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A rising international star, Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul made his American breakthrough with the audacious Tropical Malady (NYFF ’04), a love story remarkable for its tenderness and originality of vision. Those same qualities shine through his wonderful new film, a reverie based on the director’s memories of growing up as the son of physicians.
The movie is broken into two distinct but analogous parts: One focuses on a female doctor in a small-town clinic, the other on a male doctor at a big city hospital. What unites the stories is Apichatpong’s superb eye for nuances of feeling, anti-nostalgic nostalgia, and alluring knack for finding marvelous vignettes, be it a droll Bangkok doctor boozing it up before she appears on TV or the exquisite poetry of villagers listening to a Thai country-western singer serenading the night.
Again structured in two halves with teasing correspondances, Apichatpong's follow-up to Tropical Malady sketches moments in the lives of two hospital doctors. In a small country hospital, woman doctor Toey has a typically busy day but finds herself preoccupied by memories of her meetings with an orchid expert who invited her to his farm after acquiring a rare tree orchid from the hospital. Meanwhile a singing dentist forms an intense bond with his patient, a Buddhist monk. And then, in a high-tech urban hospital, newly employed ex-army doctor Nohng explores the premises and runs into various colleagues and patients, some with disturbing habits and conditions. Apichatpong tells us that the two central characters are based on his own mother and father at the time they first met, before they fell in love and married, but the film is nothing like a piece of imagined family history. Rather, this Buddhist-minded film invites us to reflect on time, memory, place and the attraction of opposites. It's sometimes very funny, and always deeply, seductively mysterious.
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