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TROPICAL MALADY (Sud pralad) (director/writer: Apichatpong Weerasethakul; cinematographers: Vichit Tanapanitch/Jarin Pengpanitch/Jean-Louis Vialard; editors: Lee Chatametikool/Jacopo Quadri; cast: Banlop Lomnoi (Keng), Sakda Kaewbuadee (Tong), Udom Promma (Ekarat); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles de Meaux; Strand Releasing; 2004-Thailand/France/Germany/Italy-in Thai with English subtitles)
“The most original film I’ve seen in years.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the third feature by experimental writer-director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Blissfully Yours”/”Mysterious Object at Noon”). He also co-directed The Adventures of Iron Pussy with Michael Shaowanasi. Though Mr. Weerasethakul lives in Thailand, he studied film and painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Tropical” won the jury prize at Cannes. It features two stories evenly divided in time and though simple they are equally adventurous and anything but straightforward. The first one chronicles the mystical idyllic summertime love story between a young soldier named Keng (Banlop Lomnoi) and an even younger shy country boy named Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee) he seduces, and who will eventually vanish into thin air as summer ends. The unpredictable connecting second story picks up on local Thai folklore the claim that the boy was transformed into a mythic man-eating tiger, capable of being a shape-shifting spirit (shaman), and the soldier goes by his lonesome into the heart of the Thai jungle in search of him. At first the soldier is the hunter but then becomes the prey, as Tong morphs into himself by day (supposedly he’s the ghost of the tiger). There’s a connection made in the two tales between the relationship of man and nature, and gives an allegorical voice to reaching fulfillment through death.

It’s haunting, baffling, irresistible, hypnotic, visually lush and brilliantly conceived as a cerebral mindtrip. The most original film I’ve seen in years. It’s a dreamlike love story playfully told that serves as a parable as it tells of the fears and desires one must overcome to find true love–that one must either kill the spirit within or be conquered by it.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”