Blissfully Yours

Blissfully Yours


Reviewed by: Ben Sillis

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is perhaps most famous - "least obscure" might be a more appropriate phrase - for the recent Tropical Malady, which is a bonkers film, set in a jungle, focusing on two gay soldiers, one of whom turns out to be an ancient shadow-tiger spirit of some form.

Blissfully Yours, a dreamlike depiction of the reality of several ordinary people, is a little less bizarre, in terms of the scenario, though barely in terms of structure and editing. Even if the result is merely head scratching and bemusement, when much of Thai cinema revolves around factory line melodramas, it is refreshing to see directors such as Weerasethakul and Pen-ek Ratanaruang (the mesmerising Last Life In The Universe) try to work outside of the box. Weerasethakul has even set up a company, Kick The Machine, to help budding young Thai auteurs realise their projects.

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The film revolves around three central characters, whose relations are never precisely defined. Min is an illegal Burmese immigrant, who can barely speak a word of Thai. Roong is his lover and main channel of communication. The older Orn looks after and over the two, as events unfold in real time.

At first, we see Orn and Min in the doctor's surgery, trying to get some advice and, through bribery, a certificate of good health, essential in Min's quest for a job, followed by the two traipsing around town on errands until they meet up with Roong and leave for the country. It is at this point that the director really turns convention on its head. The music and credits strike up 45 minutes into the film and you realise that this has all been merely an introduction.

For the rest of the time, the main characters are in the jungle, and superimposed on the whole affair are Min's narration and drawings, which serve to illuminate (or complicate) relations between them. Min takes Roong to a secluded spot for a romantic picnic, whilst Orn is occupied elsewhere, and the camera focuses on the two as they move around and talk until the finale - or end scenes, as there is no culmination in the narrative - when Orn interrupts the couple.

Weerasethakul says the film is meant to be an "emotional disaster movie", and you can see why. The uneasy "love" triangle becomes more obvious as the two women come into conflict over small things, like wading in the water - underlying this friction is a split of far greater depth.

In contrast to these long-term resentments, the director seems to be extolling the joys of the present. The view of the rolling hills that Min shows Roong, the berries that they pick, Tommy trying to attract Orn's attention on a speeding bike, or in the sexual encounters - Roong fellating and masturbating Min, for instance - appear to seek gratification. As if to stress this idea of the moment, all of these pleasures the protagonists seek are interludes in their normal lives.

The visit to the jungle is itself a break from city life, depicted in the first part of the film, but the relationships, too, are only brief. As the subtitles tell us, Roong is only with Min for a short period, before getting back with her ex. Min is only in Thailand until he can find himself a job elsewhere and seeks enjoyment in an attempt to escape from the pain of his skin condition. Orn, meanwhile, seeks pleasure through an affair with Tommy, but in the long term wants another child with her husband.

Such earnest intentions and celebrations, as well as the bright and beautiful cinematography, do not necessarily make for an interesting, or enjoyable, film. Also, its duration (two hours and counting) detracts from the overall experience. You can't help but feel that the drawing out of scenes, no doubt to illustrate the relations between the characters, begins to teeter on the brink of tedium.

As the blurb says, Blissfully Yours is a "languid celebration of the pleasures of the moment" but, in its dilatory nature and theme, there lies an element of boredom for the viewer.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2006
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A languid celebration of the pleasures of the moment - Thai style.
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Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Writer: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Starring: Kanokporn Tongaram, Min Oo, Jenjira Jansuda

Year: 2002

Runtime: 125 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Thailand/France


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