Mysterious Object at Noon (rewatch)
Posted by martinteller on July 13, 2012
Taking a cue from the Surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse,” in which participants continue a story or picture with only partial knowledge of what been added before, Weerasethakul’s first feature is a documentary that travels around the cities and villages of Thailand, enticing a variety of people to build a collaborative tale. It starts as the story of a crippled boy and his tutor Dogfahr. Over time, it morphs to include shape-shifting, body-stealing, boxing, tigers and magic swords.
The film’s tone is best described as effortless. One might read in a negative review something to effect of, “It feels like they’re making it up as they go along.” It’s a phrase I’ve probably used myself. In this case, making it up they go along is exactly what’s going on, not just in the story of Dogfahr but in the construction. But it’s done with an exciting sense of freedom, the feeling that anything could happen. Pieces are put together as they come along. A theater troupe enacts the next chapter of the tale. Someone asks “Why is the boy crippled?” and a decision is made to insert a flashback (in mock TV-interview format) explaining it. There are times when Joe wanders away from the Dogfahr narrative and just watches people at work or at play. The movie is as much about the storytellers as the story… if not more.
I have to say that it’s a bit less intriguing on the second viewing than the first. Unlike the surprises of Syndromes, these surprises don’t have quite as much staying power. It’s a grand experiment – one that does wonders with the possibilities of storytelling, is fascinatingly multi-layered, and contains several delightful scenes. Conceptually it’s a home run. As repeatable entertainment, it falters a little. The often slow pacing is similar to Joe’s other films, and it’s usually not an issue. Perhaps the problem here is that the grainy documentary style is less visually captivating. At any rate, there were a few moments that I felt were stretched a tad too long. For that reason, I feel compelled to knock down my rating just a notch. But I’d like to see it again with a little more distance, and see if the film elicits the same exhilaration I felt the first time. Rating: Very Good (86)