Invisible Waves Pen-ek Ratanaruang

The director of the much-loved Last Life in the Universe comes up only half successful with his latest effort. Tadanobu Asano returns as a Macau cook who in the early portions of the movie is seen romancing, then poisoning, his ladylove, who also happens to be his crime lord boss’s wife. Then that boss sends him on a trip to Thailand on the worst cruise ship imaginable, where he encounters a mysterious woman and her baby son. He develops a liking for the woman, but loses touch and subsequently finds himself in a seedy Thai hotel being beaten up and robbed. But narrative intrigue takes a back seat here to the ennui-laden mood courtesy of director and famed DP Christopher Doyle, who comes up with a fluorescent funk that’s at once accomplished and the only real card the movie has to play. The story is nominally interesting, but the style keeps you at once intrigued and at arm’s length from the action, which keeps us from committing to the action on screen. If the filmmakers can’t keep themselves interested in Asano’s plight, what’s to keep us on our toes? But if the movie has its issues, it never quite drifts into flat line status and manages to be twisty and ironic enough to make you wonder, what’s going to happen next? Though the climax is perhaps unsatisfying, it’s perfectly lined up with the disappointment of our hero’s trip and his furtive romance with that mystery woman. And the style, however uncomplementary to narrative interest, is not only impressive but completely sustained during the film’s romp through rusted-out boats and ugly lodgings. Not for casual viewers but fans of the director will find some gems among the junk. (Fortissimo/Palm)