Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
NBooth

Onthakan [The Blue Hour] (Anucha Boonyawatana, 2015)

Recommended Posts

IMDB link.

Ok, so I mentioned this movie in another thread and made a (fruitless) inquiry on Facebook about it a few weeks back, but I'm wondering if anyone has gotten a chance to watch this movie? Trailer and some review links and then my thoughts. If you want to watch the movie unspoiled (which I did), I'd advise skipping the trailer, which really doesn't get at the central weirdness of this movie:

Godfrey Cheshire

Quote

Given all of the elements just described, plus its beautifully muted cinematography, “The Blue Hour” owes certain obvious debts to Apichatpong Weerasethasekul (whose terrific “Cemetery of Splendor” is currently in U.S. cinemas), as do many contemporary Thai films. But Boonyawatana provides a confident and distinctive vision of his own in this, his debut feature. While his spiraling from one genre to another may produce a final lack of coherence, it’s a nervy, purposeful strategy that keeps clichés at bay while engaging viewer interest throughout. Ultimately this “blue” film fuses the erotic and the melancholic, the fleshly and the psychic, in ways striking and memorable.

 

Boyd van Hoeij

Quote

A bullied gay boy at a Thai high school finds both sex and a sense of safety when he meets a young man at a dilapidated swimming pool for a hookup in The Blue Hour (Onthakan), the directorial debut of Anucha Boonyawatana. Rather than settling for yet another goo-goo eyed story of puppy-dog romance featuring two young men of hairless exquisiteness, the talented writer-director gradually introduces much darker genre elements that suggest something of the state-of-mind of the protagonist, whose peers and parents aren’t exactly on board with his same-sex proclivities. Though finally too uneven and too long to fully captivate throughout, this good-looking Berlinale Panorama title does mark Boonyawatana as a young director to watch.

 

Both of those selections get at the thing that most grabbed me about the movie, actually: it starts off like a pretty standard coming-of-age story featuring a sensitive gay boy and his more assertive, more experienced boyfriend, and then--about halfway through--it takes a turn into David Lynchville, circa Mulholland Dr. There are junkyards full of corpses, dogs who just won't die, possible hauntings. And all the while the movie is shot like...well, like a pretty standard coming-of-age story featuring a sensitive gay boy. I watched the film twice in a week and I still can't figure out exactly what to do with it. For all of Lynch's weirdness, he is at least comforting in that you know what's coming; his style and his content are closely aligned. What's interesting--and frustrating and intriguing--about this movie is precisely the way in which, with a couple of exceptions, style and content don't align.

Most of the reviews I've read focus on the movie's interaction with LGBTQ issues in Thailand, and that's certainly a major theme. But I think it's only major theme, depending on how you read the last twenty minutes or so (which I won't spoil, on behalf of those who hate spoilers).

Anyway, thoughts appreciated. It's on Netflix US, but I'm not sure where else it's available.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My interest in contemporary Thai cinema and my enjoyment of Apichatpong and Lynch (Joe has said he's a fan of Lynch) means I will make an effort to track this down if it becomes available in Canada.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

Twitter.
Letterboxd.

Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm about to give it a shot. I note that it has remarkably low ratings on IMDb and Netflix, but, on the other hand, experience suggests that if something strikes NBooth as weird, it's very weird - enough to be at least interesting. Another preliminary observation going in: 

Quote

Rather than settling for yet another goo-goo eyed story of puppy-dog romance featuring two young men of hairless exquisiteness

It may not be "goo-goo eyed," but it does appear that the principals don't have a body hair between them. I've thought before that the word "hairless" is often code for something else, but I haven't figured out quite what.

Edited by Rushmore

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't even look at the ratings, so now I'm a bit nervous (the two reviews I posted are mixed-leaning-positive). Even if it's a bust, though, I'm curious to know how the movie strikes you.

11 minutes ago, Rushmore said:

I've thought before that the word "hairless" is often code for something else, but I haven't figured out quite what.

I've got some ideas, but even the code here would be pretty maddeningly contextual. Like, I'm not sure there's an agreed-upon code, just a general feeling of code-ish-ness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I also saw this twice, and it is weird, even after you accept the genre mashup going on. For example (mild spoilers going forward), when a ghost, evil spirit, or whatever finally seems to appear, the tension immediately dissipates and the mood shifts from terror to sadness and hopelessness. (Not to say this scene isn't scary.) What seems to be going on is that most of the events of the second half of the film represent Tam's state of mind, not events that are really happening. The continuity problems alone are enough to indicate this. But I struggle to make sense of the ending whether it's real or not.

On the character level, I find Tam (the sensitive one) more relatable and believable than Phum (who's a victim of the film's dreamlike state). Some of the dialogue seems a bit on the nose, but it's hard to judge these things via subtitles. Also, much of the film is shot quite beautifully.

I'm curious about the title - does it have the same meaning as the French expression l'heure bleue?

Anyway, this was very much worth seeing. Never read the reviews on Netflix.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MAJOR SPOILERS

 

29 minutes ago, Rushmore said:

So I also saw this twice, and it is weird, even after you accept the genre mashup going on. For example (mild spoilers going forward), when a ghost, evil spirit, or whatever finally seems to appear, the tension immediately dissipates and the mood shifts from terror to sadness and hopelessness. (Not to say this scene isn't scary.) What seems to be going on is that most of the events of the second half of the film represent Tam's state of mind, not events that are really happening. The continuity problems alone are enough to indicate this. But I struggle to make sense of the ending whether it's real or not.

That's more or less where I'm at. I compared the movie to Mulholland Dr. above, but that last half-hour is more like Lost Highway or Inland Empire, really. Mulholland Dr. actually resolves into a pretty straightforward narrative once you look at it, which can't really be said for the other two movies mentioned. 

That scene where the ghost or whatever it is appears is particularly good, I think, and for precisely the reasons you mention. It's actually really tense--though that may be my own inexperience with that kind of ghost-story talking--but the tension is a build-up to something much more devastating (and I do find the end pretty devastating, even if I don't understand it). 

29 minutes ago, Rushmore said:

On the character level, I find Tam (the sensitive one) more relatable and believable than Phum (who's a victim of the film's dreamlike state).

One of the things that's interesting to me here--and this is related to the genre-play alluded to above--is the fact that these boys are very much types. If much of this movie is in Tam's head, it makes sense to me that Phum might wind up being much more typically seme (to cross from one Asian country to another)--though I think he's not just that.

Some of the dialogue seems a bit on the nose, but it's hard to judge these things via subtitles. Also, much of the film is shot quite beautifully.

Yes to both. The stuff with the mother honestly did very little for me; same with the stuff with the brother. For me, the imagery outweighed all of that--the junkyard, with its writhing masses of detritus and mysterious gunmen, for instance.

I'm curious about the title - does it have the same meaning as the French expression

l'heure bleue?

I have no idea, since I'm unfamiliar with French in general.

_____

In the interests of completeness, here's Slant's unfavorable review, which I think kind of misreads that last shot:

Although love, strife, and horror do eventually settle into some sort of alignment, the set of messages conveyed by their combination is hardly profound: repression generates aggression, there's respite in tenderness, and endless stories of troubled souls can certainly invade your sleep. But while dreams obviously don't always follow standard logic, invoking them to justify random plot shifts feels like an awfully convenient way of papering over the arbitrary. And if, as The Blue Hour's sugary ending implies, it was indeed all just a dream, what's the point in falling asleep in the first place? There are far less convoluted ways to arrive at the same obvious goal.

Thing is, I don't think that the ending is particularly sugary. For one thing, the reality-dream stuff is so mixed up here that I'm not convinced that the last shot isn't also in Tam's head. For another--well, on first viewing my impression was that Tam was leading Phum out into the water in order to commit murder-suicide (this reading would depend on taking the death of Tam's family as a real-world event). On second viewing, I was less certain. But, whatever's going on there, it certainly isn't sweetness-and-light. It isn't sugary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...