NOVEMBER 29, 2008
Attn: Pang Brothers,
Please stay in Thailand.
If one only saw the Pang’s two American films (that would be The Messengers and Bangkok Dangerous), they might think they were the absolute worst Asian filmmakers of all time. Which makes the greatness of movies like Re-Cycle (made in their home country; native title is Gwai Wik) all the more surprising; it’s almost impossible to believe that this wonderful blend of metaphorical and actual worlds can come from the same guys responsible for a movie in which Nic Cage just sort of wanders around Thailand in search of the gun that was Photoshopped out of his movie poster.
The best thing about Re-Cycle is how it manages to blend horror and fantasy so seamlessly. I was reminded of What Dreams May Come, which is a fantasy drama for 99% of the time, but then wastes a perfectly awesome concept of Hell in a should-be-scary scene that feels totally out of place with the rest of the movie. But here, it starts off like a straight up Asian horror movie (complete with an elevator scene), and then suddenly (but not jarringly) shifts into a fantasy world that seems like Terry Gilliam’s live-action version of a Miyazaki film. But even then, the horror aspect is never absent; there are like 3 scenes that can’t be described as anything but zombie attack sequences, and the Pangs manage to out-“gah!” Takeshi Miike’s Imprint with their ideas concerning aborted fetuses.
The fetii are just one of many conceptual designs concerning abandonment. There is also a room full of unread/discarded books (incidentally, today I cleaned my car and found my copy of the Jesse James book I began reading over a year ago and haven’t touched since the new year began), and a wasteland populated with giant versions of discarded toys. Even if some of the plotting/dialogue is a bit hokey at times, on a strictly visual sense this is one of the year’s most original movies.
The movie’s only real blunder is the final minute or so, which seems to be tossed in just so people don’t forget it’s a horror movie at heart. My advice? Shut it off at the conclusion of the “Transit” scene, unless you really love annoying plot twists that undermine the emotional impact of the entire movie.
I’m also amused that despite the movie’s strong themes of not forgetting your past and all that (something I am hugely guilty of), what got me thinking the most was the fact that I never realized how odd it is to type an Asian language using a traditional keyboard. Since they don’t use ABC letters, their Microsoft word type programs just sort of translate the letters into symbols as they type, with a series of confusing-looking number and letter combinations. You know when you’re using Word and you type like “Sept” and then “September” pops up? Imagine that action for EVERY SINGLE KEYSTROKE!
Not sure what the standard def offers, but the Blu has a few extras of interest, if not for the right reasons. For starters, there’s a behind the scenes thing that runs 15 minutes, but appears to be 5 three minute segments strung together. I suspect this because every 3 minutes we see a bunch of film clips flash by (same ones every time) followed by a card reading “Re-Cycle: Behind the Scenes”. Context clues! A lot of the same interview footage is recycled (heh) too, so half of it will interest you, the other half will probably annoy you. Then there are a couple of Q&A sessions from two screenings of the film. These are notable because I learned that in Thailand, they apparently seek out the most shrill and grating people on the planet to moderate post screening discussions. There’s a guy and a girl; the guy is merely over-enthusiastic, but the girl’s questions and approach make Billy Bush look respectable. Having done a few myself, I can safely say that I could have done a better job even without speaking the same language. Christ.
Finally, we get 8 minutes of deleted scenes that are not worth watching, but it’s worth noting that only one of them has any real dialogue, so the sub guys didn’t bother working on them at all. As a result, it’s the only time on the disc that mere sounds (“Groaning” comes up a real lot) aren’t given subtitles. I really wish these folks would learn the difference between close-captioning and subtitling.
If you can watch on Blu-ray, you should, but really, check it out any way you can. It’s one of the best Asian films I’ve seen in a while, and easily one of the year’s most visually exciting films, regardless of country.
What say you?