FAN­TA­SY FARM

Art Press - - CINÉMA -

What ba­si­cal­ly dis­tin­guishes Mysterious Ob­ject at Noon from his sub­sequent films is its rich and va­ried social ob­ser­va­tion. A mul­ti­tude of lo­ca­tions and in­ter­lo­cu­tors, lin­ked to­ge­ther, of course, by a loose nar­ra­tive they weave them­selves (and thus hard­ly in­ter­re­la­ted at all); pole dan­cers, mar­kets, middle school stu­dents, an el­der­ly al­co­ho­lic sto­ry­tel­ler, bar­rooms, a vil­lage thea­ter troupe. Not much ob­vious di­rec­tion of the ac­tors. As pre­vious­ly no­ted, this is a fic­tio­nal do­cu­men­ta­ry, and there is lit­tle dis­tinc­tion bet­ween the two genres. This is al­rea­dy ex­pli­cit in the se­cond se­quence. A wo­man ve­ry mo­vin­gly ex­plains how her mo­ther sold her as a child. Then an off-ca­me­ra voice asks her to tell ano­ther sto­ry; true or false, it doesn’t mat- ter. Eve­ry sto­ry is a sto­ry, and thus fic­tion, just as soon as it is fro­zen in film. For vie­wers fa­mi­liar with Wee­ra­se­tha­kul’s work, Mysterious Ob­ject re­pre­sents a fan­ta­sy farm where the fan­ta­sies of the next fif­teen years were culti­va­ted: a ti­ger, a han­di­cap­ped tee­na­ger (and then a co­hort of sick or di­sa­bled people, from the pee­ling boy in Bliss­ful­ly Yours to the hos­pi­tal pa­tients in Ce­me­te­ry of Splen­dor. Ma­ni­pu­lable, stret­ched bo­dies whose ow­ners lift them­selves up or drag them­selves along, de­si­rable bo­dies, pe­rhaps be­cause they are consti­tu­ted of no­thing but phan­tom mem­bers. In a se­quence in Syn­dromes and a Cen­tu­ry, a lim­bless ado­les­cent crawls along the ground while ma­king a sound like the smack of a tennis ball, on­ly to be fol­lo­wed in a coun­ter shot of a si­mi­lar but ful­ly lim­bed boy with a tennis rac­quet. Or maybe it’s the same boy, be­cause the doc­tors who run across him say, “It seems like you’re doing bet­ter.” At death the soul trans­mi­grates (like Uncle Boon­mee who re­mem­bers his pre­vious lives) and un­der­goes a trans­ub­stan­tia­tion: the boy in Mysterious Ob­ject is trans­for­med in­to his tea­cher, the vo­lun­teer sto­ry­tel­lers ima­gine, be­cause he mis­sed her. There is no ra­tio­nal re­me­dy for si­ck­ness and loss (of a lo­ved one, of one’s life). In all of Wee­ra­se­tha­kul’s ear­ly films there is a scene in which a wo­man doc­tor talks to monks or hy­po­chon­driacs who try to get her to write them a fan­ta­sy per­cep­tion. But in eve­ry fa­mi­ly and re­la­tion­ship, the ghosts of the de­cea­sed speak to each other gent­ly. In a way, one could take their place if one wan­ted to. Thus queer di­si­den­ti­fi­ca­tion can lead to hea­ling: “Eve­ry­thing is pos­sible.”

Éric Lo­ret Trans­la­tion, L-S Tor­goff

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