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'Tropical Malady' explores the passionate relationship between two men with unusual consequences. The film is divided in two parts. The first half charts the modest attraction between two men in the sunny, relaxing countryside and the second half charts the confusion and terror of an unknown menace lurking deep within the jungle shadows. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
"Greed is our downfall. I was watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The woman won a lot of money but wouldn't stop playing. She lost and only got 30.000 Baht."
"The tiger trails you like a shadow. His spirit is starving and lonesome. I see you are his prey and his companion."
The experimental creator of "Mysterious Object at Noon" is back with another abstract gem, "Tropical Malady." This time we have a 2-parter connected by common themes and metaphors, a la Wong Kar Wai's Chungking Express, equally casual but much slowly paced here. The first part of the film is set in everyday world. A gay soldier pursues a young country boy. The boy is most likely not gay, but he returns the attraction most of the time, probably because he is attracted to the soldier on another level (e.g. he is fascinated by the soldier's uniform). One day, while the soldier is flipping through the boy's photo album, suddenly the movie blacks out -- enter part 2, a story inspired by legends that parallels part 1, but from an alternative angle that makes it challenging to detect the patterns. Set in the dark tropical forest, the soldier relentlessly hunts a tiger ghost spirit for love, fear, or both (foreshadowed by a shooting computer game played by the boy who later appears as the tiger spirit). The tiger is fascinated by the soldier's sound device. The soldier is warned that he must either kill the tiger or be devoured by it.
Part 1 and part 2 are both about desire and pursuit, and essentially follow the same path. In both, the soldier makes great effort to pursue his passion, but it leads him nowhere. He is incompatible with the partner of his desire, so it cannot be satisfied in the case of a straight boy or a tiger. The soldier can be classified as greedy, and it will be his downfall. The 'fairytale-esque' romance in part 1 seems almost Utopian, but it's an illusion that cannot be sustained. In the end he will be consumed by his desires.
This is a powerful and challenging film with 2 segments, each providing a distinctive context to view the same patterns. With only 2 or 3 lines of dialogue in the second part of more than 65 minutes, it's a highly sensual and contemplative experience, where every drop of water, wind gently brushing the leaves, and sound of birds singing contributes to your senses. You can literally smell the mud in the fresh rainforest.
The photography is undeniably beautiful. The last shot of the film is sheer poetry that will take your breath away.
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