Friday, April 8, 2016

Anucha Boonyawatana's THE BLUE HOUR: gay dudes, spirits and a lot of ennui from Thailand

TrustMovies may simply not be well-attuned to Thai culture, if his reactions to too many of Thailand's movies are any kind of example. Though he very much enjoyed the recent How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), he has yet to climb fully aboard the Apichatpong Weerasethakul bandwagon. (He keeps trying to jump on, but by the end of the movie in question he's fallen off again.) This seems doubly odd to him because so many of the movies that make their way from Thailand over here are gay-themed -- either overtly or subvertly. The latest and very overt example is THE BLUE HOUR (Onthakan) from filmmaker Anucha Boonyawatana., whose early film Down the River I recall viewing and to some extent enjoying maybe a decade ago.

The filmmaker, shown at right, as both writer and director, has here concocted a tale of boys who meet on the Internet for sex, then bond via their need for physical closeness and caring as much as for climax. One is either an orphan (or self-orphaned), while the other has a less-than-welcoming family due to his homosexuality. The deserted public swimming pool where they meet is haunted by spirits who begin intruding on their lives in ways covert and overt. (Belief in ghosts and spirits of the dead seems even more prevalent in Thailand than does homosexuality.)

The Blue Hour is being billed (see poster above) as "a supernatural love story," though by its end the movie seems much more of a supernatural horror story or maybe a supernatural murder melange. Even so, this may be the slowest, most ennui-inducing movie dealing with bloodshed and death that I've seen in a long while.

There are, at most, half a dozen points the filmmaker wants to present here, but they take just-about-forever to unfold. Plot-wise the movie's a hash, and as lovely to look at are its non-heroes, there is a limit to our patience.

All these said-to-exist spirits are presented as creepy looking forms on the walls of the swimming pool, and since we never really see them in action (it's all in our, and/or the protagonists' mind), this makes for very low-budget, use-your-imagination filmmaking. I suppose that Boonyawatana was going for atmosphere above all. Atmosphere is indeed achieved -- but at the expense of just about everything else we might want.

From Strand Releasing and running a far-too-long 98 minutes, the movie opens today, Friday, April 8, in New York City at MoMA, in the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. So far as I know, no other theatrical playdates are in the offing, but according to the IMDB, you can stream the movie via Amazon for $3.99. 

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