Saturday, December 03, 2011

LEASTWAYS/MODERATE WAYS/EXTREME WAYS (2011, Tritos Termarbsri, 90 min, A++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++)

อย่างน้อย/อย่างกลาง/อย่างมาก (ไตรทศ เติมอาบศรี)

(I can't remember any details in the film now. I apologize if I remember anything wrongly.)

This is one of my most favorite films I saw this year, and is definitely one of my most favorite Thai films of all time.

What I like very much in this film includes:

1.It made me cry a lot at the end of the film. It seems as if the pain of the protagonist has been transferred to me. I'm very surprised that the film can make me feel as hurtful as this, because I don't share the same experience with the protagonist of the film. I don't have a dead friend whom I'm always think about. But the film is successful in making me fully sympathize with the protagonist and his pain.

2.I'm not sure why the film can have that powerful effect on me, but I'm sure this film doesn't follow the formula of tear-jearking films. This film doesn't tell a straightforward story. It doesn't tell "one" story of a man who misses his dead friend very much, but it tells seven stories, each of which varies a lot in tones, styles or genres. So I like it very much that the film can make me cry uncontrollably by telling stories in a way that is radically different from most tear-jerking films.

3.I like the structure of the film very much. It consists of seven stories, each of them has a plot or subplot concerning a dead friend. The structure of the film is one of the things that makes the film unique.

The structure of the film, which consists of tangentially-connected stories, may be comparable to such films as DON'T WARM EGGS IN MICROWAVE OR ELSE THEY WILL EXPLODE! (2005, Tossapol Boonsinsukh), LIFE IS SHORT 2 (2006, Tossapol Boonsinsukh), 71 FRAGMENTS OF A CHRONOLOGY OF CHANCE (1994,Michael Haneke), or DISAPPEAR (2010, Tani Thitiprawat), because these films also tell barely-connected stories and can also give us some kinds of emotional climax. However, I think LEASTWAYS/MODERATE WAYS/EXTREME WAYS is interesting because the mini-stories in this film vary a lot in tones, styles, or genres, while the mini-stories in other films don't vary a lot in tones.

In a way, I think LEASTWAYS/MODERATE WAYS/EXTREME WAYS is as successful as VIDEO 50 (1978, Robert Wilson), because VIDEO 50 also consists of barely-connected segments which vary a lot in tones, styles or genres, and can give us some emotional climax. I consider VIDEO 50 one of my most favorite films of all time, and I think it is extremely hard for any filmmakers to make a film with this kind of structure and can also affect the audience tremendously. There are very few filmmakers who can pull off this kind of thing. Robert Wilson can do it. And now Tritos Termarbsri proves that he can do it, too.

What about the comparison with Alexander Kluge, the master of this kind of cinema? I think Tritos' film is radically different from Kluge's films, because Kluge's films affect the brain, while Tritos' film makes me cry. However, the films of Kluge, Robert Wilson, and Tritos may affect my subconscious, because all of them have a profound effect on me in an unexplainable way.

4.Each of the seven stories is very interesting in itself, so when they are all combined together in this film, it results in one of my most favorite films of the year.

The seven stories include:

4.1 LEASTWAYS อย่างน้อย (14 min)
It is about two male friends who talk about some funny things in a bookshop. At first it looks like a low-budget comedy focusing on a dialogue, but the film changes its genre in the second half, when one of the friends reveals that a ghost of his friend is always around him. I like the low-budget look and the playful tone of this segment very much. The abrupt change of genre reminds me of such films as FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1995, Robert Rodriguez).

4.2 MODERATE WAYS อย่างกลาง
This segment is about an ex-boyfriend and an ex-girlfriend who meets each other in a park. After they talk for a while, they find out that the failure of their past relationship is caused by white lies. If only they hadn't lied to each other with good intentions, their relationship wouldn't have failed. I like it very much that the film doesn't support white lies.

This segment's tone is a little bit like BEFORE SUNSET (2004, Richard Linklater). It has a natural feeling and features some long dialogues. I like many scenes in this segment, especially the scenes in which the hero and the heroine talk with each other in a small boat under a bridge, and the scene in which they talk on a park bench near a pond. The acting in both scenes are excellent. I also like the reflection of water in the park bench scene very much. I think the park bench scene is one of my most favorite scenes in Thai films this year because of these reasons: it is shot very beautifully but the beauty is not overemphasized; it features great acting and lets the actors continue their performances for a long time without interruptions; it doesn't try to arouse the audience too much; and it is very human.

There's a cute thing I like very much in the boat-under-a-bridge scene. It's the moment in which the heroine wants to sing, so the hero announces something like, "Let the music play!", and then both the audience and the characters hear the music, which originates from an ambiguous space. The music does not come from anywhere "in the park", but the characters can hear it and control it. That moment makes me feel as if the film is saying to the audience, "You are watching a film, and the characters know that they are in a film." And this moment seems to blur the line between diegetic sound and non-diegetic sound or something like that.

The main characters from LEASTWAYS become supporting characters in MODERATE WAYS.

4.3 DINING TABLE โต๊ะอาหาร
The tone of this segment is a little bit like LEASTWAYS. It features some long dialogues between friends. The dialogue is not serious and reminds me a little bit of some cute dialogues in PULP FICTION. After the first half, the segment seems to change its genre, when the characters begin to wonder if they are in a dream, whose dream they are in, or if any of them is a ghost or not. The segment is partly inspired by INCEPTION, and it adapts the idea from INCEPTION in a very lovely way.

I also like the look of the ghosts in this segment very much. These ghosts do not look like "frightening ghosts in standard horror films", but they look half-creepy, half-funnily-low-tech. These ghosts remind me of the ghosts in CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING (1974, Jacques Rivette) and THE BODY BENEATH (1970, Andy Milligan).

4.4 INTERVIEW สัมภาษณ์
This segment is like a TV program about ghosts. A man is giving an interview on his ability to see a ghost of his friend. What I like very much in this segment is that its tone surprises me. At first I assumed that this segment would be either a comedy or a horror. But it turns out to be neither of them. Its tone is half-serious. The man seriously believes that he can contact a ghost of his friend, and the film neither ridicules the man nor confirms his ability. The viewers must judge by themselves whether the man is believable or not.

4.5 THE MAN WHO IS BECOMING A FATHER ชายผู้ที่กำลังจะเป็นพ่อคน
I like this segment the least in the film. In this segment, a man and a woman is discussing about the case of Annie Brooks and Film Rathapoom, and then they discuss about their own relationship. Then, it is revealed that they are in a dream, but I can't remember many details in it, including:

4.5.1 Whose dream they are in

4.5.2 Whether the woman is pregnant or not pregnant

4.5.3 If the woman is pregnant, who is the father of her child?

4.5.4 Whether the woman was pregnant and lost her child in the past

4.5.5 Whether the woman is already dead

4.5.6 What is the real motivation of the man

Though I think the emotion in this segment falls flat, I still like some aspects of this segment very much, including the fact that this segment enables the film to talk about some topical issues, which might not be related to the main plot of the film.

4.6 MEETING AGAIN พบกันอีกครั้ง
This segment is excellent. I like it very much. In this segment, a university student accidentally meets his old friend. They talk for several minutes. His old friend seems to remind him of a mutual friend who is dead. The performance in this segment is very natural.

What I like very much in this segment is that it is "a slice of life". It doesn't give us any obvious conclusion. It just presents "several minutes" in the life of a man. Several minutes in which nothing important seems to happen. But these several minutes are so true, so heartfelt, so subtle, so deeply moving.

4.7 POOM ปุ้ม
The last segment of this film is extremely powerful. A man and a woman is watching ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004, Michel Gondry) in a theatre. From their conversation, we understand that they are the main characters from LEASTWAYS. The woman is the ghost of the man's friend. There are other viewers in the theatre, too. And these viewers are the male protagonists from other segments in the film.

The man tries hard not to fall asleep, because he realizes that if he falls asleep, his ghost friend will disappear from his life forever. He tries very hard, but in the end he falls asleep in the theatre. Then, we hear the song FUN LUM-IANG by La-ong-fong. A part of the lyrics of this song talks about things like, "if you want to meet that person, you must close your eyes, and think of that person, and dream of that person, because you can't meet that person in reality anymore."

The ending of this film brings tears to my eyes and reminds me of the last few minutes in the documentary TU AS CRIÉ: LET ME GO (1999, Anne Claire Poirier, Canada). In the documentary, the director mourns the untimely death of her daughter. Anne Claire Poirier seems to make this documentary as a way to heal herself, to come to terms with the death of her own daughter, to understand her own grief and deal with it. In the ending of TU AS CRIÉ: LET ME GO, the director says to the spirit of her daughter, "I LET YOU GO."

Every time I think of this four-word sentence in TU AS CRIÉ: LET ME GO, I cry, and I'm not sure why it has such a tremendous effect on me. Anyway, I think that this sentence indicates that, at last, Anne Claire Poirier can come to terms with the untimely death of her daughter. She will always miss her daughter, but she will not be too much obsessed with this death any more. She now can accept this tragedy as a fact of life, and can now go on living.

The ending of LEASTWAYS/MODERATE WAYS/EXTREME WAYS makes me feel the same way. It makes me feel that, finally, the protagonist of this film can accept the fact that his friend is dead and he can't change it. He can think of his dead friend, but he can't be too obsessed with it, and he must continue living his own life. The ending of Tritos' film makes me feel as if its protagonist wants to say to the spirit of his dead friend, "I DON'T WANT TO LET YOU GO, BUT NOW I MUST LET YOU GO."

Life is sad. The longer you live, the more you will see your beloved ones die. No one can stay with each other forever. What is left is only a memory of the good old times we spent together.

5.LEASTWAYS/MODERATE WAYS/EXTREME WAYS is one of the most powerful films dealing with grief for the death of a loved one. In this film, we never see the protagonist lament for the death of his friend. The topic is even dealt with comically, instead of seriously. But in the end, the film is extremely successful in making me understand the grief of the protagonist.

If I have to screen this film with other films, I may choose to screen it with my favorite films dealing with grief, such as

5.1 ALONG TOGETHER พบ (2009, Wuttipan Deepanya, 9 min)

5.2 ALWAYS (1990, Steven Spielberg)

5.3 COMING TO TERMS WITH THE DEAD (1994, Pascale Ferran)

5.4 THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR (2004, Tod Williams)

5.5 PAPA (2005, Maurice Barthélémy)

5.6 THREE COLOURS: BLUE (1993, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Tritos' film also reminds me of two songs I like about grief for loved ones. These two songs are:

5.7 I'LL BE THERE -- The Escape Club

5.8 TOGETHER AGAIN (1997) -- Janet Jackson

In conclusion, LEASTWAYS/MODERATE WAYS/EXTREME WAYS is one of my most favorite Thai films of all time, because it makes me cry uncontrollably, and because the structure of the film is unique: it is composed of seven stories whose styles/tones/genres are different from one another.

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