Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours


The most absolutely bullshit-free cinema experience you’ll have in 2012, this epic-length Thai documentary takes the observational jungle stillness so hypnotic in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s work and doubles the bet. There’s no A.W.-brand narrative slipperiness, though—what we see is what we get in massive narcotic doses. Lung Neaw is a sixtyish “retired” farmer living in a near-silent northern village, and we follow him wordlessly from night market shopping to visits with relatives, planting rice, praying to the local Buddha, crabbing or foraging or bathing in a stream. It’s a tropical idyll, shot in low res but often beautiful Super 16mm, so many light-soaked sequences (a meadow-side campout, for instance, in which you can glean how to barbecue a snake) evoke Turner-esque romantic-landscape art. Tiravanija is an Argentine-born Thai installation artist, but his film is so pure, uninflected, and empty of intent that over its length (more than 2.5 hours), it feels like a meditation you had by accident. Finally, a doc that’s an experience, not just an infantilized civics lesson. Calling the movie simply Buddhist, in form as well as context, might be just another way of saying it’s awesome, as in it inspires legitimate awe. Michael Atkinson