Tropical Malady (Thailand/France/Germany; 118 min.)


directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
starring: Banlop Lomnoi; Sakda Kaewbuadee; Huai Dessom
Sud Pralad
 
Chris says: "This Thai film begins as a generally straightforward, refreshingly matter-of-fact gay romance between Keng, a soldier, and Tong, a young man from the provinces. This goes on for about an hour, building up a heady sense of erotic tension and longing until it reaches its breaking point. Then, the screen goes black, a new title appears, and with it, seemingly a whole new film. Set in the Thai jungle, it casts the two leads from the previous half as mythical figures in a traditional, dialog-free, hour-long Thai folk tale. Although knowing the film's structure ahead of time (as I did) may take away some of the surprise, it does make it a little less frustrating to watch. I'm still trying to draw parallels between the two halves and figure out what the director's intent was regarding this structure. But that doesn't make the second half any less visually mesmerizing or atmospherically tense. So, although the whole isn't as intriguing as its parts, I'd recommend this one for more adventurous viewers when it comes out on DVD next month. 4 cats"
 
Michael says: "We don't get to see to many films from Thailand here in the States, and
that's a shame. TROPICAL MALADAY is the latest film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (who asks that he be called 'Joe') who has made a name for himself in recent years at international film festivals. TROPICAL MALADAY is one of the more unique films to be released this year (thanks to the Brattle for being daring enough to screen it!) It starts as a sweet and playful love story between two men. Keng is a soldier in the Thai armed
services, and Tong is a villager living in a small community on the outskirts of the forest. The two begin a playful flirtation, with Keng clearly besotted by the simpler Tong. Slowly their relationship develops, desire mounting, until it reaches a pinnacle.

"Suddenly the screen goes black and several seconds pass, before a second credits sequence begins and another story begins. This one seems to be following Keng alone in the jungle as he tracks some sort of 'monster' that has been plaguing the villagers by stealing livestock. Is it a tiger? Is it a shaman-shape changer? Is it Tong? As Keng moves deeper into the forest he is plagued by his prey. Questions abound as the film draws to a close. Is Tong possessed by the tiger-ghost? Did the babboon really speak
to Keng? Is this an allegory to the love and desire that consumes the two characters? Is Keng caught up in a malaria-fueled fever-dream?

"Shot with the lush Thai background and exquisite use of light, Joe has crafted a complex, intriguing film that is as tantalizing as it is unique. The two main actors deliver strong, nuanced performances. This one is worthy of attention, particularly as a Buried Treasure. 4 1/2 cats"