A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)

Sakda Kaewbuadee and Banlop Lomnoi in Tropical Malady
Keng: Banlop Lomnoi
Tong: Sakda Kaewbuadee

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Screenplay: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cinematography: Jarin Pengpanitch, Vichit Tanapanitch, Jean-Louis Vialard
Production design: Akekarat Homlaor
Film editing: Lee Chatametikool, Jacopo Quadri

Tropical Malady comes in two not-quite-discrete segments. The first is a more-or-less realistic account of the romance of Keng, a soldier, with Tong, a farmboy Keng meets during a mission to recover a body. The second part is an elaboration on a kind of ghost story in which a soldier (also played by Banlop Lomnoi) goes into the jungle to search for a missing villager, and there encounters the spirit of a shaman (also played by Sakda Kaewbuadee) who can turn himself into a tiger. Although the first part is mostly a love story, it is as shadowy in its way as the second part, beginning with the discover of the body -- and the soldiers' glee in having their photographs taken with the corpse -- and ending with Tong's disappearance into the dark, after which Keng rides his motor scooter past a group of men beating up another man and then pursuing Keng. Although the narrative of Tropical Malady is more conventionally handled than that of Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), there are some clear links between the two films, including the fact that Kaewbuadee plays a character named Tong in both, and in Tropical Malady refers to his uncle who can recall his past lives. There's also a key scene in both films set in a cavern, along with an obvious preoccupation with the spirit world. If there's a theme that runs through both, it's that of the thinness of the boundary between civilization and the primitive world, or between body and spirit.

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