Monday, June 18, 2012

LAFF ’12: P-047

They are temporary occupiers.  Nearly invisible in their mall jobs, Lek and Kong break into affluent apartments to borrow a few hours of the tenants’ lives.  They rarely steal anything outright, unless they are sure it will not be missed.  Unfortunately, there seems to be something not quite right with their world on a higher metaphysical level in Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s P-047, which screens during the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Lek is a locksmith, whose skills are wasted in his kiosk.  Kong sells magazines, but fancies himself a writer and ladies man.  At Kong’s instigation, they start invading strangers’ flats to experience how the more prosperous live.  They carefully observe each target before their home invasions, but one day the inevitable happens—violently.  From there, all bets are off.

What starts as a pretty grounded excursion into petty crime and economic voyeurism takes a sharp turn into the meta-weird, challenging viewer assumptions regarding objective reality and discrete character identity.  Perhaps Lek and Kong are the same person, though in many respects, this does not seem to be the case.  Yet the hospitalized Lek takes on much of Kong’s persona, while befriending Oy, a strange fellow patient who compulsively sniffs found containers, in search of scents past.

P-047 is clearly intended as a head-scratcher.  Even the appearance of the title digits remains deliberately open to interpretation.  Despite the unwieldiness of the reality-problematizing later scenes, Jaturanrasmee still hooks viewers in quite readily.  Thai recording artist Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai is particularly notable expressing Lek’s social awkwardness and desperate-on-the-inside alienation.  In effective contrast, there is something clearly a little off about Prinya Ngamwongwarn’s Kong.

Frankly, P-047 seems to even lose itself down the stretch.  Nonetheless, the premise is so intriguing and many scattered sequences are so fascinating, one wants to assume all the pieces add up to something significant, somehow.  That counts for something.  The haunting use of Debussy’s Ballade and Umpompol Yugala’s icy cinematography also contribute substantial style points.  Selectively recommended for connoisseurs of Thai film and post-modern cinema, P-047 screens this Wednesday (6/20) and Sunday (6/24) as an International Showcase selection of this year’s L.A. Film Fest.