Tuesday, October 21, 2014

WFFBKK 2014 review: Somboon


  • Directed by Krisda Tipchaimeta
  • Starring Somboon Ruekkhumyee, Lamaid Ruekkhumyee
  • Opening film of 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 24, 2014
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

A bittersweet and gentle documentary, Somboon (ปู่สมบรูณ์ , Poo Somboon), is a portrait of a couple in their winter years, with the husband devoted to caring for his chronically ailing wife.

The debut feature of 28-year-old film-school graduate Krisda Tipchaimeta, Somboon was filmed over the course of four years, and follows the daily routine of the elderly Somboon as he tends to the needs of Miad, his wife of more than 45 years. Suffering from kidney disease, among many other ailments, Miad undergoes dialysis treatments at home. It's a laborious process for Somboon, who administers the kidney flush every four hours, in addition to bathing his wife and tending to her other needs. It's unflinching, warts and all, as the nude woman is gently and patiently washed on her front doorstep.

There's a visit to the hospital, a 30-mile trip that Somboon and Miad must complete each month. They leave their rustic riverside home in Ayutthaya and go by tuk-tuk, the three-wheel motorized rickshaw that's common on Thai roads. And it's quite a process to get the heavy-set wheelchair-bound woman in and out of the vehicle.

The medical treatments are interspersed with solo interviews with Somboon, a wiry, terrier-like gentleman, still sharply handsome. With a gleam in his eye, he recalls his early life and the arranged marriage with Miad.

On its face, Somboon does not appear to be political, nor does it offer any overt commentary on Thai society. Nonetheless, there probably is a message in there somewhere about the rickety state of Thai public health policies, but the documentary also speaks volumes about the strength and closeness of the family unit.

Politics do come up eventually, courtesy of the 2011 flood that inundated the Central Plains and suburban Bangkok. Ayutthaya bore much of the brunt of the flooding, as authorities sought to spare Bangkok from the deluge. So we see news footage Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (ousted earlier this year and eventually replaced by a military coup) touring the floods. Especially revealing is a daughter's epic journey through the floods, hiring boats herself to bring much-needed medical supplies to Somboon.

With Ayutthaya largely cut off, it was up to Somboon's family to keep the documentary going, so footage shot during this time was done with a consumer-grade camera, and the resulting images are grainy. So when the footage switches back to the director's own high-resolution camera, it's dramatic, but also somber because circumstances for Somboon have changed, and a new stage of life for him has begun.

Somboon follows a trend in Thai cinema, with indie filmmakers getting increasingly bold with their depictions of family life. Other examples have included Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul's Mother, the films of Sivaroj Kongsakul and the early shorts of Chulayarnnon Siriphol, who courageously put their own families on the screen. Krisda, on the other hand, was turned onto Somboon by a film professor, but with the family helping out and giving consent, his film has the same intimate feel as those others. Perhaps Krisda and his producers can find a way to engage Somboon and include him in their next project?

See also:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: Fin Sugoi


  • Directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit
  • Starring Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Makoto Koshinaka, Settapong Piangpor, Supanart Jittaleela, Nawapol Lampoon
  • Released in Thai cinemas on September 25, 2014; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any cases where directors and their lead actresses might have shared the same shade of lipstick. But if there have been any such cinematic cosmetic collaborations, it's unlikely they were as fruitful as Love Sud Fin Sugoi (ฟินสุโค่ย), an eye-poppingly slick romantic comedy by Tanwarin Sukkahpisit and starring Apinya Sakuljaroensuk.

"Saipan" Apinya, who memorably made her debut in 2007 with an Afro hairstyle in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy, has long been a favorite actress of Thailand's indie directors, turning in solidly dramatic performances in such films as I Carried You Home and most recently in Concrete Clouds. She's had supporting roles in a dozen or so Thai mainstream comedies and romances, but none have allowed her to stretch her talents like she does in Fin Sugoi.

Working for the first time with popular director "Golf" Tanwarin, Saipan and the transgender director seem to have inspired each other.

With bright red lipstick, long straight black hair and a goth-rock wardrobe possibly borrowed from Golf, Saipan gives a force-of-nature performance as Noona, a domineering young Thai woman who is obsessed with Japanese rock star Makoto. But when her screaming-schoolgirl devotion to the hair-metal singer goes too far, her long-time boyfriend, the jealous judo-practicing Khrong (Tao Settapong) calls it quits. Noona then wins a chance to star in a music video with Makato, but she's torn by her feelings for Khrong and misgivings when romance with her rock idol becomes all too real.


Meanwhile, everyone in Noona's close circle of friends is looking for love in all the wrong places. Noona's best friend, the tomboy folksinger and pub owner Ham (Yes or No star Tina Suppanart) has attracted the attention of platonic guy pal Tong (Guy Nawapol), but lesbian Ham has long held a hidden torch for the glamorous Noona. And the hot-headed Khrong is tentatively crushed on by stepbrother Noi, who is still unsure about his sexuality, even as his best friend Toh good-naturedly flirts with him. And an orange-haired girl (Chicha Ammartyakun) who's always hanging around Ham's music pub is on the sidelines, waiting to scoop up whatever guy is left broken-hearted by Noona and Ham.

Fans of the cult-hit lesbian romance Yes or No get a scene made just for them, with a dream sequence involving Tina Suppanart that demonstrates just how sexually flexible Noona and her friends might be.

Fin Sugoi touches on several trends and issues in contemporary Thai culture. The backdrop is Thai society's continuing fascination with Japanese culture, especially J-rock, the '90s-style hair metal that's been popular in Thailand a lot longer and seems way cooler than the more-recent South Korean pop imports.

The romance is also a relaxed look at sexuality and the fluid nature of relationships with family and friends. And there's a look at how the media are manipulated into reporting on scandals by unscrupulous managers hoping to drum up publicity for their celebrities.


The film hooks audiences in with a fast and furious first half, punctuated by tasty licks of Japanese rock. The soundtrack then turns to quiet piano and guitar ballads for a slower second half that has Khong trying to win back Noona's heart and Noona feeling conflicted about her romance with the much-older Makoto. Portrayed by the actual musician, the frontman for Lucifer and now the Trick Band, Makoto turns out to be a bit creepy even if he seems geniunely sweet. The pace slackens a bit too much toward the end, leaving me to wonder if a bit of tightening here and there could have trimmed the 110-minute running time. But that's my only quibble.

It's an attractive production, offering a glimpse of the colorful cos-play scene in Bangkok's Siam Square, lounging for drinks and music in one of the city's trendy Thai pubs (the kind with antiques and weird stuff on the walls) and taking in the energy of a J-rock show, where the screaming fans are as big a part as what's onstage. There's even a beautifully framed dream journey or flashback to Japan, where Noona and Khong first fell in love.

A music-video shoot offers more chances for Saipan to don different costumes and wigs, each a jaw-dropping revelation. As a humorous aside, the music video's grumpy director is actual music-video director Alongod "Book" Uabhaibool.

At the local box office, Fin Sugoi hasn't performed all that strong, earning just around 5 million baht at last count. However, the film had its world premiere in Japan, back in March at the Osaka Film Festival, and it's at fests like that where Fin Sugoi will likely be most appreciated.


See also:


Bangkok Cinema Scene special: World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 17-26


The 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens this Friday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with Somboon, a documentary by young Thai director Krisda Tipchaimeta that follows the lives of Grandpa Somboon and Granny Miad, a couple married for 45 years. With Miad suffering from acute kidney disease, Somboon stays by her side, providing constant care.

Among the highlights of the festival are entries from this year's Cannes Film Festival, including Jean Luc-Godard's latest, Goodbye to Language, an experimental 3D drama, and Mommy, by French-Canadian badboy Xavier Dolan. Both films were jury prize winners at Cannes. Also from Cannes is The Blue Room, a fresh adaptation of the Georges Simenon crime novel by Mathieu Almaric, about childhood friends reunited as adulterous lovers.

Two French classics will unspool, Godard's 1965 comedy, Pierrot le Fou and from 1980, Francois Truffaut's World War II drama The Last Metro. The fest will also screen the newly restored version of Metropolis, with footage rediscovered a few years ago.

There's a block of French animation in a festival sidebar, the French-Thai Animation Rendezvous, which offers five recent French animated features in various styles – A Cat in Paris, The Congress, the 3D Minuscule, Valley of the Lost Ants, Ernest and Celestine and Tales of the Night.

Another festival sidebar groups together Israel films, going back as far as 1988's Aviya's Summer up to 2013's Cupcakes. Others are The Band's Visit, A Matter of Size, Noodle and Footnote.

There's the Cine Latino and Cinema Beat programs, which feature entries from across Latin America, the US, Canada and beyond. The selection includes the Sundance winner Whiplash, which will also get a general release in Thai cinemas.

Other festival sections include Doc Feast, Asian Contemporary and Short Wave.

The fest closes on October 26 with The Tale of Princess Kaguya, a new anime feature from Japan's Studio Ghibli.

Tickets cost Bt120. There are 500 special packages offering five movies for Bt500.

This year, for the first time, the World Film Festival of Bangkok will have many films with both Thai and English subtitles, which will travel to the provinces, taking a selection of movies on Blu-ray to SF cinemas in Khon Kaen from November 7 to 9, Pattaya from November 14 to 16 and Chiang Mai from November 20 to 23.

Find out more at www.WorldFilmBkk.com.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fan Chan, Nang Nak, Monrak Transistor, Mysterious Object, Santi-Veena added to Registry

The Culture Ministry and the Thai Film Archive have added another 25 films to the National Film Heritage Registry, running from 1897's visit to Stockholm by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to 2003's smash-hit childhood drama Fan Chan and including 1953's Santi-Veena, which was thought for years to be lost.

The oldest entry, King Rama V visits Stockholm, is footage that was found last year. According to Film Archive director Dome Sukwong it is one of the two oldest surviving filmed records of Thais. The other, a 2011 Registry entry, is Rama V's visit to Berne, Switzerland, also in 1897, by Francois-Henri Lavancy-Clarke. In Sweden, pioneering cinematographer Ernest Florman captured Chulalongkorn and King Oscar II greeting each other with kisses.

Established in 2011, the film registry now numbers 100 entries. The latest additions were announced by Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat on October 4 at the Archive.

This year's listing also includes Apichatpong Weerasekthakul's debut Mysterious Object at Noon, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Monrak Transistor and Nonzee Nimibutr's Nang Nak, Oscar-submitted social-issue dramas by M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol and Bhandit Rittakol and two films with cinematography by pioneering auteur R.D. Pestonji.

Among Pestonji's films is the 1953 drama Santi-Veena, which had been feared lost.

Sanchai Chotirosseranee, deputy archive director, said that copies of Santi-Veena were recently discovered at Gosfilmofond in Russia and at the China Film Archive. "We are now trying to do digital restoration," Sanchai says.

A romantic drama, Santi-Veena was the first Thai film to win awards overseas, grabbing four prizes at the 1954 Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo, including best cinematography for Pestonji, who was awarded a Mitchell camera. In a quirk of history, he was charged $5,000 tax for the $16,000 camera. Also, the filmmakers were fined 1,000 baht by Thai authorities for failing to clear the film with censors before exhibiting it overseas. The camera is now the centerpiece of an exhibit with a wax figure of Pestonji at the archive's Thai Film Museum.

In the following list, Sanchai adds information about some of the lesser-known entries.


2014 Registry of Films as National Heritage

  1. King Rama V visits Stockholm, (ร. ๕ เสด็จประพาสกรุงสต็อกโฮล์ม ), 1897 – Cinematographer Ernest Florman filmed the meeting of Chulalongkorn and Sweden's King Oscar II. 
  2. Siamese Society, 1920 – A record of Siamese tradition and culture by noted travelogue maker Burton Holmes. 
  3. King Rama VII Visits Indochine (เสด็จอินโดจีน พ.ศ. ๒๔๗๓ ), 1930 – The film is also the first football match between the Siamese national side and Saigon's team.
  4. Sound Patch Work, 1930 – Introduces the first Thai radio station in Phaya Thai Palace.
  5. Past Pattani (ปัตตานีในอดีต ), 1936 – Depicts tourist attractions, the constitution ceremony and a boxing match between famous fighters Saman and Sompong. 
  6. Handful of Rice (ข้าวกํามือเดียว), 1940 – A Swedish filmmaking team was invited by high-society northerners. Shot in Chiang Mai, it shows the importance of Thai rice.
  7. Pry Ta Khean (พรายตะเคียน ), 1940 – The oldest surviving Thai ghost film includes many comic gags that are used in Thai horror comedies to this day.
  8. The Birthday Ceremony of Major General Luang Piboon Songkarm, the Prime Minister at The Parliament at Suan Kulap Palace (งานวันชาตะ นายพลตรีหลวงพิบูลสงคราม นายกรัฐมนตรี ณ ทําเนียบ วังสวนกุหลาบ ), 1941 
  9. Brother (พี่ชาย ), 1951 – Adapted from a stage play, the film starred many important Thai actors.
  10. Jumruen–Jimmy (จําเริญ -จิมมี่ , 1953 – World-champion boxer Jimmy arrives in Bangkok to face his opponent Jumruen.
  11. Santi–Veena (สันติ -วีณา , 1953 – Directed by Tawee "Kru Marut" na Bangchang with a screenplay by Vichit Kounavudhi and cinematography by R.D. Pestonji, it won three prizes at the 1954 Asia Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo, the first Thai film to be awarded overseas.
  12. Forever Yours (ชั่วฟ้าดินสลาย, Chua Fah Din Salai), 1954 – Kru Marut with cinematographer R.D. Pestonji directed this adaptation of Malai Choopiniji's novel about adulterous young lovers chained together. 
  13. Poor Millionaire (เศรษฐีอนาถา ), 1956 – The winning Best Thai Film of the first national film awards in 1957.
  14. Envy Love (รักริษยา, Rak Ritsaya), 1957 – A romantic drama starring 1954 Miss Thailand Universe Ammara Assawanon, a.k.a. "the Thai Elizabeth Taylor".
  15. Rice Carriage, Threshing Rice, Rice Mill, Wedding in Southern Thailand, (หาบข้าว นวดข้าว สีข้าว แต่งงานภาคใต้ ), 1968-69 – A record of many interesting Thai rice customs.
  16. Virginity Market (ตลาดพรหมจารีย์ , Talad Prom Charee, 1973 – Veteran director Sakka Charuchinda's drama criticizes male hegemony in Thai society with a story about a fisherman who sells his stepdaughter to buy a new motor. 
  17. Chinatown Montage (สําเพ็ง, Sampeng), 1982 – Surapong Pinijkhar directs this pioneering experimental look at Bangkok's Chinatown, from morning to night.
  18. Silhouette of God (คนทรงเจ้า , Kon Song Jao), 1989 – Jazz Siam's social-issue drama for Five Star Production takes a critical view of black-magic beliefs in Thai society. Classic screen couple Santisuk Promsiri and Chintara Sukapatana star.
  19. The Elephant Keeper (คนเลี้ยงช้าง , Kon Liang Chang), 1990 – M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol addresses environmental issues in this gritty action-drama about a mahout (Sorapong Chatree) who takes his elephant to work in the illegal timber trade. It was a submission to the Academy Awards.
  20. Rolling Stones, กลิ้งไว้ก่อนพ่อสอนไว้ , Gling Wai Kon Por Son Wai, 1991 – A famous teen film by director "King" Somching Srisuparp.
  21. Once Upon a Time ... In the Morning (กาลครั้งหนึ่งเมื่อเช้านี้ , Kalla Khrung Nueng ... Muea Chao Nee), 1994 – Another Oscar submission, Bhandit Rittakol's social-issue drama deals with children who run away from their divorcee mother (Chintara Sukapatana). They fall in with gangsters as they travel cross-country to find their father (Santisuk Promsiri).
  22. Nang Nak (นางนาก ), 1999 – Nonzee Nimibutr's adaptation of the famous ghost story of Mae Nak of Phra Khanong was a box-office hit and swept up most of the National Film Association Awards, the Netpac Award at Rotterdam and several prizes at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
  23. Mysterious Object at Noon (ดอกฟ้าในมือมาร, Dokfa Nai Meuman), 2000 – Winner of awards in Fribourg, Yamagata and Vancouver, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's debut feature is an experimental documentary in which a film crew travels the length of Thailand, getting various folks to take part in an "exquisite corpse" storytelling exercise.
  24. Monrak Transistor (มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์), 2001 – An Oscar submission and winner at festivals and the National Film Association Awards, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's sprawling musical-comedy-drama pays tribute to singer Suraphol Sombatcharoen with a story about a young man who goes AWOL from the army and leaves his wife in order to be a big luk thung star.
  25. Fan Chan (แฟนฉัน, a.k.a. My Girl), 2003 – The smash-hit childhood drama launched the careers of six young directors and led to the formation of the GTH studio.

Related posts:



Monday, October 6, 2014

Busan 2014: White Light, VS Service join for Open Sea Fund

Two Bangkok-based film-services companies, film editor Lee Chatametikool's White Light post-production house and the venerable VS Service, have joined to start the Open Sea Fund, which is touted as Southeast Asia's first regional film fund.

Here's more from a press released issued today:

Open Sea Fund is Southeast Asia’s first regional film fund. A pioneering collaboration between White Light and VS Service, Open Sea Fund will initially support two feature film projects per year – one in production and one in post-production.

VS Service will provide a full camera, lighting and grip package for a feature film to be shot in Thailand. White Light will offer a color grading and DCP package for a feature. The deadline for submissions is the end of November 2014, with the aim for projects to be completed in 2015.

“Thailand has profited immensely from being the post-production center of Southeast Asia,” says White Light’s Lee Chatametikool. “With the Open Sea Fund, we want to give back to the region by opening up funding opportunities for both unknown and established Southeast Asian filmmakers.”

“VS has already been active in funding local films, but we were looking for a more comprehensive way for filmmakers to take its projects from production all the way to post,” says VS Service’s Pete Smithsuth. “Our collaboration with White Light is the perfect answer – projects with some funding in place would benefit from our production support and become good candidates for further post-production support.”

Representatives from Open Sea fund will be present at the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Film Market.

For more information contact openseafund@gmail.com.

White Light is a maverick post-house founded five years ago by five leading Thai cinematographers, film editors and post-production supervisors. Recent projects include Hollow by Vietnam's Ham Tran, Men Who Save the World by Malaysia's Liew Seng Tat, The Second Life of Thieves by Malaysia's Woo Ming Jin, Taksu by Japan's Kiki Sugino, Riverof Exploding Durians by Malaysia's Edmund Yeo and As You Were by Singapore's Jiekai Liao, as well as Concrete Clouds, Lee's own directorial debut. He's also a partner in Mosquito Films Distribution, which has added Thieves and Durians to its slate of titles.

VS Service was founded in 1985 and is mostly known for supporting foreign productions, including The Beach, The Hangover Part II, American Gangster and The Rocket. But in the past year or so, VS Service has raised its profile among the indie-film community in Thailand through several initiatives, including a new award at this year's Thai Short Film and Video Festival. It's now headed by second-generation owner Pete Pithai Smithsuth.

Update: The Open Sea Fund has a Facebook page.

Busan 2014: Mosquito puts Thieves, Exploding Durians, So Be It and W on autumn slate

River of Exploding Durians premieres at the Tokyo film fest.

Mosquito Films Distribution, the indie film shingle launched earlier this year by several prominent Thai filmmakers, is expanding its reach in Southeast Asia, announcing the addition of two Malaysian entries to its slate of titles being promoted at autumn film festivals.

At Busan, the Mosquitos are touting The Second Life of Thieves by Malaysia's Woo Ming Jin, along with two new Thai features, W by Chonlasit Upanigkit and So Be It by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee. They'll also be at the Tokyo International Film Festival with River of Exploding Durians, the debut feature of Malaysia's Edmund Yeo.

Here's more from a press release yesterday:

Says Woo, “Edmund and I are excited to work with Mosquito. We are in good hands and look forward to a long-term relationship with them. I believe this is a collaboration that will serve not just Malaysian and Thai cinema, but also Southeast Asian cinema in general. Together, we can share more of our films with the rest of the world”.

The Second Life of Thieves is Woo’s highly-anticipated fifth feature while River of Exploding Durians is Yeo’s debut after many award-winning shorts. The two filmmakers collaborate closely on all their films with each taking the producing role while the other is directing.

Says Mosquito’s Aditya Assarat, “All of us Southeast Asians are making films under the same circumstances. Because of this, we share the same DIY spirit that is behind Mosquito Films to begin with. After launching the company in January with our own titles, we’re proud to take our first step towards representing regional films by partnering with the prolific Greenlight Pictures.”

In addition to Aditya, other partners in Mosquito Films Distribution are Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Pimpaka Towira, Soros Sukhum, Anocha Suwichakornpong and Lee Chatametikool.

The Second Life of Thieves has intertwining relationships of one man who discovers his wife has disappeared with his friend – a man he had a secret relationship for decades. He in turn forms an unlikely friendship with his friend's daughter. "They embark on an emotional journey that will open old and new wounds alike. Juxtaposing between present day and 30 years in the past, The Second Life of Thieves is a meditation on love, loss, and regret."

River of Exploding Durians, the first Malaysian film selected for the main competition of the Tokyo International Film Festival, is set in a coastal town is turned upside down by the construction of a radioactive rare earth plant. An idealistic teacher and a group of high school students find themselves battling for the soul of their hometown. "Based on real-life events, River of Exploding Durians is a sweeping tale of Malaysian history and its youth, where people are enveloped by politics and sadness while searching for love."

So Be It, meanwhile, is Kongdej's followup to his award-winning teen social drama Tang Wong. Here, he looks at two young boys, a seven-year-old city kid who is the star of a reality show and an 11-year-old hilltribe boy who become novice monks. "A documentary fiction hybrid film that uses as its starting point a popular TV show and ends up becoming a coming-of-age story of two boys from vastly different backgrounds."

And W, the debut feature of 24-year-old film editor Chonlasit Upanigkit, focuses on a young woman struggling with her first year of college as she and her new friends say goodbye to their youth and get ready to embrace an uncertain future. "The film is an epic of Thai college life made as the thesis project of the director at his university in the outskirts of Bangkok."

More about W and another Busan entry That Day of the Month, can be found at the Bangkok Post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Filmvirus puts Chulayarnnon Siriphol in spotlight

Chulayarnnon Siriphol is a perennial award winner at the Thai Short Film and Video Festival, where his films, usually satiric views on Thai society, are a highlight. They include documentaries, spoof documentaries and experimental films.

This Saturday, Filmvirus and the Reading Room offer a chance to see a bunch of them all at once with Wildtype Masterclass 001: Fuck Alligator.

The selection goes back as far as 2005 with Golden Sand House, and includes his 2008 winning student film Danger (Director's Cut)2011's award winners Mrs. Nuan Who Can Recall Her Past Lives and A Brief History of Memory and this year's award-winner Myth of Modernity.

There are two programs, at 1 and 3.30pm, followed at 6 by a masterclass and talk by Chulayarnnon.

The venue is the Reading Room, a fourth-floor walk-up gallery on Silom Soi 19, opposite Silom Center.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teacher's Diary chalked up for the Oscars

The sweet, sentimental romance The Teacher's Diary
(คิดถึงวิทยา, Kid Tueng Wittaya) has been submitted as Thailand's entry to the 87th Academy Awards, the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand has announced.

Directed by Nithiwat Tharatorn, the comedy-drama follows the slowly intertwining stories of two lonely teachers, a young woman and a young man, who are posted to the same rural school a year apart. Sukrit "Bie" Wisetkaew is a bumbling-but-enthusiastic ex-jock who is assigned to the remote floating schoolhouse. Cut off from such modern conveniences as electricity and telephone service, Song takes to reading an illustrated diary left by his predecessor Ann, and he slowly falls in love with her. Song later moves on, and when the headstrong and opinionated Ann (Chermarn "Ploy" Boonyasak) returns to her old post, she finds the battered diary has been expanded upon, and she develops feelings for Song, even though the two have never met.

Released in March by the GTH studio, The Teacher's Diary was a hit at the box office, and was the No. 1 film for two weeks with earnings of more than $3 million.

The 21st Thai entry into the Oscars' foreign-language division, The Teacher's Diary follows last year's submission, the thriller Countdown, which was also from GTH. Other Oscar submissions from GTH include 2009's Best of Times by Youngyooth Thongkonthun and 2005's The Tin Mine by Jira Maligool.

Thailand began submitting Oscar hopefuls in 1985, intermittingly at first, but annually from 1997, with entries by such names as MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, Bhandit Rittakol, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. So far, none have made the final short list of nominees.

Update: The Nation's Soopsip column has more background on the choice. Tang Wong would have been the first choice, but it was released just two days too early for next year's Oscars (it should have been chosen last year, I think). Other contenders were Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy and The Last Executioner. They garnered votes of 4-3, while Teacher's Diary got a 5-2 vote from the Federation committee.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: Concrete Clouds


  • Directed by Lee Chatametikool
  • Starring Ananda Everingham, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Janesuda Parnto, Prawith Hansten
  • Limited release in Thai cinemas on September 18, 2014; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Like its English title, Concrete Clouds, the movie Phawang Rak (ภวังค์รัก)0 is full of contradictions. It’s breezy, but deals with heavy emotions. It’s a romance, but there’s little real love. It feels unstructured, even though the minds behind it have very specific ideas about what they want to say and how they want to say it.

The much-anticipated directorial debut by long-time film editor Lee Chatametikool, Concrete Clouds is set during the complex and uncertain days of the 1997 financial crisis. It feels newer, yet is somehow still timeless.

Ananda Everingham stars as Mutt, a currency trader in New York who must suddenly return to Bangkok when his father takes a shortcut to the ground floor from the roof of his four-storey shophouse. After the funeral, Mutt tries to reconnect with Sai (Janesuda Parnto), his old girlfriend from high school. Meanwhile his younger brother Nic (Prawith Hansten) has struck up a relationship with Poupee (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), a teenager who lives in a low-income flat behind their shophouse.


They are all conflicted characters. Mutt, who quite possibly enriched himself and his New York firm by betting on the Thai economy’s downfall, has a Westerner girlfriend back in the Big Apple. Yet he’s pursuing Sai, an actress and model in the midst of remaking herself as a businesswoman. But she’s not as happy nor as successful as she appears to be, and her pricey riverfront condo sits mostly empty.

Nic is too young to know what he wants out of life. Much younger than Mutt, he has little in common with his brother. Mutt, sitting at this father’s old desk, lectures the boy, in English, basically telling him it’s time to get out of Thailand. Mutt, who wants rid of the rundown family home, seeks to uproot Nic.

Poupee, meanwhile, is introduced while inhaling the vapours of a pink ya ba pill, which she quickly puts away when cops show up on the roof of the house across from hers. It seems likely she’ll follow her sister into the bar industry, but is content for the moment in her burgeoning romance with Nic.


As the couples pair off, the movie falls into a rhythm. Static scenes of the characters staring off in sadness are filled with silence that is stifling. But they are interchanged with livelier activities, such as Mutt visiting a Bangkok gentleman’s club with his old pals, or Sai doing a modelling gig and reconnecting with her friends.

Nic and Poupee are the characters in fantasy karaoke-video segments, which are complete with the lyrics for singing along. The karaoke dreams are vividly presented in the super-saturated colours of 1990s videos, making for eye-popping images that also recall Thai films of the time.

It’s a stuttering, shattered reflection on 1997 by Lee, who returned to Bangkok that year after being schooled overseas. In the years since, he’s gone on to be a major figure in the Thai movie business. As an editor, he’s helped shape such films as Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cannes prize-winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History, as well as various mainstream Thai movies.

Both Apichatpong and Anocha are producers on Concrete Clouds, along with veteran Thai independent-film hand Soros Sukhum and Taiwanese actress-director Sylvia Chang. It’s been supported along the way by various cinema funds and project markets, including Visions Sud East from Switzerland, the Busan film fest’s Asian Cinema Fund and the Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Concrete Clouds is a tribute to Lee’s stunning resume and it shows just how big an influence he’s been on Thai indie cinema, even if it’s hard to tell just whose hand is on the tiller. Really, it’s a dizzying blend of all the usual elements of Thai indie films. There is the stillness and silences that punctuate Apichatpong’s offerings, and the jittering, jazz-like narrative structure reminded me of the chopped-and-diced timeline of Mundane History.

Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s 1997 debut Fun Bar Karaoke is specifically referenced, with a poster on Nic’s wall, but also in the dream-like karaoke sequences.


The presence of Ananda, well suited for the role of Mutt, recalls another project Lee edited and Ananda starred in, Aditya Assarat’s Hi-So, which dealt with the cross-cultural conflict of a Thai-American actor.

Spirited young actress Saipan Apinya again spreads her magic pixie dust, enlivening yet another film in much the same way she did in her debut in Pen-ek’s Ploy in 2007. And her character here feels like an extension of the one she played in Tongpong Chantarangkul’s 2011 road-trip drama I Carried You Home. Not only does she smoke ya ba (the main reason for the movie’s 18+ rating), she strips down do her knickers for a daring sex scene. Deft lighting, editing and probably makeup ensure that outspoken Saipan’s very un-’90s tattoos stay hidden.

And, like most indie films, there are startling discoveries of new talent, like the lovely brooding Janesuda and Prawith, making his screen debut as the angst-filled teen.



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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Tukkae Rak Pang Mak (Chiang Khan Story)


  • Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
  • Starring Jirayu La-ongmanee, Chonthida Asavahame
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 28, 2014; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Yuthlert Sippapak pays homage to his roots with the partly autobiographical romantic comedy Tukkae Rak Pang Mak (ตุ๊กแกรักแป้งมาก, a.k.a. Chiang Khan Story.

Spanning 20 years from the 1970s to the '90s in the Mekong River town of Chiang Khan in Yuthlert's home province of Loei, it's the story of childhood friends, the poor little orphan boy with the odd name of Tukkae (after the large chirping house lizard that's believed be a bad omen) and the wealthy girl Pang. They later grow apart, but are forced back together by circumstances that only happen in romantic comedies.

The first half of the movie, featuring a cast of child actors, is energetic, sweet and nostalgic, weaving in memories of 4-baht wooden cap guns with the rubber-band action, the then-newfangled foreign treat of jellybeans and GAF Viewmasters.

Tukkae and Pang take to hanging around the town's wooden shophouse cinema. It's during a magical time when such Thai cinema classics as Sombat Metanee's gritty actioner Chumpae is playing alongside Payut Ngaokrachang's animated triumph The Adventures of Sudsakorn and Sompote Sands' insane Hanuman vs. 7 Ultraman.

The kids are mentored by the theater's poster painter, played by Yuthlert's longtime collaborator "Uncle" Adirek Watleela. His character Pong Poster is a heartfelt tribute to still-living 1970s' director Piak Poster, who started out as a poster artist, as well as Uncle's late Buppa Rahtree co-star, character actor and production designer Bunthin Thuaykaew.


Tukkae, always on the defensive because of his funny nickname and his status as a poor orphan kid, seeks to play with the gang of chubby boys who always bully him. In lively action scenes, they blast away with their cap guns while wearing Red Eagle masks, like Mitr Chaibancha. And Tukkae accepts a dare that drives Pang out of his life, seemingly forever.

Flash forward a few years to Bangkok, Tukkae is a comic-book artist with aspirations of getting in the movie business. He's partnered up with a level-headed and experienced film hand, amiably played by Slice director Kongkiat Khomsiri, one of several film industry hands in the cast. In another scene, Thanit Jitnukul (Bang Rajan) turns up as a producer. He can't believe Tukkae doesn't know what a "treatment" is.

The guys are tasked with making a Mae Nak "liverscape" movie by a hilariously marble-mouthed B-movie producer who sees nothing wrong with moving the famous ghost story from Phra Khanong to Chiang Khan. Tukkae has other ideas, and he writes an "untitled" screenplay that is basically his life story, with a focus on his relationship with Pang.


The implausibilities stack up as Tukkae encounters Pang by chance in a Bangkok disco, and she doesn't remember him at all. In fact, nobody from Tukkae's old school remembers what anybody looks like. But this is, refreshingly, before Facebook and selfies, so I suppose the disbelief can be suspended somewhat. Mistaken identities and misunderstandings add to Tukkae's woes as Pang wakes up in Tukkae's bedroom and doesn't recognize Tukkae or any of his stuff (not even the Viewmaster she gave him).

But the two are thrown together anyway when Pang, now a famous actress, is cast for the role in Tukkae's movie. Awkwardness ensues on the set as Pang is confronted with the guy she only recognizes from that bad night out. She doesn't realize it's her old childhood friend, nor does she seem aware that he actually wrote the screenplay for the movie she's in.

The energy and sweetness of the movie's first half gives way to a wallowing slackness that's struggling to find an ending. It's not helped by the rather wooden performances by Kao Jirayu and Pleng Chontida. Kao, a former child actor with many credits, has better chemistry in later scenes with his character's dementia-addled grandmother who raised him. Pleng, the celebrity offspring of singer Nantida Kaewbuasai and scandal-plagued politician Chonsawat Asavahame, is making her screen debut, but seems to let a curly hairstyle and aviator sunglasses do all the work for her.


The supporting cast, especially the Tukky-type actress who plays Pang's best friend and manager, help to liven things up. She is friends with soldiers at the local army base, and they turn up on command to dish out beatings to anyone getting on her wrong side. Boriboon Chanruang portrays a director who spent so long in New York he's forgotten to speak Thai. He becomes Tukkae's chief rival in romancing Pang.

Yuthlert seems to have suppressed his infamous genre-jumping tendencies in an effort to make what he's called his first romantic comedy, though melodrama, horror and slapstick all creep their way in, just not as much or as often as his past films.

Tukkae Rak Pang Mak also marks a comeback of sorts for Yuthlert, who has done more than a dozen films over around half as many years up until a year or so ago. However, his last effort, the potentially controversial Deep South drama Fatherland (ปิตุภูมิ พรมแดนแห่งรัก, Pitupoom) was yanked from release by the film's producer. So Yuthlert retreated to Loei to regroup.

His new film is the first release from a new studio, Transformation Films, which is a joint venture of M Pictures, Bangkok Film Studio (formerly Film Bangkok), True I-Content and Matching Studio.

Box-office performance for Tukkae has been middling, with 12.7 million baht in earnings at last count, but hopefully the company will soldier on and perhaps give one of Thai cinema's most distinctive voices yet another chance to tell his stories.

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