Part of Surrealism's enduring legacy is the cadavre exquis ("exquisite corpse"), a variation on an old parlor game in which players add words, phrases or entire sentences to an unfolding tale with only partial knowledge of what's already been written. More often than not, the finished product is nonsense, but meaningful nonsense that somehow reveals whatever "unconscious reality" the group shares. In an attempt to construct a similarly revealing group portrait of his homeland, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has taken the technique a step further, combining this fanciful approach to storytelling with more straightforward filmmaking practice. Part travelogue, part ethnographic documentary and part sci-fi narrative about a handicapped boy and his teacher, it's safe to say there's never been a film quite like it. The story originates with Weerasethakul's first subject, a young woman who, after relating her own heartbreaking story about how her father sold her off to her uncle for bus fare, is asked to tell another story any story, fact or fiction. Hesitantly, the woman begins to spin a yarn about a disabled boy and the teacher who each day brings him pictures of the outside world. Weerasethakul dramatizes this bit of narrative, as he does other pieces of the story as it develops, using non-professional actors in a realistic setting, then picks up his camera and heads out into the countryside. With each stop he makes, the director asks the people he meets to pick up where the last storyteller left off, and add their own chapter to an increasingly bizarre tale. The story grows romantic, violent, silly or sentimental, depending who's doing the telling. Weerasethakul then mixes these amateur raconteurs and the dramatizations of their tale(s) with footage of Bangkok and the Thai countryside, as well as clips pulled from various film and TV archives. It's probably helpful to know what Weerasethakul's up to before watching his film, as it's often difficult to tell exactly what you're looking at. But that, it seems, is the object of this highly unusual film: Weerasethakul mixes fact, fiction and filmmaking into a blend that's intriguingly abstruse, yet surprisingly revelatory. (In Thai, with English subtitles.)
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: Part of Surrealism's enduring legacy is the cadavre exquis ("exquisite corpse"), a variation on an old parlor game in which players add words, phrases or entire sentences to an unfolding tale with only partial knowledge of what's already been written. More… (more)