Mundane History -- Film Review

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BUSAN, South Korea -- Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong's feature "Mundane History" may be loosely defined as "experimental" for some of the non-mainstream techniques she employs, but it is not art for art's sake. Themes of class, patriarchy, mortality, evolution, the cosmic scheme and Thai history are all floating beneath the surface of insipid peace in the bourgeois Thai family she depicts.

Critics and programmers of independent cinema should recognize her distinctive voice. But even an art house audience might conclude that the film is perplexing and abstract despite the simple story.

Male nurse Pun (Arkaney) moves into the household of Thanin (Paramej Noieam), to take care of his son Ake (Phakpoom Surapongsanurak), who is paralyzed from the waist down after an unspecified accident. Thanin is reticent, cordial and extremely distant. Ake reveals his resentment towards his father in small gestures of defiance. His attitude to Pun oscillates between rapport and irritation. Occasionally, one gets a glimpse of Ake's inner world in abstract and visually stunning scenes of the galaxy, culminating in the self-combustion of a planet.

Pun's monotonous daily routine of feeding, cleaning or taking Ake out to the lawn hums with a languid, ritualistic and hypnotic rhythm. Yet, there is an epic or metaphysical dimension lurking in the prosaic representation of life. Ake's invalid existence could be read as a metaphor for any kind of unhealthy, even crippling dependence. His failed attempt at masturbation symbolizes impotence not only of a sexual nature. The film ends in a haunting montage, which culminates in a graphic Caesarian birth with extended focus on cutting the umbilical cord. It is further suggestive of this idea.

Suwichakornpong's creativity is evident less in conventional storytelling than in her film language, which creates tension out of dissonance. Her professed intention to give the film "a punk feel" is expressed in the music and editing.

The spunky score by Malaysian band Furniture and Thai band the Photo Sticker Machine bursts with a restless, aggressive energy, which clashes deliberately with the characters' inertia. Her decision to make consistent use of hard cuts in a film composed mostly of longish takes is so conspicuous it becomes a style statement -- especially as it goes against the custom of employing jumps cuts to speed up the action or disrupt the narrative.

Venue: Pusan International Film Festival --
New Currents
Sales: Electric Eel Films
Cast: Phakpoom Surapongsanurak, Arkaney Cherkham, Paramej Noieam)
Director-screenwriter-producer: Anocha Suwichakornpong
Producer: Soros Sukhum, Anocha Suwichakornpong
Production designer: Parinda Moongmaiphol
Director of photography: Ming Kai Leung
Costume designer: Thanon Songsil
Music: The Photo Sticker Machine, Furniture
Editor: Lee Chatametikool
No rating, 82 minutes