Monday, June 28, 2004

Review: Tropical Malady

  • Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
  • Starring Sakda Kaewbuadee, Banlop Lomnoi
  • Limited theatrical release in Thailand in 2004; availabe on English subtitled DVD

It would seem like a cop-out to say I don't want to write much about this because to write about it would reveal too much.

Actually, it's really hard for me to write a review about this film, even after all the reading and writing I've already done about it.

It's a strange, fucked-up movie. And that's a good thing.

It's really two movies, with part one being a romantic comedy-drama about a soldier and a small-town boy getting into a relationship.

It's pretty sweet. The characters I liked best were the older "aunties" -- one who joins the boys at a park and then takes them into a cave, another who runs a mini-mart and invites them to smoke some pot.

Also, there's an older woman who's a lukthung (Thai country) singer who has a beautiful voice. She is joined in a duet by the small-town boy who sings a dedication to the soldier.

Part one is really charming.

Part two is exceedingly weird and mysterious. It's the part I liked best because it was a pure art film, with lots of darkness and creative lighting.

There was a story to it, based on a Thai legend about a shaman who is a shape shifter. He runs around causing trouble for the villagers. One day the shaman appears in the form of a beautiful woman and entices a hunter to follow her. The hunter sees a tiger's tale slipping out from underneath her dress and shoots her, causing the shaman to freeze in the form of a tiger. From then on, the tiger's spirit haunts the forest.

The soldier from part one is in the woods alone, looking for a missing boy. The small-town boy from part one is the spirit of the shaman-tiger. The pursuer (the soldier) from part one becomes the pursued.

There are parallels between the two stories but my brain isn't working very well to be able to explain them very well.

The movie opens with a quote, something like all people are wild beasts; in order to be good, people must try to be like the trainer, taming the bestiality and possibly teaching the animals tricks.

Chew on that one for awhile.

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