Friday, July 1, 2005

Wisit Sasanatieng's third film: Namprix

Wisit Sasanatieng's third film will be a historical yarn, Namprix, with a US$3 million budget as part of a deal with Luc Besson's EuropaCorp and Thailand's iconic film studio, Five Star Production. Anchalee Chaiworapon's reports on it, as does Parinyaporn Payee in The Nation.

EuropaCorp is developing the film with an eye toward marketing it at arthouses and film festivals, a smart move, since intelligent films made by the likes of Wisit, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul seem to have no market in Thailand, though you can blame those directors for trying.

Namprix has been in development for quite awhile. "This project began seven years ago as a one-page brief," Wisit was quoted as saying by "It had been shelved due to financial difficulties since it needed a huge budget for the production."

Namprix (literally Hot Chilli Sauce, the former project title) was developed into a pilot treatment, and selected to participate in Fifth Pusan Promotion Plan. It was one of the two selected Thai projects, aside Apichatphong's Ecstasy Garden.

Namprix will combine an ancient folklore that's full of fun and magic with a famous Thai dish that shows art and culture.

Set in ancient Siam, it tells the story of a man who has a gift for telling one spicy sauce from another and is hailed the "king of nam prik" but ends up as a swashbuckling pirate sailing the Thai seas.

Asked to compare the styles between this new film and earlier, director Wisit concluded: "They all still focus on the visuals. Tears of the Black Tiger portrays those in an old Thai film style, Citizen Dog is the visuals corresponding to modern Thai. Namprix will go back [further] than that."

"It will be an antique Thai legend, with very traditional Thai picture like the old wall painting [in the Thai Buddhist temples]. But we will animate them," Wisit said. "We will make them move. It is not an epic, but a folklore in order to tell our roots, our culture."

The director said the film will convey the Thai root in the aspect of "arts", when asked to in which aspects the film belongs to between culture, arts, and society.

Food-based titles are hot this year, with the Ong-Bak followup named after the sweet-and-sour shrimp soup, Tom Yum Goong. Namprix also recalls another Luc Besson project, the French-Japanese hybrid, Wasabi.

Namprix is EuropaCorp's first co-production film in Asia. Before that, the company co-produced two English-speaking movies and another one with Brazil.

However, despite gaining more success overseas than he has at home, Wisit insists that Thai audiences are his primary objective. "The other is only a bonus."

EuropaCorp also formally announced that it has purchased the European and North American distribution rights to Citizen Dog, with an aim toward distributing it to film festivals and arthouses. This is good news, too, as it seems Besson's company has no intention of re-editing the film, as they did for Ong-Bak -- though re-editing a Wisit film and re-editing Ong-Bak wouldn't really be the same crime. Touching one frame of a Wisit film is a crime deserving capital punishment, or at least life in solitary, whereas editing Ong-Bak was unnecessary, but pardonable.

Anyway, EuropaCorp was badly burned when it lost the battle for the rights to the Ong-Bak followup, Tom Yum Goong, after it takes responsibility for introducing Ong-Bak and its star Tony Jaa to the world.

Hopefully EuropaCorp can create the same kind of buzz for Wisit. They also have the European rights to Wisit's first film, Tears of the Black Tiger, and as long as Miramax has the North American rights, with that film locked away in a vault, Europe is where you'll find it on DVD (the Thai-distributed version has gone out of print).

See also:
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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