Friday, July 14, 2006

Naresuan will be great

Great story in today's Bangkok Post Real Time section by Kong Rithdee about MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's upcoming epic, now officially entitled The Legend of King Naresuan. By now the article is probably hidden inside the Post's archived wall, but it's worth seeking out.

While it can be considered a sequel of sorts of Suriyothai, since the two films deal with back-to-back periods in Thai history, the films will be different.

"Suriyothai concerns palace intrigue. Above all it's a drama," Chatrichalerm explains. "But Naresuan is more of a war film. It's about the fight for independence. The tones of the two movies will be totally different."

The buzz about Naresuan has been going at a steady ebb for the past two years while the film has been in production. Originally, it was thought the film would be a two-parter, with part one coming out on Coronation Day in May and part two coming out on Her Majesty the Queen's birthday in August. Now the release date is set for December 5, His Majesty the King's 79th birthday.

That it's taken two years to make is nothing, really, when you think back to Suriyothai, which took four years, was conceived at 8 hours long, and then had new scenes shot when the movie was re-edited by Francis Ford Coppola.

If it weren't for the December 5 release date, Than Mui would probably keep on shooting "until he drops dead", another Thai film watcher has commented. And in the Post article, the director make a point of reminding Kong that he has heart problems.

Better finish that movie.

Promotional efforts were at a high point earlier this year when live actors were hired to portray royal guards of the era for a Siamese fortress display at the Bangkok International Film Festival. The Naresuan legend also received a boost from the release of the animated feature, Khan Kluay, which was about Naresuan's war elephant. There was also a Naresuan display at Cannes. And, in this year of all-things-royal, with the 60th anniversary of HM King Bhumibol's accession to the throne, having an epic-sized movie about a king, should make the movie a hit.

The role of Naresuan the Great is played by an actual military man, Royal Thai Army Capt Wanchana Sawasdee. One of the female leads was only just recently cast: Grace Mahadumrongkul, a presenter on Thai TV Channel 5. She portrays the sister of the king, Phra Suphankallaya.

Intira Jaroenpura from Nang Nak and longtime Chatrichalerm leading man Soraphong Chatree are also in the cast.

"If you think Suriyothai was big, this one will blow you away," says "Leo" Kittikorn Leosirikul, an assistant director on Naresuan. "Everything is on a bigger scale this time - more soldiers, more elephants, more sets. It is a difficult shoot, but I think it will come out very good."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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