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Mobile Men (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2008) January 30, 2010

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Short Cuts.
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Shot, edited, and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cast: Jaai Loongsu, Nitipong Thinthupthai

For something commissioned it could be tricky. Apichatpong films two young men in a pick-up truck who show off their bodies and tattoos, as they move the camera alternately while the truck runs in full speed. The effect is somewhat hedonistic, how the man shouts in the end, laughs as he mocks himself, the camera capturing his happiness and indifference. Apichatpong tells in an interview that the main actor—I presume the man without the tattoos—is a Burmese migrant worker; the other, I am guessing again, is Thai. The conditions of migrant workers in Thailand, specifically those from Burma, Laos, and Cambodia, are even aggravated by the fact that they were given special provisions upon their stay in the country, prohibiting them from “leaving their designated housing at night, using mobile phones, and from gathering together outside their houses in groups of more than five.” The contrast between the two men is never felt, as Apichatpong seizes in the film that enjoyment of having time on their hands, that cheerful and careless attitude toward life, like engaging in a thrilling ride albeit short. There’s a glimpse of Apichatpong’s face in the middle, and the microphone is revealed when the man with tattoos removes his shirt in the end. And there goes that feeling again—of being in the presence of something beautiful yet inexplicable, of something interesting without being close to hypothetical.

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