22 February 2009

Invisible Waves (2005) : A Review

After Kyoji (Tadanobu Asano), a young Japanese cook, murders his lover Seiko (Tomono Kuga), he flees Macau on a cruise ship, where he meets Noi (Hye-jeong Kang), a Korean mother with a toddler, on vacation. When he arrives in Phuket, he finds he is being hunted by some gangsters, possibly hired by Seiko's husband (and his Thai boss), Wiwat (Toon Hiranyasap).

This is a languorous film made by Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and writer Prabda Yoon. It is filled with dreamlike scenes set in strangely deserted streets of Macau and Hong Kong, or aboard the near-empty cruise ship. Kyoji's journey is punctuated with minor mishaps and annoyances, perhaps reflecting his punishment for his crime. Christopher Doyle's lovely fluid and off-centre cinematography and the hesitant use of English between the characters from different cultures (obviously everyone's second language) further add to the dreamlike feeling. Most of the action occurs off screen and it's only near the end that the horror of Kyoji's crime is revealed.

While accepting that this is a slow-moving mood piece and admiring the writing and technical achievements, I found this film to be a challenge to watch. The scenes on the cruise ship go on and on interminably, and Kyoji is annoying dim (why go to Thailand to evade the law when your dead lover's husband may be connected to Thai gangsters?) and passive.

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