Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Apichatpong Weerasethakul? That's Easy For You to Say.

Today, many of us are aware of the joys of Thai food - mmm, all those lovely aromatic flavours. However, Thai cinema is not a subject many of us ignorant Westerners can claim to have conquered. I have seen a mere four Thai films and three of them were directed by Apichatpong 'Joe' Weerasethakul, whose new work, the splendidly named Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives won the Palme d'Or this past Sunday. Therefore, I offer some brief words regarding his three previous fictional features.

Weerasethakul's films are not overly interested in plot and whilst there is a little backstory regarding an illegal immigrant from neighbouring Burma, this is a lovely atmospheric piece, as the three central characters escape their daily hardships to bask in the countryside sunshine. Weerasethakul's films are not Michael Bay paced but they are by no means languid. Blissfully Yours allows you to bathe in the hot summer afternoon of the jungle - it's nature, sounds, sex and yes, bliss.

This excellent feature is split into two parts - the first half depicting the developing romance between a young soldier and a farm labourer and the second, an intriguing allegory set in the jungle. Tropical Malady is a mysterious wonder - again, it celebrates the power of sensuality and wordless emotions. Unlike Blissfully Yours, the jungle here is harsh and erie, and the central character isolated and lost, and whilst the viewer may also be lost and bewildered, the journey is most captivating.

'Joe', as he is affectionately known, is a director who has little respect for cinematic conventions and this has usually proven to be a good attribute. Unfortunately, this ode to his parents (who were doctors) set in two hospitals seems overly concerned with style above substance. Whether it is due to the coldness of the hospital environment or one too many long takes (I don't mind staring at the jungle for ten minutes but a non-operating hospital machine?!), Syndromes and a Century fails to engage like the aforementioned works. Thankfully the film contains the occasional and welcome moment of warmth and humour which makes it slightly better than your average artfare cinema.

Coming Up: We await his Palme d'Or winner - another allegory influenced by the buddhist belief of reincarnation. Fancy some Thai food?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent reviews. Gives enough of a description to capture our interest, but not so much that it gives anything away. These look like they offer quite a bit in terms of an emotional reward for viewing them. I have a hankering for fried rice!