By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
The Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul creates mood pieces that are as puzzling as they are seductive; the eloquent proof of this comes in his fascinating “Syndromes of a Century” and the Cannes Festival-winning “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.”
Compared to those two excursions, Weerasethakul’s newest, “Mekong Hotel,” feels like noodling around a theme. He all but signals this with his opening scene, which depicts a guitarist (apparently an old friend of the director’s) picking away at a melody and admitting that he can hardly remember his own composition — but he’ll keep playing until he finds it.
We hear this drifting solo guitar music through almost all of the remainder of the film. And indeed, “Mekong Hotel” moves about in search of a melody, without particularly disclosing what it is actually about.
Shot around a hotel that perches above the mighty Mekong River separating Thailand from Laos, the film includes scenes between two young people who meet and apparently fall in love; they talk a lot about reincarnation, and we conclude there might be a longer history between them than just the present day.
There’s also much talk of ghosts, as well as startling moments in which the young woman’s mother (who might be a ghost herself) is seen feeding on bloody entrails. Given the talk of supernatural spirits on the loose, perhaps these ghosts are a normal part of life here.
This is one of those projects that can safely be recommended only to fans of this filmmaker’s previous work. Weerasethakul’s long takes and non-narrative style can be entrancing, but working in this offhand fashion makes “Mekong Hotel” seem like a side project, not a main work. In fact, it’s inspired by another film Weerasehtakul tried to make 10 years ago but never completed.
The one-hour running time completes the sense of smallness. To fill out the program, the Northwest Film Forum is running the film with a new 20-minute short by the filmmaker, “Sakda,” which was unavailable for preview.
“Mekong Hotel” (2½ stars)
Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul noodles for an hour at a hotel perched upon the mighty Mekong River, grazing across the story of two young lovers but also the possibility of an entrails-eating ghost on the premises. Not for newcomers to the director’s contemplative style; it screens with the new 20-minute short by the director, “Sakda.” In Thai, with English subtitles.
Not rated; Probably PG-13 for subject matter.
Showing: Northwest Film Forum.