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Exciting and full of mystery
dvheaton16 October 2004
An exhilarating, confusing adventure. The first half of the film tells a love story, leaving small hints at the ways people can never really know one another. The second half uses a mythic tale and experimental style to explore that theme. It's an attempt to use film and storytelling to portray the feelings and instincts that human beings have but can't find words for. Exciting, but not for those who want everything wrapped up and defined (the film argues against the very possibility of easy definitions). I also highly recommend his two other feature-length films: "Mysterious Object at Noon" and "Blissfully Yours." Hopefully "Tropical Malady" will be released widely enough to get the attention it deserves, and hopefully one day "Blissfully Yours" will make its way to DVD.
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"A Film For The First People On Earth"
loganx-228 April 2009
A soldier named Keng, meets a young man named Tong in Thailand, the two begin a friendship. Keng makes constant sexual and amorous advances on Tong, who laughs them off, or makes a game out of them. He is never exactly interested, but never fully rebuffs either. The two make trips back and forth from the Jungle where Tong lives and Keng is on patrol with his military unit, to the city. We see the lush silent landscapes and the bustling city life, from dance hall karaoke to the cinema to the solitude of a quiet lake. When Keng finally makes a move in such a way, as to be beyond any doubt of a desire for intimacy (he kisses Tong's hands), Tong responds in turn by doing the same, and then walks into the darkness of the forest. Before Keng, can come to understand, the film takes a drastic turn in tone, style, and mood.

We are told by an interjected 3d person narrator the story of a shaman who is a shape-shifter known to take different animal forms, who used to roam the forest playing tricks on people. One day a cunning hunter, did not fall into a trick and shot him, mid transformation from woman into tiger. The spirit of the shaman was then stuck as half tiger half man and eternally doomed to stalk the forest; tricking and devouring all in it's path.

Keng, is then on patrol in his section of the forest, exploring rumors from villagers, about some "thing" killing cattle and causing general havoc. Alone on patrol in the woods, he becomes plagued by strange sounds, a sense of dread, and images of a naked boy, a tiger, spectral animals, and a glowing phosphorescent tree (which looks as beautiful as those in Aranofsky's "The Fountain"...I have no idea how they got that effect, on their budget, but it's miraculous...).

This second half of the film, of course calls into question our understanding of Keng and Tong's prior relationship (if Tong ever existed at all.). While part one, is reminiscent of a modern quirky love story like "Chungking Express", the second half is like Terrance Mallick shooting a remake of "Predator". All sense of time and space, is swallowed by the jungle, and implicit politics of the first half are turned inside out in the second half; it is literally cat and mouse, with the possibility that the cat may want to be eaten by the mouse, or vice versa.

The second half is also marked by the inclusion of tribal art and cave paintings, depicting the story of the shaman and the soldier, with sub-titles accompanying them. To paraphrase a description by director Weerasethakul it's like "a silent film for the first people on earth". And together with the visual effects, confident cinematography, clever use of editing, music, and sound, and disarming performances, it becomes magical. "Tropical Malady" combines the most modern and ancient notions of fear and desire, and makes something "new" out of them.

This is Thailand's "Solaris", a story of the changing shapes and forms of want and need, of being deceived and allowing yourself to be deceived by them. It's slow pace, forces reflection on questions like what form or body comprises love, is it purely physical or something more, is it perhaps deception itself, a fools errand we invent to forget the savagery of the jungle around us, is it the need to devour or be devoured? There's a Scottish legend called Tam Lin (one of my favorites), long story short, a woman falls in love with a faerie, and discovers he used to be a man, but made a deal with the faeries to serve them if they spared his life, after an accident. Tam tells the women she can restore his humanity and claim him, if when the faeries pass on Halloween night, she will wrap her arms around him and not let go no matter what happens. She does this, and the faeries transform him into all manner of creature, some hot, some cold, some thorny, others slimy, some which bite and claw, etc, but she holds on throughout all his changes, til eventually she finds herself just cradling a man. And the faeries begrudgingly let her keep him, because she held on to what she loved, despite the way it changed with time.

The film opens with these lines, "All of us are by nature wild beasts, our duty as human beings is to become like trainers, who keep their animals in check. And even teach them to perform tasks alien to their bestiality"-Tom Nakajima "Tropical Malady", is a good deal more ambiguous, I suspect more predatory and reflective as well, than Tam Lin, and comes from the opposite side of the world, but like that story manages to peculiarly harmonize emotional sensitivity and mythic scope, into a coherent whole.

I wished I would have paid more attention to Weerasethakul "Mysterious Object At Noon" the first time I had the chance, he has a talent for experimenting with narrative and style that is missing in many films endlessly praised these days. The phrase I kept hearing from other reviews or the one I liked the best was "If Brokeback Mountain, was a mountain on the island from "Lost"'s callous, with a smidgen of truth, but this is a much better movie than that. It is very slow moving though, the first hour will give you no hint of the second half (other than a few visual ones, look at the various statues in the backgrounds, etc), but for the bold and the patient, there is lush hypnotic reward to be had.
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A fever of ecstasy
howard.schumann29 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Tropical Malady, the fourth feature by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is a film of astonishing lyric power that explores, in myth and reality, the nature of love. The film is divided into a conventional story of friendship between two men, and a mytho-poetic tale that takes the viewer into the middle of a dense Thai jungle. It is a strange and haunting tone poem that is as multi-layered as the forest in which it is filmed and may require repeated viewing to fully unravel. The opening story is about the tentative, playful relationship between Dong (Sakda Kaewbuadee), a shy young farmer who lives with his parents in the Thai countryside and Keng (Banlop Lomnoi), a soldier on furlough from the Thai army. The relationship has homoerotic undertones but they are suggested rather than openly acknowledged.

Tong is unsophisticated and appears uneasy in the relationship but never loses control, giving their friendship a charm and sweetness rarely depicted on screen, especially between members of the same sex. They go to a movie, participate in an exercise class, take a sick dog to a clinic, and visit an underground temple. Their relationship develops in simple gestures of affection. Keng gives Tong a Clash tape but later tells him that when he gave him the tape he forgot to give him his heart. He places his hand on Tong's knee but the boy turns it into a mischievous game of squishing his hand with his other leg rather than acknowledging its sensual implications. Keng asks Tong if he can lay in his lap and Tong says "no", then a minute later, he changes that to "no problem". A scene in which Keng mouths Tong's hand after he had urinated and Tong returns the favor with equal passion advances the sexual nature of their relationship but it is not consummated.

As Keng leaves for the country to resume his duties, the screen goes blank and we are transported into a land of myth and time in which a folk tale is being narrated in a jungle setting. Called A Spirit's Path, the mood suddenly changes to dark and foreboding. A narrator tells us that a shaman has transformed himself into a tiger and is terrorizing the countryside that Keng is under orders to protect. The soldier's mission is to subdue the tiger (Tong) and release the spirit of a white cow. The lovers are now the hunter and the hunted. Running through the jungle with tattoos all over his body, Tong is a naked man who can shape-shift into an animal at will. As Keng hunts his elusive prey, he begins to lose his grounding in the normal constructs of reality and the framing of the jungle scenes create an atmosphere of brooding surreal intensity.

Stripped of the pretense we call civilization, on the border between two worlds, Keng's life unfolds in a desperate vision, suggesting that we are the both the dreamer and that which is being dreamt. He talks to animals, sees ghosts, and receives advice from a baboon who tells him "The tiger trails you like a shadow. He is lonesome. Kill him to free him from his world, or let him devour you to enter his world." As the tiger perches on the branch of a tree staring at him, Keng knows that in order to save his life, he must be willing to sacrifice it. "I give you my spirit, my flesh, and my memories", he tells the tiger, and "Every drop of my blood sings our song A song of happiness. There… do you hear it?" Beyond the shadow of illusion, Tropical Malady forces us to see in the dark. What begins with a wan smile ends in a fever of ecstasy.
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A masterpiece of sensory cinema
luckycinema11 November 2004
This film crushed me to the bone, exhausted my heart, and I was never again the same. It brought back faith in the uncompromised vision of cinema. Its images will forever stay in my memory; the stare of the tiger, the smell of the tropical rain...this is sensory cinema, where time is freezed and narrative is stripped, and what's left is for us to finally feel. It is utopian, but it is also sad, because we realize that there is never (and never will be) a utopia. People say love is utopian, yet according to Mr. Weerasethakul, it is also very consuming, which becomes possessive, and at the end, a burden. At the end, the soldier goes into the jungle to find what's been consuming him. The tiger. He is lost and completely hopeless; he has no purpose without the tiger, yet he cannot possibly live with the tiger because of its nature. They are co-dependent; co-exist. Is that what great love is all about?
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Just plain awesome - may contain spoilers
ciski7711 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
How hard is it to write up a commentary of a movie that speaks to your senses? Actually, 'Tropical Malady' wasn't even a movie as much as it was an experience for my ears, eyes and my mind.

The movie is split in two halves that both tell the same story - a love story between a soldier and a countryman - one filtered through reality, one through mythology: the city where every action follows a rational and logical thread, and the jungle where there's no rule other than learning to coexist with nature and all events and emotions are primary and raw. In the second part, the country boy becomes the incarnation of a shape-shifting shaman and follows the soldier in the shape of an extraordinary tiger, as to mirror his forceful appeal and the soldier's wild desire: what was a polite, romantic and almost naive love story becomes a supernatural tale where all schemes and disguises are erased and all that's left is pure instinct.

There are so many memorable moments (the theater sequence, the descent into the temple) but everything that happens in the second half speaks to you on a totally different level. Words are replaced by jungle noises, sounds become messengers of peace or impending danger - the soldier (Banlop Lomnoi, who's beyond awesome) has to choose whether to give in to desire or tame it, kill the tiger or let it kill him. The visual impact of this part is astonishing - the tiger appearing for the first time, the branches shaken by the wind, a tree lit up by fireflies: the beauty of the imagery is almost epic.

Seriously, the movie deserves to be watched because putting this into words is almost like betraying its spirit. Awesome, awesome experience all throughout.
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Psychedelic and haunting
figseed12 May 2005
I agree that the film is a little disjointed - things like the very long karaoke scene (what an awful song) I found tedious and unnecessary, but rationalised to myself that the director was trying to create a lighthearted, falling-in-love-and-life-is-so-sweet kind of atmosphere - something I think was done more successfully in the scenes of the couple at the movies, in the forest, etc. This almost lulls you into a false sense of security, though the temple scene foreshadows the dramatic shift in mood that comes with the latter part of the film. The jungle scenes are powerfully spellbinding, both visually and aurally, with their long spells of darkness and almost complete absence of dialogue and they, I believe, make up for any inconsistencies in the earlier part of the film. I saw this in the afternoon, and emerged from the darkness of the cinema and the jungle feeling absolutely intoxicated. I will never forget the tiger's face in the darkness - psychedelic and haunting.
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"Greed is our downfall"
PiranianRose2 October 2005
"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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Great ideas, poor(?) execution
bingodunk26 August 2005
Having had a good think about the film after seeing it this afternoon, I still can't escape the feeling that there was a really excellent film in the subject matter and narrative elements, but that the director just hadn't quite found a way to get that film to the screen. Instead, he found a film that ultimately taxes most viewer's patience. There were some really lovely elements, I agree, but there is something about the editing that was just this side of over indulgent (and I happen to generally like long, loving, camera shots that are meditative!). The jungle portion of the film, IMHO, suffered from a lack of visual information in most instances (and yet this is one of the strengths of some the individual jungle scenes, like those of the tree, the tiger and ghost ox, where, just because of this unrelenting sameness, stand out marvelously). It could have been half the length and by virtue of that, twice as effective. Having said as much, I look forward to seeing more by this director, he clearly has a head on his shoulders and the courage to tackle difficult (yet rewarding) ideas.
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A movie to regain hope in human race.
blindg14 January 2005
"Tropical Malady" from the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Jury Prize in the last Cannes Film Festival, is a movie that really consume the inside, like a terminal disease. Every senses of your body will be over-excited, there is a TERRIFIC use of sound effects, that will render the tropical forest a living entity, intelligent, thinking, speaking. The contrast between the horrors and anguishes of modern time and the most charming folk legends , that awaken the most genuine human side from the bottom of our hearts is something quite unique and unforgettable.

It's hard to tell about the story without spoil it. Watch it, no matter what.
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challenging and fascinating film
Buddy-513 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Tropical Malady" is a lush, beautifully directed love story from Thailand that uses magic realism to spin a tale derived from Eastern folk wisdom. The first half of the film is relatively straightforward and rooted in reality, as a soldier stationed in the jungle goes on leave to a bustling city and falls in love with a young man who lives and works there. The growing attachment between the two men is chronicled with so much subtlety that it takes us quite awhile to realize that there is anything of that nature between them. Then suddenly one night, after a particularly tender moment between the two lovers, Tong walks away into the darkness of an open road, while Keng returns to his post in the jungle. When news begins to spread in the nearby village that livestock have been found dead and some humans have also gone missing, Keng heads out into the forest alone to investigate the claims. And this is where the film REALLY turns strange, for Keng soon discovers that some sort of beast may be hiding out there, devouring both animals and people, and that - get this - that beast may actually be Tong, the love of his life. This second - and, for me, slightly less interesting - half of the film is a largely wordless journey into the filmmakers' own heart of darkness.

I won't try and pretend to grasp all the mystical concepts writer/director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is batting around in this film. The quotes he provides for us, drawn from famous Thai folk tales, are of some help, but much of the theme of the film remains obscure and murky for Western minds not accustomed to thinking in such pantheistic terms of the world around us. Nevertheless, the film still connects with us Occidental types, possibly because it explores that universal belief all humans seem to share - undoubtedly implanted onto our DNA way back in our primeval days - of a so-called enchanted forest, a place where evil in a monstrous form may be lurking beneath the dark underbrush ready to jump out and devour us at any unguarded moment. It shows up in many of our fairy tales, of course, and, most recently, in films such as "The Blair Witch Project," "The Village," "The Two Towers" and "The Brothers Grimm" to name a few. Yet, "Tropical Malady" also brings a romantic tenor to the subject as it implies that the love between the two men has somehow moved into a more meaningful and primal stage, one bereft of the constricting and deadening rituals placed upon it by a civilized world (my suspicion is that is why the filmmakers chose to make this a love story between two men rather than one between a man and a woman, though, frankly, the Thai society we see doesn't seem to be particularly condemning or homophobic in its response to the lads).

Even if every single moment is not comprehensible to us, this is still a wonderful film to watch, primarily because Weerasethakul brings such a lyrical, impressionistic style to his direction. He fills literally every frame with fascinating details of the setting and landscape - be it the lush vegetation of an overgrown steamy rainforest or the neon-lit vibrancy of a crowded urban shopping mall. His soundtrack is also a major player in the film, particularly in the jungle scenes where the natural - and not so natural - sounds become an intricate part of the mood and drama.

And "mood" is definitely the operative word here, for "Tropical Malady" is far more a film of feelings and sensations than of conventional narrative. The lovely performances by Banlop Lomnoi and Sakda Kaewbaudee, as the two men drawn into this surrealistic drama, help to ground the film enough in reality so that we go along with it even when we don't always understand it. A feast for the eyes and ears, "Tropical Malady" is a hypnotic, spellbinding film that washes over you and carries you to a world singularly its own. Take the journey.
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There's a tiger looming in the jungle
jotix1007 July 2005
"Tropical Malady" by Thai film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a haunting film that at times seems impenetrable. The director has played a trick on the viewer by changing the mood and the pace right in the middle of the film. We are led to believe that the soldier and the young man that are clearly attracted to each other will go on to share a life together, but no, Mr. Weerasethakul takes us to the jungle where the soldier is trying to catch the elusive and beautiful tiger.

"Tropical Malady" has been promoted as a gay film, which in a way, it is, but basically it presents a mystery that is never solved, although we know that in this case, the soldier is so obsessed with his opponent that they end up respecting one another.

My only reservation with the film is the editing. It could have used a bit of cutting to make it more accessible. As a point of interest, films like this one tends to irritate viewers and one watches as how a theater empties out because people don't want to sit through any more. On the case of "Tropical Malady" no one walked out, which perhaps it's saying a lot for a film that can tax the viewer's patience.

The jungle scenes at night are magnificently executed and perhaps the director will have more success with his future undertakings as he shows a sure hand in his direction.
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dark, intoxicating and life inspiring
primitifcinema9 August 2005
This film is a masterpiece.

It's form is so effortless that it's difficult not to feel like you're not watching a movie at all -- or at least -- in it's ultimate experience is more kin to cinema at it's purest.

One does not need to understand television to view this work -- or pop culture or magazines -- it is so heartfelt, detailed and organic with the celluloid acting as a cipher for ghosts to wander, lost and found.

One can not replicate this kind of experience by discussing it's genre..and certainly script doctors would have mild heart attacks trying to replicate its beauty and substantial finality as a work of great cinema.
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maybe the first part WAS THE DREAM
goingintoexile21 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
i saw this film today at the gay film festival in Sana Francisco. maybe the shaman smelled the soldier and fell in love with his dreams so he became what the soldier wanted so much to love, a boy, a sweet simple boy. a boy who would sing a silly love song to him, a boy who would wear his uniform, a boy would would kiss his hand BACK, a boy who would write back I LIKE YOU TOO. but because he wasn't a boy he had to leave. waiting in the jungle wondering and suffering WILL MY LOVE COME. the monkey was our guide and told the soldier the truth. the soldier was afraid tried to hide and run away; wouldn't it be so much easier to TRY and love like he had before instead of facing his love face to face. but he did, that look between the soldier and the tiger was LOVE
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The best film I've seen in my life.
rorro200028 August 2005
At the beginning of the film there's a phrase written in Thai without translation, it reads something like, "This film is seen by the eye, but it has to be seen by the heart". So this is the trick to the film; if one doesn't know how to see with the heart, or if the film doesn't touch one's heart creating an explosion that obliges the heart to start "seeing" independently of whether we want to or not, then the film will appear as a mediocre whatever thing. If otherwise, one can have an insight into human nature. Especially to that beast within us, called desire or craving.

I have to confess that parts of it remain unclear. But that doesn't create any conflict whatsoever. On the contrary, it's precisely what adds passion to it. Existence is a mystery, or isn't it? On the other hand, the author delights in showing us with startling clarity those "insignificant" daily emotions that we are all familiar with, but that we might not actually understand.
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I Need to Write This in Order to Move On...
sinistre111123 September 2006
I actually feel bad that I did not connect with this film. For all its perceived depth noted in other comments here (and in the pages of Film Comment magazine), this experimental Thai film left me unmoved and even a bit irritated. Perhaps I was not "viewing with my heart," as another commenter suggested was necessary.

The one redeeming factor for me was the opportunity for a realistic glimpse of rural Thailand, and some scenes were indeed beautifully photographed.

I am no stranger to experimental and non-narrative structures in film, but found myself fast-forwarding through much of this piece, especially the latter "folkloric" half.

Inscrutable and languidly paced do not always equal a soulful, moving film experience, and I can't help but wonder if some of the praise for this one comes from those willing to be blown away by anything impenetrably arty.

There really is not a lot to this film, not much happens per se, and it is left to the viewer to project one's own sensory or emotional illuminations onto the structure, what little there is. I was unable to make this leap, cold-hearted bastard that I am.
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There are better Thai films
will46366 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This was my 6th Thai film - and I'm sorry to say I've seen 5 better ones! The only thing "intriguing" about the film is WHY it won a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Since the French think that Jerry Lewis is a comic genius, I've long since given up trying to understand THEIR aesthetic. I'll relate the film to mine: While it's true that Southeast Asian film is just now dealing with the issue of homosexuality; and while it's true that Thai cinema is just emerging and probably needs encouragement - this film is a discombobulated mess.

The underlying psycho-political message is more than a little disturbing, too. To the extent that the Tiger stands for Desire - the message is either kill the Desire or the Desire will consume/kill you.

And thus the portrayal of the soldier's desire is conflicting. While in the first half of the film he seems to know exactly who/what he wants - in the second half of the film he is lost & confused, frightened by his Desire.

And there were simply too many "throw away" scenes - such as going into the cave with the weird Sister - and going to the Mall with the weird Sisters - and "meaningful glances" exchanged by both the solider and the boy and young women along the way - all of which give you a taste of urban Thailand - but towards what end? And the interplay of countryside ("traditional") versus urban ("modern") Thailand is messy, too.

If traditional values teach that such Desire is a bestial trap - it's pretty hard to see the urban "jungle" as offering any particular alternative "escape" in this film.
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usedomsurf1 November 2005
Please do not make the same mistake as I did when I believed the positive critics this film received. Unfortunately the film is really bad and extremely boring, even though the two main characters seem to be quite good actors (but due to the "script" they are not allowed to show their talents). To those people who try to make it to some kind of supernatural experience which combines nature, soul, mystery etc. I can only say: Stop the esoteric bullshit. If you like nature it is far more preferable to go out of your house and enjoy it than to watch this extremely boring film where nothing is really happening and the second part is just pathetically dragging on and on. Just believe me, I am quite a moviegoer and like off mainstream films a lot. But this one is just an insult to your patience.
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A self indulgent exercise which does not deserve credit
michaelround9 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I came out feeling that I had viewed rubbish... don't bother with it. I had read reviews, love Thailand - even to the extent of learning Thai - and was thus very very disappointed. The film is self indulgent, appeared to have no script worth the word, a juvenile editing approach which included texts and lengthy black screens and jumbled sequences. There were leaps from day to night, and non sequitur to non sequitur, from situation to situation. The dog lies on the road. The dog is happy in the lap. The dog is at the vet and dying of cancer. What had that got to do with ANYTHING? The only justification was to show that the village boy was illiterate and unable to fill in the vet's form. So what? This was a love affair, did it matter that the boy could or could not read? Later on he takes pen to paper so maybe he can write but not read. The written dialogue translated from the Thai and thus quirky had some effect... the tiger would eat the man's flesh and blood and 'memories'... nice notion. But even the quality of the goodish scenes left much to be desired. Good acting from the two leads and two lovely moments: the soldier asking permission to lay his head on the country boy's lap, and a show of affection with a long sniff kiss to the hand of the boy, followed by the boy lick kissing the hand of the soldier, followed by an incongruous moment with the boy going off into darkness and the solder riding a moped along a street with a smile on his face. Effectively there are two entirely different films present.If only they had reversed these two completely different films and paid attention to linking and a firm story line there might have been something which was less painful to sit through. I am astonished at the writers who have gone over the top with this film. I am merely confident that anyone who sees the film with anything like commonsense objectivity will agree with me. It is not smart to see inferior material as clever art. The scenes in the forest were an opportunity for some serious scary moments, but it failed. Nothing happened, there was no sense to it all. Perhaps the editor is the person to blame for there probably was not a writer or a director on the evidence placed on the silver screen by this work. I cannot recommend people see it except perhaps to challenge my views. Sorry, but very much a miss.
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Interesting, but hard to understand and quite long-winding in the end.
RagingR211 September 2005
This film certainly has a few things to offer. Beautiful images, a sense of 'darkness' and mystery, and the folk myth about a Shaman that the story apparently evolves around. However, in the end I thought this movie was pretty long-winding and far from an easy piece of visual entertainment.

The film basically consists of two distinguishable parts which both last about an hour. The first half takes place mainly in the city and the second half is mainly jungle. Now this may be a problem on my behalf, but I'm not really sure I completely understood the link between first half and the second half of the film. I see the metaphor of the traditional versus the original, and I quite like the idea, but filmwise the link betwoon both parts was messy and unclear, if there was a link at all.

The way I see it, the lack of much dialogue or other information to clear things up, and the presence of a lot of scenes of which I didn't really understand the relevance, didn't really help. Don't get me wrong, I kinda liked the slow pace of the story with some silent moments built in, and of course the beautiful imagery of the jungle. But I really think it was a little overdone here. There was a lot of dead wood on this tree, so to speak. By dead wood I mean the several scenes where things happen of which it was quite hard to understand the relevance to the central story line, and of course the several pretty long periods in the film where nothing really happens at all. Instead, some more 'structure' and some more elements to give the viewer a little more grip on the film in order to understand what the writer meant would have been more than welcome.
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Lucid dreaming
chaos-rampant5 December 2011
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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Sud Pralad: Mirrored Metaphors
shannon-weiss27 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady is at first a playful illustration of new love that has as its backdrop exotic Thailand. Keng, a soldier, is immediately admired by one and all; his attention however is dedicated entirely to young country boy, Tong. This blossoming romance illustrates the societal prejudices in existence at the time as well as cultural idiosyncrasies characteristic of the region. One easily becomes lost in the film as the long, slow cinematographic style mesmerizes the viewer yet at the midway point one is simply lost as the film shifts focus entirely. The narrative now resembles a proverb, in which a soldier wanders through the mysterious jungle in search of a missing boy. Suspicions lead to a shaman who haunts the village in tiger form. The secondary story relates to the narrative of Keng and Tong in a metaphoric way: it mirrors a quote provided earlier that illustrating the bestial nature of man and his desire to train the animal within to perform as expected by society. This statement conveys the nature of homosexuality, a characteristic innate in some yet denied by many. In the second story, the soldier in the jungle reverts to his animalistic tendencies in order to join his friend in a separate, if not supernatural world. While the transition between the juxtaposed narratives is foggy in execution, it is evident that the two stories speak to each other; the former illustrates the simplicity of love while the latter displays the inborn facets of love that are perhaps driven by something outside of oneself.
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Intense true love.
rhghvw-114 December 2005
When a young Thai soldier falls in love with a country boy, the lad disappears. But because of the intensity of his love, when the lad vanishes, the soldier must hunt in the Thai jungle for him. Although the love is "gay," it is not so much in the sexual meaning of that word as it is joyous. There is no nudity, and hardly any touching or kissing. This is an unusual film, as the first part is treated naturally, the second, with its own credits, is a haunting fantasy. The photography in daylight is banal and cluttered, with an excellent feel for Thailand's countryside, but the night scenes are glowing. The work of several photographers were involved to create the difference. An extremely moving, honest, well-crafted film, with an interesting filmed commentary by the director and the actors.
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Somewhat obscure and self indulgent with a good movie in there somewhere
j-miller8015 September 2004
Don't watch alone... I saw this knowing nothing about it as my pal misread the programme for the Toronto Film Festival and our first choice was not on. So, knowing nothing about it I found it lavish but disjointed... a film that frankly missed and which I feel I could have made had I had the budget. It flattered to deceive and did not deliver on its introductory references to the beast in man and the gloss of civilization. Instead we were subjected to a very personal view which failed to communicate to those that did not already know what to expect and therefore, frankly, failed. Having said that it was a great travel movie showing me parts I regret I would otherwise not reach and a brave attempt to make a very un-commercial film about something obviously very personal where the temptation to resist to commerciality or superficiality was clearly resisted
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spoiler710 September 2004
Sorry, I don't see how the first half and second halves of this film tied together. OK, there were soldiers in both. As two separate films it has hope.

The pace in the two halves (films?) was entirely different. As were the people. Everyone was a "slacker" at the start and the solders were driven in the second.

However, I liked the two sisters who befriended the two young men, gave them soda and offered pot. I'd like a movie about them! Didn't see them at the mall.
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Hmmm, even the DVD's extras included filmgoers at a loss to understand this film!?
supadude200431 March 2005
4/10 (it at least had good cinematography) or How to Win an artsy film prize: Make a film that's suffocatingly deep, allegedly meaningful, partially immersed in quasi-mysticism then throw in some contemporarily realistic elements in an exotic setting but do make sure the leading characters are offbeat in some way (in this instance gay & Thai.). Forget about any ideas of an engaging storyline, as that will be inconsequential in the face of the momentous acting. Then pray that Tarantino + the other judges had a very pleasurable time as regards their leisure pursuits just before & just after the movie's screening. Oh, and before I sign off... psssst.... what a protracted & most nonsensical bore this film was! IMO, the best Thai film is undoubtedly either 'Nang Nak' or 'Ai Fak' (And btw, just why hasn't the DVD been released with Eng subs for the latter??? Grrrr)
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