ben matters more than Jong-su in the eyes of society. Surely, they assume, Hae-mi will feel the same.

In exploring this divide, Lee, the film’s 64-year-old writer and director, effectively captures the unrest of a generation that is not his own. Burning presents Jong-su and Hae-mi of South Korean youth underemployed and feeling caught between their urban lifestyle and their rural upbringing. In Paju, people disappear frequently, fleeing family debt or financial obligations that they cannot hope to repay. Similarly, Yeun — raised in the United States and spending the first part of his career as an American television icon — brings his own outsider perspective to the narrative. His character always feels at a remove from the world around him, and Yeun’s immediate recognizability adds an element of extratextuality that serves the film well.

It’s more than just his international persona, though. Yuen is absolutely fascinating as Ben, a man holding secrets his new friends cannot hope to comprehend. Jong-su describes his rival as a Korean ‘Gatsby,’ one of a number of wealthy young men whose origins and income are shrouded in mystery, but there are moments scattered throughout the film where Ben allows his veneer to slip. What we see underneath is not anger or jealousy but emptiness , a human void buried beneath a polite layer of charm. This is what makes his relationship with Jong-su so fascinating. The younger man represents a clear departure from Ben’s routine, but Jong-su’s inability to connect with Hae-mi offers Ben a chance— maybe his first ever — to share a part of himself with another human being.

The film is also peppered with cinematic bits that reinforce these character divides. Jong-su’s family farm is close enough to the North Korean border that he can hear propaganda being broadcast across the line at all hours of the day. Ben’s careful confession that he likes to burn greenhouses as a form of stress release — an acknowledgement of a darker side that also positions him far beyond the reach of the law — also points to the disconnect between the consumed and the consumer. The film explores a great deal of Jong-su and Hae-mi’s shared hometown as Jong-su takes Ben at his word and inventories the greenhouses within his reach. Some are still in production, but others seem to have outlived their purpose: wild, overrun with foliage, and effortlessly flammable.

The delicacy of Burning ’s story — how thoroughly it lives in its stolen moments between characters — means that the full tragedy of Burning cannot be felt without a little distance. Memory is the film’s greatest weapon; hours after the film is finished, patterns emerge in the narrative and our mind begins to condense the relationships between these characters until the truth of their intentions is revealed. Burning may move deliberately, but the destruction of lives is no less powerful for its literary qualities. Prepare to be haunted by this one for days, even weeks, after it is done.

Related Topics: Fantastic Fest , Film Festivals , Steven Yeun

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Help me understand Burning (Korean movie) [MAJOR SPOILER]

I love Korean movies, especially action & political ones. Probably due to similarity between Korea culture and mine (Vietnam)

Back to Burning, the movie seems to get tons of positive reviews among critics so I took a shot today. The first half was slow and typical love triangle movie. The second half seems like an OK crime film. What keeps me stay till the end are conflicts and unanswered questions:

the actual origin & disappearance of Hae Min, Did Ben really killed her?

Hae Min's fall to the well (and the well's existence)

Was she even the real Hae Min? and why did she fall in love with Jong Su too quickly?

What's the point of all Ben's repeated yawning in the movie?

Why Ben did the make up for his new girlfriend at the end?

Most mainstream review talked about the metaphor and the idea of extreme class inequality in Korea society today (represented by Ben vs Jong Su). They're good analysis but doesn't address the logic of movie plot.

Please could somebody shed a light on this mystery movie for me?

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    Darian Lusk Observer Burning Love is a grand celebration of dumb entertainment by a crack team of comics who were doing great things in the mid-aughts. May 28, 2020 Full Review Erik Adams AV Club ...

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    Burning is a movie comprised of many mysteries, but its central enigma is the disappearance of a young woman, whose unexplained absence reconfigures an awkward young-adult love triangle into a ...

  6. Burning (2018 film)

    Burning (Korean: 버닝; RR: Beoning) is a 2018 South Korean-Japanese psychological drama film co-written, produced, and directed by Lee Chang-dong.The film is based on the short story "Barn Burning" from The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami, with elements inspired by William Faulkner's story of the same name. It stars Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, and Jeon Jong-seo.

  7. Burning (2018)

    Watch Burning with a subscription on Peacock, Netflix, rent on Fandango at Home, Prime Video, or buy on Fandango at Home, Prime Video. ... and fiery love triangles. [Full review in Spanish] Rated ...

  8. Burning (2018)

    Burning: Directed by Lee Chang-dong. With Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, Jeon Jong-seo, Kim Soo-Kyung. Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighborhood, who asks him to look after her cat while she's on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby.

  9. Burning movie review & film summary (2018)

    Advertisement. Everyone is hungry for something in "Burning," the new film from South Korean master Lee Chang-dong. How that hunger manifests, and what hunger even signifies, is up for debate. The debate itself is too dangerous to even be spoken out loud, since it threatens the class status quo. Based loosely on Haruki Murakami's short story ...

  10. Burning Love

    The song was recorded for the 1979 film, Elvis The Movie, starring Kurt Russell and Ronnie McDowell as the singing voice of Elvis. The song was not released for a soundtrack. Wynonna Judd 's version of "Burning Love" is the closing song of Lilo & Stitch (2002). The song itself would later play a role in an episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series ...

  11. Burning Love

    Elvis expert Harley Payette explores the excitement & seduction of Elvis' March 1972 recording 'Burning Love'. For some reason or another, "Burning Love" Elvis' last Top Ten Billboard US Pop Hit (#1 Cashbox) and his last Top Five Pop Hit on any chart has fallen out of favor amongst Elvis' fans and pop critics. Once upon a time, this ...

  12. Burning Love (TV Series 2012-2013)

    Burning Love: With Michael Ian Black, June Diane Raphael, Ryan Hansen, Ken Marino. A parody of reality dating shows in the vein of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette".

  13. The Meaning Behind The Song: Burning Love (Film Mix) by Elvis Presley

    "Burning Love (Film Mix)" by Elvis Presley is an electrifying song that captures the essence of passionate love. Its lyrics delve into the intense emotions associated with desire, showcasing both the uplifting and consuming aspects of love. Through his powerful vocals, Elvis immortalizes the burning passion that so many of us have felt at ...

  14. Burning Love TV Review

    exclaims a bachelor. Parents need to know that Burning Love is a parody of dating shows like The Bachelor, and it's just as suggestive as what it mocks. Women on the show wear brief, bare outfits and there's a lot of discussion about contestants' looks. There's a good deal of flirting, kissing, and many sexual situations….

  15. 'Burning' Movie Review: A Quiet but Impactful Thriller

    The story continues to flow at the same pace as before. I loved that Chang-dong opted to make Burning a slow, quiet film. Editing is slow paced, and shots linger for extended periods of time. We ...

  16. Burning Love 2

    Rotten Tomatoes, home of the Tomatometer, is the most trusted measurement of quality for Movies & TV. The definitive site for Reviews, Trailers, Showtimes, and Tickets

  17. 'Burning' Review: Love Triangles, Class Envy Fuel Three-Alarm Thriller

    Burning starts like a romance in the manner of The Talented Mr. Ripley as poor boy Jongsu, an aspiring writer played by Yoo Ah-in, falls under the spell of Haemi (Jun Jong-seo), a free spirit in ...

  18. 'Burning' Review: Lives, Like Love, Are So Easily Set Aflame (Fantastic

    Movies · Reviews 'Burning' Review: Lives, Like Love, Are So Easily Set Aflame (Fantastic Fest 2018) Steven Yeun brings the full weight of his international star power to bear in this haunting ...

  19. Burning Love

    Buy Burning Love on Apple TV. In a comedic sendup of dating shows like "The Bachelor," handsome firefighter Mark Orlando searches for love and a special woman who can "ignite his flames of lasting ...

  20. Help me understand Burning (Korean movie) [MAJOR SPOILER]

    I love Korean movies, especially action & political ones. Probably due to similarity between Korea culture and mine (Vietnam) Back to Burning, the movie seems to get tons of positive reviews among critics so I took a shot today. The first half was slow and typical love triangle movie. The second half seems like an OK crime film.

  21. Burning Love 2

    Burning Love 2. Rent Burning Love 2 on Prime Video, or buy it on Prime Video. Page 1 of 6, 11 total items. Julie returns to the mansion hoping to meet her future husband in a group of eligible ...

  22. Burning Love (film)

    Burning Love (Italian: Pecore in erba) is a 2015 mockumentary comedy film written and directed by Alberto Caviglia. It premiered in the Horizons section at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. Plot. In July 2006, the major television news channels reported the death of Leonardo Zuliani. In Rome, a large group of followers gathers in ...

  23. Muzaffarnagar-The Burning Love Movie Review

    Muzaffarnagar-The Burning Love Movie Review. Times Of India; Reza Noorani, TNN, Updated: Nov 24, 2017, 10.41 AM IST Critic's Rating: 1.5 /5.

  24. 20 Romantic Movies That Feature Slow-Burning Love Stories

    When Harry Met Sally was the most frequent response — and for good reason.The film follows Harry Burns and Sally Albright, two people who keep meeting over the years and eventually become best ...