A great work by a magnificent director, Cemetery of Splendor is, nonetheless, the movie that makes me wonder if Apichatpong Weerasethakul is becoming "shticky". That probably means nothing at all other than that of all his features, it's the one whose cryptic insolubility feels to me the most soluble, and in the most straightforward way. At a certain point near the end, the film more or less looks us straight in the eye and intones, "you understand that this is all a dream, right?" And maybe it is, though what "all" is in reference to is debatable, and the fact that the film is so eager to telegraph that reading probably means that it's not right.

The film is about some indefinable combination of characters, some of whom are dead, but the protagonist, anyway, is Jen (Jenjira Pongpas Widner), a nurse at a clinic on the edge of a forest outside of Khon Kaen (Weerasethakul's hometown, referenced in the film's original Thai title). Here she treats soldiers afflicted with a baffling sleeping sickness. Also spending time in the clinic is Keng (Jarinpattra Rueangram), a psychic who helps families communicate with the sleeping soldiers. One of Jen's patients is Itt (Banlop Lomnoi), who snaps into mobile consciousness sometimes, and who is stuck between two worlds: in addition to moving around with Jen in the present, he seems to be perceptually located in the long-gone past, when the location of the clinic was occupied by a royal palace, and Itt seems to be more able to identify that space around him than the "actual" one.

Cemetery of Splendor offers itself as a political commentary, one which I fully lack the context to unpack in any way, though the principle metaphor of the past being an omnipresent bugger in the present, slowly rotting out our lives, is hardly beholden to political or national specificity. Anyway, the film's sheer cumulative impact as a slow-moving collection of emotional undercurrents works regardless of one's ability to make basic narrative connections. In a career made out of nothing but hypnotically slow gestures, this might be the most hypnotic thing the director has made since the gorgeously somnambulent Blissfully Yours. It is the kind of movie so dominated by long, wide shots that the mere presence of a close-up is by itself enough to make you gasp and leap back, and in which the color palette is so carefully limited that a frame lit by neon tubes like something out of '50s sci-fi is striking not for the weirdness of the composition and concept, but simply by the aberration of having that much damn color.

I happily concede that I barely grasped a lot of it: half of it felt like a dream or hallucination while I was watching it, and the other half had joined it by the time I woke up the next morning. It's also so physically tangible but just out of reach, and so meditatively stimulating that the second that it's over, all I wanted was to watch it over again, immediately. And maybe part of that is its explosive, joyful finale, an unexpected musical sequence that the whole movie has been quietly preparing us for all along, and is just about the best scene of its kind since Beau travail. Calling the film supremely pleasurable and transfixing is undoubtedly selling it short, but as a first impression, it's absolutely enough.