Blissfully Thai", a pretty wicked little run of post-2000 films curated by La Frances Hui and containing stuff like Ploy that, to my understanding, has never been properly screened in New York. This was my first time seeing Ploy and only the second time I've caught a Pen-ek work in theaters (the other was Invisible Waves, his 2006 sorta sequel to international "mega-hit" — and, incidentally, one of my favorite films ever — Last Life in the Universe, and that was purely by luck, at the 2007 and final Thai Takes Film Festival). So despite Pen-ek's internationally renowned vision, and particularly that one-two punch of Last Life… and Invisible Waves, w/ Tadanobu Asano as lead (co-starring model sisters Sinitta and Laila Boonyasak in the former and Kang Hye-jung in the latter — perhaps you know her from Park Chan-wook's Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance??) and Christopher Doyle's typically trippy cinematography, his films rarely get play stateside. I'm pleased for his countryman Apichatpong Weerasethakul, winner of last year's Palme d'Or at Cannes, who does get play here despite remaining firmly outside the Thai mainstream (plus Apichatpong's oeuvre tends toward long-takes a la Hou Hsiao-Hsien, not exactly "easy viewing") — but I quite honesty wish for more Pen-ek. Whether it's his "old" (circa '99) crime drama 6ixtynin9 or more recent works like Ploy and Nymph, Pen-ek deserves to be seen.
Pen-ek uses this beautiful melodic drone as a backdrop to the film's subtle soundtrack. It played a similar presence in scenes from Last Life… but it's nearly constant, an easy tone that drifts in and out of the film like the characters' consciousnesses. He exercises restraint in the filming, too, which is as beautiful as Doyle's cinematography but w/o that glossy sheen. The camera holds back so characters, husband and wife, husband and girl, girlfriend and boyfriend, can just go at it — or better yet, say nothing at all. Their looks, body language and movements in space tell much more than words, adding this palpable tension to Wit and Ploy in bed together, or the almost repeated beginning and end shots of Wit and Dang in a taxi ride, she resting her head on his shoulder.