Tropical Malady - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tropical Malady Reviews

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½ June 14, 2011
Several stunning, original compositions. And that's sadly about it.
June 10, 2011
Sud Pralad (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)

Cahiers du CinŤma, one of the most respected film journals in the world, named Sud Pralad (literally Strange Beast, though released in the west as Tropical Malady) the best movie of 2004. I'm not so sure about that; 2004 was one of the strongest years for movies in quite a while. Spain gave us El Maquinista, Korea Sigaw, Thailand Shutter, Japan Ika Resuraa (okay, I just threw that one in to see if you were paying attention, but it's a darned good time) and Vital, Italy The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, Argentina The Motorcycle Diaries, Norway Nor Noise, Denmark The Green Butchers, England Shaun of the Dead, Germany Der Untergang (the movie pretty much everyone else said was the best of 2004), and I could keep going on all day. Even on Cahiers' home turf, we had Saint Ange, the first film from a young director named Pascal Laugier, who is quickly becoming the best of his generation. But if you're going to go for the willfully obscure, you could do a lot worse than to seek out Apichatpong Weerasethakul, an American-educated Thai filmmaker whose work is well-informed by the Surrealist movement of the thirties and the folktales of his home country. Of course, I'm writing this in 2011, and Weerasethakul is no longer a director about whom most people's knowledge doesn't even stretch as far as how to pronounce his name; Uncle Boonmee Who Can See His Past Lives, Weerasthakul's sixth feature, has been tearing up festivals, including winning the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Maybe he'll finally start getting the recognition he deserves. He should have a decade ago; The Mysterious Object at Noon, his first feature, is a jaw-dropping experience in folklore, the nature of documentary, and the kind of gorgeous cinematography that has pervaded his films ever since. (Uncle Boonmee won for Best Cinematgraphy at Dubai, by the way.) But back in 2004, no one knew who this guy was, and so Sud Pralad, like The Mysterious Object at Noon before it, was sadly neglected, and still is. You should rectify this, though this is not Weerasthakul's best work.

It starts off as a romance (if you passed over this when it popped up on Sundance because they labeled it a comedy, by the way, you can ignore that entirely) between Keng (Banlop Lonmoi in his only feature to date), a disaffected soldier, and Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee, who has appeared in every feature Weerasthakul has made since this; in fact, he reprises his role as Tong in Uncle Boonmee), a young man from Keng's home village. The two of them are hesitant, and there's some difficulty since Keng is a naturally reticent type of guy, but romance blossoms. (There's a great, great scene in a cinema about halfway through the first part, the first scene in the film when we really get a sense that Keng is allowing himself to feel, that is in itself worth the price of admission.)

Halfway through the film, we find ourselves back in Weerasethakul's obsession with Thai folktales, as Tong's role is recast. Keng is still a soldier, but he is now attached to a jungle regiment on the lookout for a supernatural beast, a shaman who can take the form of a tiger. It's been abducting local wildlife and the odd farm animal here and there, presumably for food, throughout the first half of the film, but when it starts taking villagers, it's time for the army to act. We know the story has fundamentally changed, and that this is a beast, not a human, but Weerasethakul still gives us Tong. It's not exactly subtle, is it?

Not that it matters. The plot in a Weerasthakul film is always a secondary consideration; remember that he started out as a documentary, or at least a pseudo-documentary, filmmaker. He's more interested in the subjects he's exploring, be they people or folktales (and, like Errol Morris, he is also interested, maybe even more, in how the audience will react to them). He presents them beautifully, as is his wont, and through the wordlessness of the second half, which is presented with title cards, he draws our attention to the sounds of the forest, which are just slightly off, in keeping with the theme of the film's second half. That's the kind of attention to detail one should expect from a Weerasethakul film, and he delivers in spades.

On the other side of the coin, the film does have its weaknesses. Most notably is the transition between the first and second halves of the film, which is jarring in the extreme, and is the number one complaint about it both in the reviews I've read and on discussion boards. I do understand why Weerasethakul chose such a jarring segue, and it does make sense, but I wonder how much of the feeling of transition would have been lost had the two halves of the story been joined more smoothly. I've already mentioned the film's only other major flaw, which is its odd heavy-handedness, but that's minor in the bigger scheme of things.

If you're just discovering Weerasthakul, you have a wonderful journey in store. Start with The Mysterious Object at Noon and come to this one a little afterwards. ****
½ May 25, 2011
A meditative, slow and beautiful film. Not as good as Blissfully Yours, but very much a worthwhile watch.
February 14, 2011
Refreshingly raw and organic. Beautifully shot and performed. Simple but intriguing stories gripped me from the beginning to the end.
January 9, 2011
My favorite by Apichatpong so far.
January 1, 2011
Well, this was certainly a different film. It's basically two different films, the first half dealing with a soldier and a farmer boy who have a romantic relationship together, and the second half deals with a hunter searching for a tiger (who shapefits into a human) that is killing the livestock. The first half is pretty straightforward (and, unfortunatley, a bit tedious I felt) while the second half is much more poetic and mysterious.
I can see how the two stories are related, but I much preferred the second half of the film. There were parts from the first half I enjoyed though, the cave sequence was nice and I enjoyed the tale of the monk. But I wish the film stayed like the second half where it went into a fable. I also couldn't help but notice that there was a mention of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (and certainly helped pave the way for the second half of the film).
Anyway, there were some very nice visual. particularly in the second half (the tree at night and the ghostly cattle) and the sound was excellent. But the first half went too slow for me and didn't flow like the second half.
January 1, 2011
Sirve de antecedente para la mas reciente cinta del director. Dividida en dos partes. La primera sobre dos jovenes varones que sienten una conexion especial y empiezan una relacion. La segunda parte trata de la busqueda de un legendario espiritu que toma diversas figuras animales para sobrevivir. Vale la pena, aunque no es para cualquiera. Rica en simbolismos y un buen ejemplo de cinematografia Thai.
Super Reviewer
November 26, 2010
Weerasethakul's film is hard to describe by regular terms. There is no story here, at least not the way you are used to seeing it. And there is a lot of patience that you have to have to go through the second part of the film, where the camera is just following the hunter through his long journey into the jungle. But I must say I felt that my patience paid off at the end. I loved the ending (which I won't describe here for I wouldn't like to write a spoiler): so simple, so heart-felt, yet so genius.
November 19, 2010
It's not just a film. It's a transcendental, breathtaking and magical experience; cinema for your senses.
October 29, 2010
I wrote an awesome long review, but then flixster decided not to save it. So basically this is why "Tropical Malady" surprised the hell out of me, in a good way. Every single frame of this movie is deep and resonate. There are times when the film is a bit slow, but instead of thinking about something else in these moments, the cinematography kept me watching it. For me the in-between moments like these were hypnotic. Eventually I came to, and each time I did I received a great story. There are two stories in "T.M.", both seemingly different from one another. I'm not going to talk about each story, because I'm sick of re-writing what I wrote, but I will say this: if you're paying attention, the two stories connections are an experience of joy in and amongst themselves. It's euphoric thinking about the way the mundane real world and a fearful fable link together.
½ September 21, 2010
The exclusive cast includes the crickets, rattling leaves, barking dogs, footsteps in the woods. A work of art. A definition of humans. A supernatural masterpiece.
September 2, 2010
Surprise: j'ai trouv√© √ßa tout sauf ennuyeux. La premi√®re partie est simple et belle, la deuxi√®me fascinante et hypnotique. La belle mise en sc√®ne a un c√īt√© tarkovskien... Mise en condition id√©ale pour accueillir le Boonmee.
August 23, 2010
Too languid and lacks narrative momentum.
July 18, 2010
I have to admit, I really didn't know what to think of this film at first. It seems to me a pretty kind of generic gay love story between two young men. But then the second half of the film shifts into this kind of related story of a soldier lost in the forest and haunted by the ghost of a shapeshifting shaman. It turns into a beautiful piece of cinema that complements and totally added a lot more layers and complexity to the events of the first half of the film. It's challenging but very rewarding.
½ July 10, 2010
I just love this film and its mysterious subtle ambiance!

It's clearly divided into 2 parts. The first half tells us about the beautiful relationship of 2 men who have to hide their wild ids among other people in the real world while the second half deals with a mythical folktale about the "ghost tiger" making us feel excited and confused at the same time.

Overall, I think it's a great love story. Don't be biased just because they're both guys! Love is love, no matter which form they are in. And that's the beauty of love and of life!

PS. Watching this film after "Uncle Boonmee" and "Syndrome and a Century", there are many scenes and dialogues that link to his 2 later films. WOW ... kudos to Apichatpong! He's such a genius!
jimbotender
Super Reviewer
June 16, 2010
A contemporary classic of unflinching whistles just like the forest of transformations in the second half of the film. Apichatpong curiously observes the inhabitants of his tale but without intervening in their timid reactions and for what it's worth, an oh-so-dear flirt between the men of our story. Shamanic myths and the jungle's hedonistic junction, Tropical Malady captures an almost religious howl and defies the cinematic rules like so many films did before it, only it gets more visible in recent years.
June 11, 2010
This is an impressive piece of work by one of the really original practitioners of the medium working today.
½ June 10, 2010
"What unit are you from?"
"I'm not a soldier. I'm unemployed. I hope the uniform will get me work."
"Where have you applied?"
"This is the first place."
"Do you know much about shoes?"
"Shoes? What's there to know?...I'm kidding."
May 25, 2010
L'un des meilleurs films des 10 dernieres annees selon les Cahiers du Cinema par le plus grand jeune cineaste de ces memes 10 dernieres annees selon les Inrocks & co. Clairement scinde en deux parties. La premiere raconte l'histoire d'amour tres fleur bleue entre un soldat en poste a la campagne et un ado du coin qu'il initie en quelque sorte (a l'amour, a la ville,...) avant que, plus sur de lui, ce dernier ne parte (implicitement). La deuxieme, conte naturaliste poetico-fantastique, met en scene dans la jungle ce meme soldat chassant (puis etant chasse par) l'esprit d'un chaman puissant qui a le pouvoir de prendre possession du corps d'un tigre... Ou d'un jeune homme qui ressemble a celui de la 1ere partie. Reste a faire le lien entre les deux comme dans "Mulholland Drive" par exemple. Entre la niaiserie assumee du premier acte (la Tha√Įlande est certes le "pays du sourire" mais de la a sourire betement toutes dents dehors toutes les 30 secondes...) et la poesie assez hermetique du second, il est assez difficile de s'accrocher par moments... (surtout dans la 2e partie). Pourtant le prejuge de "film chiant" que l'on pourrait avoir sur ce type d'oeuvre ne tient pas vraiment. Il y a des choses qui se passent a l'ecran, la camera "bouge", la mise en scene est maitrisee, originale, c'est beau. Le resultat est deroutant mais assez fascinant tout de meme. Un film qui reste en tete tant il est enigmatique.
May 24, 2010
I don't know if it's really a loved-it-or-hate-it film, but I surely know it's the kind of film that stays with me after the first and only time I saw it six years ago. There might not be a clear story just like any other Weerasethakul's film, but I simply let my mind flew with it wherever it took me to and ended up getting a haunting and mystic satisfaction.
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