By Jeff Walsh
Apichatpong Weerasethakul is leading a new independent cinema in Thailand. His film "Tropical Malady" explores the relationship between two Thai men in a very natural, realistic way. The film is shown in two parts, though. The couple meets and develops their relationship in the first half, and then, in the second half, one of the men becomes a tiger and the other, a soldier, hunts through the jungle trying to find his lost love. It's definitely an experimental movie and, I assumed, telling some cultural myth or somesuch.
Recently, I attended a two-night program on Tropical Malady presented by the Pacifc Film Archive on the UC Berkeley campus. On the first night, an audience watched Tropical Malady on film. On the second night, we watched it on DVD and Apichatpong controlled the remote, stopping to tell stories about the filming, what he was trying to achieve, and any audience member could yell "Stop!" and ask a question.
So, when the movie hit the midway point, I was hoping to get some story of how there is some traditional Thai story of a boy who takes the shape of a tiger, and that would give me some cultural background that would help illuminate the second half. Instead, he only said, "And now, his boyfriend is tiger." So, apparently, I already knew everything I needed to.