Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

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Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

Postby chard09 » Tue Aug 21, 2007 3:49 pm


Complex Partial Seizure in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's affection to details is exemplary. Opening a fridge, moving of bathroom curtains, lighting a cigarette, pouring wine, stealing a tuxedo, applying make-up -- everything looks so eerie and dreamlike, it feels like everyone of us in the audience forgot how to blink for fear of missing even a single frame.

Dang mentions that there is a thief in their hotel room. Wit says, Is something missing? She leaves it unanswered. We know that what she intends to do is to get Ploy out of their room. But Pen-ek stops from there. Dang's agony is paranoia. Something triggerred from the outside but she's not letting it show. Later on, we realize who the thief is. She. Whether she is unconsious or not about suspecting Ploy of theft, stealing Ploy's necklace is not only a manifestation of her inner evil, but insanity as well. By the moment she steps out of the hotel, reality unfolds and eats her up, chews her incessantly.

It is tempting to compare Ratanaruang with Wong Kar-wai, considering a few similarities in plot details. Is Wit's mention of love and marriage's expiration date an allusion to Takeshi Kaneshiro's hopeless-romantic character in Chungking Express? Nearing its end, when Wit holds Dang's hands as she comfortably places her head on his shoulders, is it to evoke a doomed relationship reminiscent of Su Lizhen and Mr. Chow in In the Mood for Love (or perhaps Happy Together)? Who knows.

Perhaps the closest that these two directors share in common is Chris Doyle -- Wong's partner in crime in some of his highly-acclaimed films -- whose presence in Last Life in the Universe is very much felt. However, the aforementioned assertion is no way to lessen Pen-ek's brilliance. Originality should never be an issue in criticism. Everyone is indebted to everyone else who came before him, and describing a film "unoriginal" is ignorance, not to mention insensitivity. Ploy is unsettling in its own way but never disturbing, achieves subtlety without excessive indulgence, and possesses a unique beauty that can only come out among Asian films. I am sure any film geek here would be familiar with that.

A realization: Ploy leaves a feeling of uneasiness, as if every scene is happening in the corner of our eye. Cornered, we enthused over the idea of simply observing what will happen next, will Ploy awaken alive, will Wit and Dang reconcile before the funeral, why did she quit acting, et cetera. We even enjoy the sight of the bartender and the chambermaid taking their time in reaching orgasm. The pain of our existence, the fleeting nature of life, and the oceanic anomaly of emotions we need to swim -- Pen-ek captured all of them in this film. A bittersweet symphony, choking the agony of relationships. Transience redefined.

Leaving the theatre in a drunken stupor, I asked the soundproof walls whom I envy for seeing countless films in exhibition during the festival, Is it only in Asia that love expires?

Re: Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Aug 23, 2007 4:21 am

Hey, Chard09, nice blog and a wonderful review. (Please feel free to share any older comments/reviews with us.) I'm a big fan of Pen-ek's work, especially Last Life in the Universe which was one of the best films I saw in 2004. Though I haven't yet come across his previous effort, Invisible Waves, I'm looking forward to his latest -- playing next month at the Toronto Film festival.

Re: Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

Postby trevor826 » Thu Aug 23, 2007 10:18 am

Very enthusiatic review, definitely sounds like one to keep an eye out for. I've only had the pleasure of seeing Monrak Transistor (2001) and Last Life in the Universe (2003) and enjoyed both very much, I'd love to see his other films given the opportunity.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

Postby chard09 » Thu Aug 23, 2007 12:22 pm

Thanks for visiting, arsaib. That blog is just a repository of ill-natured thoughts and written trash. Hope that I can find Invisible Waves in bootleg stands here. Haha, Monrak Transistor was shown a few years back in our university but unfortunately, I wasn't into films that time yet. Argh!

Trevor, merci aussi. I'll be seeing Paris Je T'aime and Persopolis (I'm hoping, since Cinemanila is extended). And raya Martin's Maicling Pelicula ng Ysang Indio Nacional. (seems like I'll be here quite often).

Re: Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Aug 23, 2007 11:16 pm

We use this board for the same purpose.

If you have a moment, chard, could you please check out the TIFF lineup (posted here, including the link to the full list). The latest from Lav Diaz is playing, and there are a couple more Filipino selections. See if anything looks familiar. Persepolis got mixed reviews at Cannes but it does sound interesting.

Re: Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007)

Postby chard09 » Tue Oct 09, 2007 8:04 am

A hallucinatory take on Haruki Murakamis startling early masterpiece and Pen-ek Ratanaruangs stunning latest work pieces of a lost puzzle intertwined, and magnified

The most important facet of film viewing, often shared in public discussions, is its gift of intertextuality the correlation of emotions to a network of meanings, images, and perceptions that we derive from other forms of art, thus evoking a bullet of memories and shoveling those crystallized fossils in the dark pits of our minds.


One film always reminds us of another, it is inevitable, even in the most obscure reasons. The concept of who benefits or harms whom is highly subjective, debatable, and painstakingly difficult to start with.


Two months. Two rainy months. It never crossed my mind. It took a while before the idea sank in (in fact, its not even my idea): a worthy similarity, a realisation tempting to be conclusive, with lines that never intersect and yet a parallelism so transparent.

Pen-ek Ratanaruangs Ploy bears striking resemblance to Haruki Murakamis Dance Dance Dance.

In the film, Ploy waits for her mother to arrive from Sweden inside a hotel bar. Wit, a returning businessman from the States who came with his wife to attend a funeral, befriends and asks her to stay in their hotel room, a few more hours before her mothers supposed arrival. The introduction of Ploy to the couple, to Wits wife particularly, marks a turning point: suspicion arises and breaks evenly, surmounted by the nimbus of emotions and unresolved past between the two. Something to ponder on, the fact that she plays the title role, why is Ploy the most passive character in the film? By doing practically nothing, the relationship of the people she has just met falls apart, in a bloody shambles. Provoked self destruction can be considered valid. Ploy is nineteen.

In the novel, Yuki waits for her mother inside the hotels restaurant, Walkman stuck in her ears (it might be the Talking Heads or Echo and the Bunnymen playing), and while her role to the protagonists search is vaguely presented, her characterisation alone is indeed memorable. Her clairvoyance is puzzling yet believable, and though Murakami is at hispeak in having us manipulated in this web of urban mysteries and metaphysics, its thrilling nature leaves a feeling of enchantment. While Yuki seems to agree that rock and roll is the greatest thing in the world, Ploy indulges herself into reggae and shares an earphone with Wit, surprised on the world that this young lady exposes herself into. Yuki is thirteen.

That Ploy and Yuki are perhaps the same person the rebellious teen waiting for Godot of different age and on different time and worlds, is a product of a young minds extreme indulgence. But as playful as the dragonflies of the field, we really never know.


The films lethargic pacing and the novels shifting realities seem to share a world of their own, a universe wherein lucidity is beyond grasp, and upon experiencing them, we dont care they are just beautiful. On their peripheries are the -isms we would rather neglect: capitalism, modernism, materialism, urbanism, et al, but we are confronted by them, probably on our way home after seeing the film or finishing a chapter of the book, in a way different than other people. A profound delusion, its eeriness and ethereal charm infect us with the feeling that we all share a piece of this mad, fleeting world.

The narrators mobility in Dance Dance Dance is apparent. From house to market, car to train, work to rendezvous, Shibuya to Aoyama, Japan to Hawaii, he is restless. Murakamis plot twists and endless possibilities works effectively with his setting and the disjointed, meandering life of his protagonist. While Ploy is rather seen as a stationary film whose sequences are mostly inside a luxurious hotel, the tension presented, mediated by Ratanaruangs admirable affection to details, makes it look, and feel, otherwise. The possibilities are surreal. When Dang accuses Wit of infidelity, her unyielding insecurity dwells on her subconscious. In a stunning sequence, Dang kills Ploy using a pillow to suffocate her. Someone knocks on the door. As if it triggers her to think rationally, she pulls her into the bathroom, turns the shower on, and opens the door. Surprise.

The observation may be a bit crude, haphazard, manipulative, and too tied-up, but the hotel in Ploy resonates the claustrophobic atmosphere of Dolphin Hotel the emptiness, the longing, the deprivation, the notion of abstract itself and the memories created, and lost, in that place. The room where the Sheep Man stays, a deceptive mind would rather think, is where the bartender and the chambermaid are having their greatest resort to boredom, their strangest pleasure ever, proving words arent enough to express ones feelings. The monotonous rush in the Sheep Mans words reminds me of that silence, albeit their passionate intercourse.

The women in these works wife, child, stranger, poet, and all the lost women represent vitality, the struggling force of living or being alive, and to them where all the overwhelming power of Ploy and Dance Dance Dance owe their brilliance. In a period of unsettling wakefulness, ironically, men created them.

From Lilok

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