Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Tropical Malady elicits boos and bewilderment

When Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours was shown at Cannes in 2002, half the audience walked out, the other half remained and cheered wildly.

His new movie, Tropical Malady, in competition for the Palm d'Or this year, has received a chillier response, with some critics walking out and others booing the film at the end, according to a story by Reuters.

In a review for Variety, Deborah Young said:

As exceedingly strange as its predecessors Mysterious Object at Noon and cult fave Blissfully Yours but even more incomprehensible, Tropical Malady takes the viewer on a mysterious and sporadically fascinating trip into the darkness of the human heart and Thai legend, but only after an hour of a weakly structured story about two young men who are attracted to each other. Pic will find its admirers chiefly among those who appreciated director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's earlier cinematic experiments. Outside fests, pic's loosely connected scenes will sorely try the patience of most arthouse viewers.

Kirk Honeycutt, for the Hollywood Reporter, was baffled as well:

The film comes in two parts. In the first, a young soldier Keng (Banlop Lomnoi) falls for a country boy named Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee). They sit around with his Tong's mother, listening to the sounds of the night air. Away from his home, Keng kisses and fondles Tong's hand. (Whatever does that mean? one wonders.)

The Reuters reporter attended "a sparsely attended press conference", where the director acknowledged that his movie could be a tough call for some.

"The audience has a confusion about what is reality," he said of the movie, which is told in two contrasting sections. It starts with a gay love affair in a small town and then switches to the hunt for a mystical tiger figure in the jungle.

In an interview with The Nation, given before he jetted off to France, Apichatpong said he thinks local audiences might like his new film.

“Unlike Blissfully, which distanced the audience with its voyeurism and was boring for the general audience, Tropical may be more entertaining and enjoyable for an audience used to conventional storytelling, as related through folktales,” he says.

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