Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Top 5 Thai films of 2004

1. Tropical Malady

As a frequent contributor to this site, Sebu, has said, this film has revolutionized storytelling. It's taken me awhile to come around to the greatness of this film, which won a jury prize at Cannes. Now out on DVD, I was able to fully appreciate the film. I'm still unable to pinpoint what it means to me personally, but I recognize its greatness and especially think the performances by the two actors, Sakda Kaewbuadee (the country boy and the tiger shaman) and Banlop Lomnoi (the soldier), were especially superb.

2. Citizen Dog

It didn't seem possible that Wisit Sasanatieng could top his first effort, the visually stunning homage to westerns and classic Thai melodramas, Tears of the Black Tiger. And he didn't quite, as Citizen Dog bogs down somewhat with narrative. But visually and conceptually, it's even more of a feast than Tears of the Black Tiger because it reimagines contemporary Bangkok's urban scene and has some insightful moments of great satire. It has a great soundtrack as well. Hopefully it will be picked up for the festival circuit in the next year. I also have my fingers crossed that the DVD release will have English subtitles, but then I might buy it anyway, just for the music.

3. Ai Fak

Though it starts out light, Ai Fak, or The Judgement, moves into heavy, depressing drama, but is still well acted (especially by Pitisak Yaowanon, in his feature debut) and beautifully filmed. I was very disappointed that the DVD release didn't have English subs, but I have been chided by more literary types that the source material, the S.E.A. Write Award-winning novel by Chart Korbjitti, Khamphiphaksa, is available in English translation. I hope to see this film get some attention on the festival circuit in the coming years.

4. The Adventure of Iron Pussy

Apichatpong Weerasethakul has had a busy year. When funding mechanisms bogged down for Tropical Malady, he switched to this campy low-budget musical, which is co-directed by the star, Michael Shaowanasai, who portrays the title character, a transvestite secret agent. He tackles the role with relish, even in his alter ego as a male 7-Eleven clerk. All the dialogue and songs in the digitally photographed movie were post-dubbed by famed Thai voiceover actors. The effect is highly entertaining. This is one to pick up on DVD!

5. Shutter

I'm not a big fan of horror, and admittedly, I'm scraping the bottom of my barrel here. There were 43 Thai films released last year, and I only saw about six or seven of them. But I did honestly enjoy Shutter, though I recognize that it is pretty much a stock thriller that relies on music cues to make you jump at the right (and wrong) moments. Still, great visuals and a decent performance by Ananda Everingham make this film. It was the top box office earner among Thai films and is being exported to other Asian countries, including Hong Kong and Singapore. I expect it will be picked up by film festivals in the coming year.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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