Blissfully Yours
aka Sud sanaeha

Blissfully Yours

Thai language. Thailand/France, 2001. Not rated. 125 minutes.

Cast: Kanokporn Tongaram, Min Oo, Jenjira Jansuda
Writer: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cinematographer: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Producers: Eric Chan, Charles de Meaux
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul


Grade: C+ Review by Jeff Vorndam

I  am going to try to make this story sound as exciting as possible, in order to mislead anyone who's waffling over whether to see it. Blissfully Yours opens in a doctor's office, where a man with a horrific skin condition is being treated by a doctor and doted upon by his two female companions. The older of his two friends, Orn (Jenjira Jansuda), pleads passionately for a Bill of Health certificate so that the man can work in Thailand (he's from Burma). Her plea denied, Orn and Min (that's the skin-disease guy's name) race home and prepare a bizarre salve of lotion and vegetables. Orn gives some to her boyfriend/husband (I forget) and he ingests it, causing him to smile like he's chugged from a jug labeled 'xxx.' (The frame momentarily gets smudgy around the edges here. Could this be the first film to homage Quintet?)

Orn and Min then speed off towards the border, picking up Roong (Kanokporn Tongaram) along the way. Roong has ditched work to picnic with Min in Burma. They leave Orn behind and hike to a scenic vista where they eat berries and feel each other up. Cut to: Orn and her boyfriend/husband rutting around on a forest floor, Jenjira Jansudahaving the kind of sex that everyone in the audience was waiting to see (apparently, because once the scene ended, a large group of people beat a hasty retreat to the exit). Orn's bliss is interrupted when her lover's motorcycle is stolen, and he must pursue in the thief in his yellow bikini briefs.

At the bank of a stream, Orn catches up with Min and Roong, who are going into the water to alleviate Min's skin pain. Orn and Roong frolic a bit, and then Orn retires while Roong gives Min a blowjob. An army of ants has devoured much of the picnic food, and Orn carelessly throws all the utensils in the stream so she can dry out on the blanket. While she rests, she breaks into a sustained quiet sob. Meanwhile, a graphic depiction of Roong stroking Min's penis is followed by a five-minute long shot of her snuggling up to him. Cue credits.

Sounds awesome, huh? Besides the flaking skin, the veggie lotion and the puppetry of the penis, not a whole lot happens in this movie, and not a whole lot happens very slowly. It's best to just soak it all in and experience the movie as an immersion in a lazy Summer day. Once attenuated, you can concentrate on the details and idiosyncrasies that make Blissfully Yours somewhat worthwhile. For starters, there's an intertextual playfulness to director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's style. The opening credits make a surprise appearance about an hour into the film (in a spot that, in retrospect, seems perfectly placed). Drawings are scratched onto the film periodically. The voice-over is inconsistent in occurrence, yet vital in conveying backstory. Its very casualness belies its importance to understanding what's going on.

When the camera moves so sparingly and the mise-en-scene is equally inert, off-screen noises become more prevalent. The sound of insects buzzing and humming, the stream gurgling, and people yawning and fidgeting combine to give the film a droning ambience. Weerasethakul lulls you into a reverie only to interrupt it with the occasional loud report--in some cases of ordinary origin (a pair of moist slacks being flapped), in another instance of an ominously ambiguous source (the bang that's heard after Orn's boyfriend/hubby takes off in pursuit of the motorcycle thief).

Blissfully Yours has befuddled many critics, but its meaning is suggested by its title. Each of the characters escapes some drudgery or painful situation to attain temporary happiness. Their willful ignorance provides some respite, which is all too brief due to the unresponsiveness of their respective partners, and the fact that their bliss is located in fantasy. Because of its intertextual qualities, Blissfully Yours can be read as a meta-commentary on the movie-watching experience, as we seek bliss when the lights go down. A title that would more accurately reflect my experience of the film would be Tediously Yours.

Review © April 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images 2002 Kick the Machine Films. All Rights Reserved.

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