I have a high level of tolerance when it comes to art-house type of movies but “Ploy” seems to be out of my league. I don’t mind those long minutes of waiting for something to happen like that one foreign film with a boy and an old man watching the sunset, in real time. So long as there is a reward in some forms after the wait. Maybe it’s a subtle theme, maybe it’s to communicate a certain emotion, or maybe it’s just beautiful to watch. Without rewards, I feel stupid spending time watching an art-house clip.
Some clips from “Ploy” are pretty brilliant. I like the conversation between the husband (owner of a restaurant in US) and his wife (an ex-actress from Thailand) on why after 7 or 8 years of marriage, the guy doesn’t say “I love you” anymore. And the subsequent conversation on the same topic with the husband and a little 19 years old girl (called Ploy whom they met in wee hours at a hotel bar). The mixture of real and unreal clips within the movie at times adds interesting twists. Some one-liners are bizarrely wicked. Like before a date rape, the guy said [to the unconscious girl in bed], “Don’t worry, I will use a condom.” Huh?! Where does that come from? We all chuckled. And we chuckled when one of the actresses suddenly turned the film into a musical (pretty much like a French art-house movie).
Most clips are slow and excruciatingly painful to watch. No, the sex scene between the bizarre side story of a bartender and a hotel maid is not at all sexy, way off the chart, and doesn’t contribute much to the main story. It’s a shame though. If the storyline was to be tighter and unfold a certain cohesive theme, that would have worked better. During the interview, the director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang mentioned that the 12-hour long shooting on the sex scene was no fun to make. I read that those sex scenes in “Lust, Caution” were hard to make too (took days). But Ang Lee has made the scenes beautiful to watch, non-pornographic, and meaningful to the storyline. If there was one suggestion I could offer to the “Ploy” team on those scenes, dim the light please. OK make it two, change the casting.
The young girl, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, who plays the character Ploy is perhaps one of the few rewards I can take home with. The filmmakers should have exploited this advantage much more. The film does leave me pondering on what is real, what is not. And for better or worse, from a country that is famous in making horror and action movies, an art-house Thai film that was premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival could be special to some. It’s just not my cup of tea.