Directed by Mati Diop
In this short, a director is working on her soft core-y adaptation of The Dangerous Liaisons in a beach city in France. But she, on a whim, walks out of her movie, thus triggering two separate story lines. There’s the director’s, as she wanders on the streets and karaoke bars of the city’s Vietnamese establishments. She’s free to speak her native tongue with other immigrants, learning their stories. Then there’s her movie set where her son and the actors are left to fend for themselves.
Both story lines tackle origins, as the director starts a duet with a Vietnamese man. She spends the night and the next morning with him, walking from the restaurants to the beach. The actors in the movie set, however, talk about Vietnam. The actress has or had a grandfather there and both would like to eventually visit the country. The short opens up another conversation about post-colonialism and heritages, where multiple races have an emotional claim to the same land, and the different ways that people can deal with their pasts.
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Mekong Hotel is a simpler canvas for Palme D’Or winner Apichatpong Weersaethakul to ruminate on Buddhism. Nonetheless this is a more raw yet equal approach to his subjects of interest. Instead of rural Thailand it’s about a few characters living and working on a riverside hotel. Most of these characters are young and active, having different interests like music or fashion, the men using their guitar skills or nice enough clothing to impress girls who will theoretically pass by.
The guitar riffs played by one of the characters serves as the movie’s soothing soundtrack. It’s supposed to counteract the movie’s arc, when the characters’ idle interests violently have to make way for their spiritual troubles, but all it does is put audiences into a lull. None of the dialogue in the second half makes sense, which seem to be about people trying to stick together despite death, God, and reincarnation’s randomness separating them.
It isn’t able to convey the magic or the emotions that Weerasethakul’s earlier work Uncle Boonmee does. The movie ends with a frustrating ten minute long take of microscopic looking people traveling through the river, making us wonder what is this movie for. Not being able to get Weerasethakul’s movies will make me a target by snobs who consider people like me as a philistine but you know what, tough. He has to make himself a little more approachable.