Friday, July 18, 2008

Wonderful Town reviewed in The New York Times


Nathan Lee, writing for The New York Times, reviews Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town, which has started a week-long run at New York's Anthology Film Archives. As Wonderful Town unspools for the eyes of the world's elite film critics, the comparisons between Aditya's film and the works of compatriot Apichatpong Weerasethakul are going to be more frequent.

Here's an excerpt from Lee's review:

Mr. Assarat shelters this budding romance with surpassingly lovely filmmaking, easing into and out of scenes with an unrushed tempo that lets each emotion, thought and subtle effect flower, then fade away. His frames are meticulous without being fussy and his camera movements suave and suggestive, delineating the sentiment of the moment with precision and grace.

You could call such camerawork Jamesian, for the elegance with which it traces the contours of experience — or perhaps, given the context, Apichatpongian is the better term. The mellow bliss and aesthetic delicacy of Wonderful Town recall the work of the ingenious Thai cinéaste Apichatpong Weerasethakul, creator of idiosyncratic romances like Tropical Malady and Syndromes and a Century. Mr. Assarat shares with his compatriot an elegant, intuitive ease coupled with prodigious formal control, though of a less experimental bent than his better-known colleague.

As in one of Mr. Weerasethakul’s beguiling narratives, where time and space are mercurial creatures and mythical beasts pad through the forest, the air in Wonderful Town feels charged with weird energies, as if something strange and possibly menacing is about to erupt. And so it does, in a single word, uttered by Na in pillow talk with Ton: “Tsunami.”

For whatever reason, I didn't want to draw comparisons between the works of Apitchatpong and Aditya when I reviewed Wonderful Town. But they were being made by Thai critics in conversations outside the Bangkok press screening, with one pundit quipping it's "Apichatpong lite" and pointing to a motorcycle-riding scene in Wonderful Town that was similiar to one Tropical Malady (and I've since noticed is a staple of every single Thai romance film).

4 comments:

  1. A few Thai films are on at the BIFF next month.
    Thai Meteorites

    I probably can only see one feature and have already seen The Unseeable.
    Based on your reviews, Ploy looks like it might be a better choice than Wonderful Town - do you agree?

    I am particularly interested in which film has a faster pace, so my partner does not get too bored :)

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  2. The Unseeable looks interesting because it is packaged with several short films.

    The choice between Ploy and Wonderful Town is difficult because both are slow paced, and even have sort of the same kind of arc in terms of pacing and action.

    But for me, Ploy has a bit more of an edge.

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  3. Also, is Ploy going to be released on DVD with English subtitles somewhere in the world? (or has it already, and I just haven't noticed?) Surely the Kino Distribution of Wonderful Town guarantees that film a subbed DVD release somewhere down the line, at least in Region 1.

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  4. As far as I know, Brian, Ploy isn't yet on English-friendly DVD, and I haven't heard about a distribution deal yet for North America. Hello? Palm Pictures? Where are you?

    Fortissimo has the international sales rights, so they are the ones to ask about it, I suppose. I've tried sending an e-mail to the company, but received no reply.

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