(aka "Sud sanaeha" )

directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Thailand / France 2002

 

While the plot paparazzi might miss this scoop, it's not for lack of story. A detour form conventional narrative fixation is requisite, going off-road and leaving behind the gridlock. The narrative of Blissfully Yours barges medias res into a web of calculated maneuverings, some to which, on a larger scale, the off-screen personalities are either oblivious or apathetic. The stakes aren't limited to abstract moral victories, but rather, concrete, readily identifiable human needs. Though the dealers may go incognito, what's clear is that the multi-nationally incorporated house keeps winning.

There is a game being played at the doctor's office, which opens the film abruptly without credits. Another game begins on the heels of this one, with the doctor's next patient, leaving no doubt as to why the doctor is well-versed and unchallenged by the amusing stratagems; whether a patient mysteriously can't talk and has come without identification, or a man is having problems with a perfectly good hearing aid, it's all in a good day's work.

The key to these games is obtainable by heeding the old adage, "follow the money." Min, a Burmese in the country illegally and not fluent in Thai, needs a medical certificate to work. Roong is committed to him out of emotional attachment, and Orn and her husband provide connections and caretaking at a sticker price.

While this film constitutes slice-of-life and approximate real-time, it presents the day-to-day as persistently punctuated by socio-political and economic realities-not as chance occurrences, but as resident obstacles always operative in the fabric of this particular here-and-now quotidian. And because of this specificity, it seems all the more applicable to the universal.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's quirky dialogues aren't the typical throwaway variety. Following the ping-pong of these innocuous speech acts reveals the angles and points of contention, and this is supported inadvertently by the implications of voiced-over inner thoughts and the subtle suggestiveness of the mise-en-scene that redefines the notion of product placement in political terms.

The director meticulously incorporates the off-screen. In the opening scene, after the doctor decides to have a look at Min's throat, she cocks back her head and puts out her hand, which works as a magic wand as the off-screen sound of running water issues momentarily followed by his footsteps. With stethoscope in hand, an assistant makes her onscreen introduction. Later, a particularly impressive tracking shot is employed with the camera apparently mounted on the back of Orn's car and sound joins the off-screen audiovisuals for rich effect.

In fact, as visually invigorating a film as Blissfully Yours is, its sound design and application enjoys equal partnership. In a scene where Roong services Min, the sound of the running river provides a seemingly complicit accompaniment, flowing and smacking against itself. Later, with Orn crying, the river acquires a more sympathetic and accommodating character of sound.

There is a scene that seems to give a nod to Tsai Ming-liang's The Hole, where the natural beauty of the locale is revealed to be besieged by industrial activities. Orn locates a discarded mask and dons it for protection, recalling Yang Kuei-Mei trying to resist the mysterious illness in that film. But much more Tsai-like, is Weerasethakul's deft handling of loneliness and isolation, which the film brings into stunning clarity, and seizes upon the fragility of the moment. One gains by following this narrative on its own terms, and the collected details coalesce into a vibrating coherence. As said in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, "things are coming to a head," and though there's no Oscar-winning dramatic blow-ups, a much more affecting boiling point is reached. Spoilers follow.

The three main characters are together in an idyllic setting alongside a river. Orn affectionately looks over to Roong who has earlier unknowingly provided an important dose of therapy addressing the root of Orn's grief that had only been provided unobtrusively in this rich narrative. In response, Roong turns away rather coldly, one, never so fond of Orn, and two, a little spiteful because Orn's interrupted her two-some with Min. Orn's reaction shot tells it all, a momentary portrait of dashed spirits and an indicator that somewhere within, the emotional reservoir has been pressed beyond capacity. It is to be remembered that due to the trauma of her son having drowned, the doctor has proscribed anti-depressants. The riverbank sets a retrospective scene and probably this is the first time she's gone swimming since that day. Earlier Roong asked Min why he was smoking since he's sick, and he replied that didn't she know the Burmese smoke when they are sick? Orn, amid her unobserved weeping, takes one of Min's cigarettes-her sickness is of the heart. What this entire segment underscores is that the most intense loneliness is when one's emotions and condition seem of no consequence to others who are present. While Orn lies down discretely sobbing, a long shot frames impactfully her separation from the others-Roong and Min lying opposite, the shot divided by a tree. Weerasethakul has the fine touch to give Orn a moment to go through Roong's things, eliminating any one-sided ploy to evoke pity, and in so doing, maintaining depth.

Roong is as much alone as Orn since even with Min lying next to her, her needs and emotions are of little concern for him; he thinks only of himself. Roong's sexual cravings had built up through the day. In the car, she unconsciously fondled the stick shift after having applied some lotion to Min's unhealthy skin. In the berry picking scene, she initiated their kissing and even put her hand on Min's groin area. The amorous session is cut short because Min's skin condition is causing him too much discomfort. Though she went through the trouble of servicing him earlier, there's been no reciprocation. She's repeated calling out to him, unanswered. While Min sleeps next to her, she coaxes his penis out of his pants and reactivates it, all the while Min is still sleeping. One comes away with a sense that she's allowed herself to do all the giving and he's gladly just taken. She is but a temporary vacation for him, free meals included, which is nice for Min, who is away from his wife and kids and without legal means to work.

Min's last voice-over is especially affecting as it moves disembodied from him through the foliage as a touring spirit. The play of wind on the leaves is as though his spirit were interacting with this place he loves best. We've received personal information from Min here-and-there that while being direct and confessional-not to imply any acknowledgement of camera-is far from jaded, run-of-the-mill exposition. Instead, it interacts vitally with the screen, sound, and occasionally, the overlay of his writings and doodling. His self accounts make no appeals for justifications or sympathy; they are just given. Speaking of those overlays, they persist throughout, subliminally. Stepping frame by frame-if you have to see on DVD, you might as well-through the first scene is a revealing exercise.

Segueing from Min's voice over montage, one last impacting close-up of Roong is offered up, not as a blatant freeze-frame, but just a glimpse as she's turning her head skyward before the blackness of an ended movie pervades. This is exactly the type of film that I find myself getting out of long after I've left the theater.

Mr. Fred Patton

Posters etc.

Theatrical Release: 17 May 2002 - Cannes Film Festival

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison: 

Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC vs. La-ong Dao - Region 0 - PAL vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL

Big thanks to Fred Patton and Per-Olof Strandberg for the screen captures and extensive help!

 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP LEFT vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - TOP RIGHT  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM LEFT vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM RIGHT)

 

DVD Box Covers

 

Distribution Strand Releasing
Region 0 - NTSC

La-ong Dao (Thailand)

Region 0 - PAL

Second Run
Region 0 - PAL
MK2 (France)
Region 2 - PAL

 

Distribution Strand Releasing
Region 0 - NTSC

La-ong Dao (Thailand)

Region 0 - PAL

Second Run
Region 0 - PAL
MK2 (France)
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 2:02:28 1:48:48 / 1:58:35 2:08:00 2:07:50
Video 1.61:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.41 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1:1.33 Open Matte format
Average Bitrate: ? mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.23 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1.62:1  Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.23 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Strand

Bitrate:

La-ong

 

Bitrate:

Second Run

Bitrate:

 

MK2

 

Audio Thai (Dolby Digital 2.0) Thai (Dolby Digital 2.0), Thai (Dolby Digital 5.1) Thai (Dolby Digital 2.0)

Thai (Dolby Digital 2.0)

Subtitles English, and none English, and none English, and none French, and none
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Strand Releasing

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.61:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (8:10) with optional English subtitles

• Audio commentary by Chuck Stevens

• Thai Trailer (1:43)

DVD Release Date: May 8th, 2007

 Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: La-ong Dao

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1:1.33

Edition Details:
• Trailer (1:42 / widescreen 1:1.85)
• DVD-5 (SS-SL)

DVD Release Date: Unknown
Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (8:12) with optional English subtitles

• 12 page liner notes with essay and interview

DVD Release Date: May 1st, 2006

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12

Release Information:
Studio: MK2

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.61:1

Edition Details:

• Introduction by Philippe Azoury (4:06)

DVD Release Date: November 17th, 2004

Keep Case
Chapters: 13

 

 

ADDITION: Strand Releasing (April 07'): Although it is not anamorphic - the Strand Releasing transfer is progressive and I think it looks the best - detail and color-wise. Trouble is it is about 14 minutes shorter than the PAL sped-up Second Run and MK2. I cannot account for this. So it is another cut version as far as we can determine. There are some sexually graphic scenes removed, that I can recall.

It has the same 8 minute Apichatpong Weerasethakul introduction as the Second Run edition (with English subtitles). But the trouble with that is in it Weerasethakul says that it is an uncensored version... but surely it is.

So what the hell is going on here? and while I'm at it - Weerasethakul shouldn't have approved the Second Run transfer as it is interlaced.

It also has the same Thai trailer as the La-ong Dao and initially I was excited that it includes a commentary with film critic Chuck Stephens and Weerasethakul (although he is not formally introduced). My only complaint is that neither voice is particularly loud or strong and the film dialogue is simultaneously running. I turned by volume up quite high to catch all the discussion but the film track should have been silenced to some degree. When the lovely musical soundtrack of the film is playing in certain scenes (driving for instances) the commentary is virtually inaudible. Luckily the film doesn't have excessive dialogue, background noise or music. What I heard was fairly good - inspirations, personal meanings, the graphic scenes and settings, performers etc. - it was just rendered very poorly. So we have enough strikes against this DVD to extract a healthy rejection. It looks good, but is still not anamorphic, this is a censored version (although has the director representing it is not), and has a commentary that can't be completely heard. We love the film but  none of these editions seem to put all the pieces together - possibly making it even more alluring ?!?  

****

ADDITION: Second Run (May 06'): The French edition may appear sharper but I believe it is primarily a function of its contrast boosting. Another factor in the MK2's superior appearance is that the Second Run DVD is not from an HD source. It is quite unfortunate that this great film is not in a pristine DVD transfer condition. On the positive, we are getting the uncensored edition on the new Second Run which has English subtitles (optional). Apichatpong Weerasethakul's introduction is a nice touch adding flavor to the film's very personal meaning. I know many will be buying the Second Run which, frankly, looks acceptable on a tube. I doubt we will see it soon in a superior/English friendly addition. It would have been nice if it had been progressively digitized but with such a poetic rarity, we will take what we can get.

NOTE: the liner notes are excellent - a 3 1/2 pages essay by Tony Rayns, some bios and questions for the cinematographer.

***

There are two Thai DVD's with the same cover (same length and UPC number, but inside is two different versions, both cut: one more one less). How this is even possible goes over my imagination. Someone doesn't seem to care to much! So if you order the Thai DVD. it's like a Christmas present: You don't know what you get!

The difference with the two Thai releases is that the lovemaking scene with Orn and the man (approx. 9:46 minutes) is missing. Otherwise they are identical.

The difference with the longer than original Thai DVD and the MK2 French DVD is the following:

1) Drive from Orn's husbands work where worker follows on motorbike is missing (approx. 6.00 minutes)

2) Roong and Min's drive to the idyllic get-away, just before the credits (approx. 2:10 minutes).

3) Roong playing with Min's penis (1:20 minutes)


PICTURE

I suspect that all three DVD's is taken from a NTSC master. All versions have ghosting.

The best, and only to recommend is the French non anamorphic version. Even tough it seems that it's taken direct from a film copy.

The two Thai DVDs has some kind of error in the picture, During the film the picture waves from the top to the bottom in approx. 1 minutes intervals. The colors are also faded in the Thai DVD's.

The Thai DVD's are Open matte, but for some reason cropped on both sides, so that even when zooming the picture to the OAR, the framing doesn't become exactly the right one.

The French DVD is in 1:1.66. The trailer on the Thai DVD is presented in a tighter composition 1:1.85.

Per-Olaf Strandberg





DVD Menus

 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. La-ong Dao - Region 0 - PAL - RIGHT)

 

 

 

(Second Run - Region 0 - PAL - LEFT vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - RIGHT)


 

 

 

Combing sample from Second Run

 


 

Subtitle Samples

 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - 2nd  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL 3rd vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM)


 


Screen Captures

 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - 2nd  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL 3rd vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - 2nd  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL 3rd vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - 2nd  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL 3rd vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - 2nd  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL 3rd vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - 2nd  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL 3rd vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Strand Releasing - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. La-ong Dao (newer) - Region 0 - PAL - 2nd  vs. Second Run - Region 0 - PAL 3rd vs. MK2 - Region 2- PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Strand

Sound:

La-ong Dao

Extras: Strand
Menu: -

 

 

DVD Box Covers

 

Distribution Strand Releasing
Region 0 - NTSC

La-ong Dao (Thailand)

Region 0 - PAL

Second Run
Region 0 - PAL
MK2 (France)
Region 2 - PAL




 


 

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