Tropical Malady

Rated NR 2005

Controversial Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has high artistic ambitions, but he executes them so slowly and so listlessly as to lose his audience. The film runs two hours and is split down the middle by a change of venue; neither half offers much by way of plot, character, or conflict. In the first half, soldier Keng (Banlop Lomnoi) and "country boy" Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee) enjoy a sweet and eventless romance, wandering from city to country without doing much. The latter half is consumed by an archetypal quest, in which a different (perhaps) soldier journeys deep into the forest, hunting a beast that has been slaughtering cows. In the way of every sylvan quest, the soldier meets his animal nature, begins communicating with beasts, and finally confronts his foe. Tropical Malady might have worked had Weerasethakul stuck to the first story and added a conflict; there is tenderness and joy to the initial proceedings. The second half could have used a ruthless edit.

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