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Sud Pralad (Tropical Malady)

(2005) *** 1/2 Unrated
115 min. Strand Releasing. Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Cast: Sakda Kaewbuadee, Banlop Lomnoi, Sirivech Jareonchon, Udom Promma, Huai Deesom.
The formally daring existential romance Tropical Malady begins with an epigraph reminding us that "All of us are by nature wild beasts." Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul uses Thai mythology to explore the confusion of humanity and bestiality as it intersects with the out-of-body experiences of life and death. In the film's first half, two young men do a dance of seduction when a Forest Patrol soldier named Keng falls in love with Tong, an unskilled lad from the country. With patient, careful craft, Weerasethakul stitches together vignettes of the young men killing time and growing closer, but when their courtship reaches a climax, the film reboots as a supernatural tale of Keng stalking a jungle creature who has killed local livestock. That the creature takes the naked, feral form of Tong suggests that the second half of the film is Tong's subjective revisit to the film's first half. Tropical Malady will be painfully slow for many if not most, but Weerasethakul's confident composition of sight and sound induces a trance-like state with an elegant suggestion: that all-consuming love is for old souls.
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