Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ploy (2007)

Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's latest, Ploy, is quite a beautiful film. It's a marital thriller mostly set in a Phuket hotel where restaurant owner Wit (Pornwut Sarasin) adopts nineteen year old Ploy (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk) for a few hours. Ploy's invasion of the married couple's hotel room arouses feelings of suspicion and jealousy for Wit's wife Dang (Lalita Panyopas).

The film's mood is sleepy, wherein the characters are indefinitely in a state of being half-awake and half-asleep (there's a mighty big difference, I believe). The couple arrives in Phuket from a twenty hour flight. They're in that blurred zone of jet lags and lazy early mornings, forcing Wit to spend a moment in the hotel bar where he catches up with sleep-deprived Ploy, waiting for her Swedish mother while listening to quirky Thai reggae. They prolong that atmosphere of sleeplessness with idle chat and cups of coffee, before going up to their room; casually being greeted by a random hotel maid (Phorntip Papanai), who becomes the object of an erotic dream along with the bartender (Ananda Everingham).

Ratanaruang deftly pursues this atmosphere of half-consciousness wherein dreams have the palpable quality of reality, and reality has the surreal mood of dreams. There's a very thin filament that would separate sleep and consciousness; further marred by the gravity of emotions imputed to Ploy's invasion of that marital harmony. The difference between half-awake and half-asleep divides the film into two parts: pre and post marital quarrel (wherein Dang leaves the hotel and becomes victim to a crime). Ratanaruang gets the details right: the way light is an annoyance when one is half-awake, and the way light urges one to consciousness in a phase of half-asleep.

Ratanaruang plays the differences with utmost details and keeps the daydream fantasy as hypnotizing --- the little portion of uncovered window that allows the morning light to invade the sleep-deprived wife, the vodka-drowned coffee that Dang drinks in the hotel lobby, the haziness and laziness that accompanies the lack of mental, physical, moral and emotional alertness of the three characters. That way, he infects his audience with the same contemplative mood (well enough to make impatient viewers sleep), wherein lapses in logic and quick jumps to conclusions (which are the obvious criticisms to this slow yet perceptive Ratanaruang thriller) should be appropriate in ways that would be impossible in total consciousness.

It's gorgeously photographed (by Chankit Chamnivikaipong, Ratanaruang's cinematographer in his earlier works like Fun Bar Karaoke (1997), 6ixtynin9 (1999), and Mon-rak Transistor (2001); Ratanaruang previously worked with Christopher Doyle in Last Life in the Universe (2003), and Invisible Waves (2006)). It's not only gorgeous, but very intelligent. Ratanaruang has a gift for visual humor --- the way he would start a shot with the naked calves of Wit and Ploy (using such cliche to give the presumption of consummated infidelity) only to reveal that they are fully dressed; or the way we would see a man (Thaksakorn Pradapphongsa) observing Dang while out of focus, before we become aware that the man turns out to be a bigger part of the story than he was introduced to be.

Ploy is a film that is engineered with exhilarating precision. Its dreamy feel and rhythm which delightfully hopscotches from dream to life to nightmare and back (there's a lovely musical interlude that concludes the hotel-bound hallucination), keeps the relaxed pace bearable, if not totally engrossing. Ratanaruang is gearing up to become one of the most interesting filmmakers from the region.


Unknown said...

Its my first time to see a Pen-ek film. Love it! Why can't we make movies like this? its very quiet and you know the film is going somewhere.

dodo dayao said...

Resisting the temptation to read your review, oggs, as I'm still wrapping my mind around this (not easy since I'm also trying to articulate Todo Todo Teras in my head which I just saw) but this was beautiful, I thought.

It's a very restrained Pen-ek we have here ,though. I really love the way he crops his frames here. Will read your take after I've put mine down on paper.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Ronald and Dodo,

Oh, I think Filipinos can do better. We got John Torres, Raya, and Sherad, Lav Diaz too. The Thai just have more money thus can capture beautiful pictures in celluloid instead of bytes.

I agree, Dodo. Ratanaruang's framing is so precise. Body parts, who to focus, etc... you get tempted to say its just for looks (some of the scenes look like they belong to a fashion magazine; especially since his actors and actresses are so beautiful), but it's definitely deeper.

I can't wait to read your take on this, and Todo Todo Teros of course.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think the bartender looks too much like Piolo Pascual? Wala lang.

Oggs Cruz said...

I thought he looks like Richard Gomez but yeah, Piolo Pascual too. He's in Shutter, by the way.

dodo dayao said...

Oh yes Shutter. I was wondering where I saw him before.

Anonymous said...

I love this movie. It reminds me of Lost in Translation with a different twist.

I love the way it fools my expectations.

**Ploy, the character, looks like Shaina Magdayao with an afro.

Oggs Cruz said...

I love this better than Lost in Translation. Ploy got the details and the feel of transit time right.

DarKScoRpioN said...

saiparn apinya has got to be one of the upcoming talents in the thai movie industry. Absolutely love her acting in the movies Love Julinsee andFriendship. Hope to see more of her movies in the near future. Check out 100 of saiparn apinya beautiful pictures.