I point out that she is sweaty, braless, and wearing a tank top, because the way the director films this woman and plays with sensuality throughout the film is a constant but I’m not sure as to what ends. And I point out improvising because this film is clearly half improvised and half scripted; the former being quite good and the latter somewhat of a preposterous mess. That’s my initial judgement, anyway. Kyoko Hasegawa exudes a confident and charming strength and sexiness while she is improvising but gets lower marks for the scenes where she is called upon to act.
After the steamy introduction we witness Ayako witnessing a Thai girl and white guy getting out of a taxi. The white guy is angry and screaming at the driver: “You are shit, I should kick your ass!” Ayako decides, against my better judgement but apparently not hers, to ask this cab driver to take her to her hotel, if he knows where it is. The driver seems uninterested but waves her in. She has to open the trunk of the cab and put her big, heavy suitcase in there by herself. We’re getting some pretty good character development of this taxi driver guy right away.
After getting in the cab, Ayako asks the driver if he knows where her hotel is. The driver doesn’t seem to understand but they drive away. Ayako rubs some lotion on her chest in a rather sensual manner coming precariously close to her breasts (I’m just sayin’) and notices the driver eyeing her in the rearview. More character development on that guy. She puts on her sunglasses and falls asleep. When she wakes up they appear to be in the woods. The driver opens one of the rear doors and signals for Ayako to get out. She fears she is about to be robbed, or worse, and crawls out the other side. The driver chases after her along some wooded trail as Ayako throws things at him and eventually gets away. The cab driver has a scary movie limp so it wasn’t difficult but she’s left all her belongings either in the taxi or on the trail.
Ayako runs further into the woods, where we see some monks walking about, and eventually into the arms, literally, of some guy who turns out to be French. She cries on his chest while he strokes her hair. Strange and creepy. He takes her to the home where he is staying and studying the fine art of Thai massage from the matriarch of the place. I’m not making this up.
They all drink some tea, the French guy behaving way too touchy-feely with Ayako for my taste, and then the taxi driver walks up. Turns out he is the brother of the massage teacher. Oops.
Before you know it, taxi man is lying there getting a massage from his sister and Ayako is instructed to lie down beside him so the French guy can practice on her. All of a sudden Ayako is on top of the French guy, massaging him but she digs her fingernails into him so he throws her off and she lands with her head on the taxi guy—and just lays there for a very uncomfortable moment. Uncomfortable for me, at least, because we have not had the character development turn-around where we’re supposed to think we’ve misjudged taxi man’s behavior and he’s really a nice guy. That comes later. As does one of those “I have no idea what you are saying but I understand you” moments where the French guy tells Ayako he’s homosexual. Presumably, we are to reassess our first impressions of the French guy’s behavior.
(Is this supposed to be some didactic multicultural essay? I think it’s a bit more akin to Rachel Getting Married in that it’s more of a celebration of diversity than a manifesto. )
Pretty soon everyone is having fun together, shopping, eating, dancing, and etc., until the massage teacher’s little boy comes up missing. Big loud cross-language arguments ensue. The French guy’s been just chillin’ in Thailand to center himself, practicing yoga. We’ve seen him do a headstand and child’s pose. So I can’t for the life of me understand why he hauls off and whacks Ayako during this argument.
Ayako heads out into the woods to find the little boy. She gets stuck in some kind of boggish swamp and we can see through her muddy and damp sweat pants she’s wearing a sexy thong. (I’m not looking for this stuff). This struggle tires her out so she naps against a tree and dreams about this other unknown, unexplained character who gets to play the massage game with a clearly naked but not revealing Ayako in a few of the films momentarily erotic and cinematically sensual scenes.
Ayako wakes up and finds the boy. Everybody sings and dances, there’s some family drama about sending the boy to temple or not, and a couple ducks fly up a river. Roll credits.
There are some incredibly sensuous moments throughout this film, from landscapes to facial expressions. Kyoko Hasegawa is engaging when she appears to be winging it but gets lower grades when called upon to act. Grégoire Colin is french as the French Guy. I don’t get Thai acting. It all seems way over the top, but Thailand and its people are beautiful.