Tropical Malady (12A)
Time Out saysThis acclaimed movie from the experimental Thai filmmaker (who for convenience’s sake agrees to be called ‘Joe’) is mysterious and bizarre. A leisurely, even slow affair, it comprises not one but two unusually simple (but, be warned, far from straighforward) tales, linked by an interlude that may or may not be explanatory. In the meandering gay idyll that is the first ‘story’, Keng, a young soldier, meets Tong, a boy from a small town; they happily divide their time between town and country until Tong suddenly walks off into the night. Then, after a brief fable about a shaman, a second ‘story’, wholly different in tone but featuring the same two actors, finds the (a?) soldier in dense jungle, tracking and being tracked by the shape-shifting spirit of a man-eating tiger…
Precisely how these two skeletal narratives relate to one another is unclear, though some kind of connection is evidently being made between desire, fulfilment and death. Are we to understand that sexual longing is a bestial impulse so dangerous it should be kept in check, or that we should place greater trust in our animal instincts? Indeed, should we try to ‘understand’ the film in any rational way at all, or simply surrender to its sensual, oneiric mood? If, like me, you’re unfamiliar with Apichatpong’s earlier work (which includes shorts, the documentary ‘Mysterious Object at Noon’, and the prizewinning feature debut ‘Blissfully Yours’), you may be bemused and, during the first half, just a little bored. There’s no denying, however, the film’s quiet assurance and originality, nor the haunting, hallucinatory beauty of the later night scenes.