'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
Two parts of a spiritual journey here, in an effort to sink behind the familiar, worldly narrative and transport to the center of vision where images flow from.
The first part: youthful cheeks and cheap cologne, the lull of a summer afternoon, prayer at an underground temple, urban nights blossoming with the promise from neon lights, heat, openness. A Wong Kar Wai done without the catchy melancholia and filmed in long sweeps and relaxed breathing. The plot is about a young patrolman who pursues the affections of an unassuming country boy. They touch. He mysteriously vanishes into the night.
The second part: memories of that desire folded back into the jungle, a jungle stretching inland into the soul. Portents and divinations paving way for a wrestle with some internal darkness. The dreamlike pursuit to apprehend loss leads to a monkey that guides, a tree luminous with life. He lets go the ineffable as the only means of coming back into the light.
Between these we have a photograph that permits passage inside, a folk legend about a shapeshifting shaman that provides the ritual of primal images to transform to. He transforms collective mind into personal vision that enables himself to be transformed.
It is captivating stuff overall beckoning from the gaps between restless sleep and lucid dreaming, though not quite essential in the long run. From our end, we need to be the blank space that will allow the emptiness to ring through. We need to be the hollow shaft of the bamboo flute that will accommodate music. And ears that harken for the jungle night as it plays itself. You could spend a lifetime trying to arrange logically, but the only way it can have power is to absorb now, in a way that purifies. Recommended.
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