2007 // Thailand // Aditya Assarat // February 23, 2010 // DVD - Kino (2009)
Revisiting this superb Thai romantic tragedy for the first time since I caught it at SLIFF in 2008, I was struck by how closely it hews to the rhythms and style of an American indie film. There's something about the relaxed but deliberate pace, the delicate soundtrack with the odd foray into pop sentiment, and the aura of small town menace that pushes into the film's final sequences that lend it the tone of a Sundance feature (in the best possible way). Yet it also possesses the unperturbed gaze and absorption with places—their sights, sounds, and, above all, textures—that have emerged as hallmarks of contemporary East Asian film. Unlike many cinephiles, the appeal of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's obscurantist works eludes me, so it's refreshing to see director Assarat (in his feature film debut, no less) offer an alternative entry point into Thai cinema. I appreciate the shattering third act U-turn in the narrative, and the themes of calamity and recovery that it underlines, but the primary joy I take from the film is how exquisitely it conveys its romantic elements. When was the last time a film-maker so closely followed the process by which two lonely adults fall fitfully, hopelessly in love? Assarat's achievement rests on an uncluttered, engaging portrayal of how unexpected and irresistible the heart's beckonings can be.