Review: Krabi, 2562

Scan a representative sample of the writing about Anocha Suwichakornpong and Ben Rivers’s co-directed feature, Krabi, 2562, and two things are likely to be found: variants of the word “slip” and offshoots of the word “shift.” “Slip” is particularly good in two senses: first, it suggests a lack of friction, that the surfaces of the film have no forceful relation to each other; second, and perhaps better, “slip” connotes water, and the film itself has a liquid structure: instantly assuming the shape of the container it has been placed in, conforming to its proportions. These words, in whatever permutation or combination formulated, amount to a vocabulary of instability: these seem perfect to catch and apprehend the film’s readiness to alter, with its loosely-connected vignettes and anomalous, teasing similarities between parts. A quick sketch: in Krabi, a town in the south of Thailand, there’s a documentarian interviewing residents (a retired boxer, a woman who works the reception desk at a hotel, and the projectionist of a closed down cinema), who all figure in the film’s fictional narratives, suggesting a parallel with Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After Life. There’s Tarn (Primrin Puarat), a local tour guide, who goes about her business, and leads around a woman who purports to be a movie location scout (Siraphun Wattanajinda). There’s Pae (Arak Amornsupasiri), an actor filming an advert directed by a European transplant (Galician director Oliver Laxe). And, best of all, a pair of neanderthals, woman and man, are skulking around too. 2562 is, in the Buddhist calendar, the equivalent to the Roman 2019, and one image in the film, at the hotel desk, clarifies what’s going on: a kitschy extreme closeup photograph of a drop falling into a body of water, sending out concentric ripples. Above the image are four clocks. These parts, wonderfully and mysteriously linked, are seemingly simultaneous. And the picture at the desk isn’t the only piece of kitsch to appear here: the articulation of the images, the beaches captured in deep focus compositions, its sea a shining sharp light blue dotted with the deep verdant greens of the archipelago, is of a world at ease—these are like images from a brochure. The manipulations and obviations of tourism—economic, cultural, artistic—are central to these narratives. Folklore is reduced to a selfie-opp, in this case a fertility shrine festooned with wooden phalluses. History is packaged for advertising: Pae, dressed in loin cloth and hideously bewigged, acts as a neanderthal to sell juice, only to meet the genuine article walking among the living unawares. Another unacknowledged reality is political, and, as demonstrated in By The Time it Gets Dark, Suwichakornpong is adept at finding the crevices in which politics hides from the surface of experience. The film opens with schoolchildren chanting the praises of the monarchy; the soundtrack occasionally drifts into the din of military marches. The curated and resolutely artificial version of Krabi, perfect for incurious visitors, is offset by the snippets of documentary, which tell tales of quiet contentment, amiable confusion, and managing decline—a varied handful of “real lives” in the region. But all three of the documentary subjects, within the film’s structural dispersal, interact with the woman location scouting—or market researching, or visiting her parent’s hometown—or, as suggested by her impossible vanishing, perhaps she’s simply someone whose primary desire is to find somewhere in which it’s easy to get lost.

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