Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Film festivals in Myanmar

KFC Cinema has the news that Japan will hold film festivals in Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar (also known as Burma).

The Japanese Film Festival 2006 will be held from March 7 to 11, in Yangon (or Rangoon) and then move to Mandalay from March 17 to 21.

Japan has been working to promote cultural activities in Myanmar for sometime, and it helped with the co-production, Thway (Blood), which was released in 2003.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sombat a no-show for Q&A

A couch was set up on stage at the front of the auditorium, but it stayed empty. Sombat Metanee didn't turn up for a scheduled Q&A session following Saturday night's screening of Tears of the Black Tiger at the Bangkok International Film Festival. No explanation was offered, but I am not about begrudge the 69?-year-old actor for not wanting to show up at 9 o'clock on a Saturday night to talk to a bunch of movie nerds. After making more than 600 films, the dude deserves a night off.

Anyway, seeing the film on the big screen for the second time in my life was an occasion enough. It reaffirmed the movie's place in my heart and on my list as one of my favorite movies of all time. When I tell people that, especially close friends who know I'm into movies, they take notice.

I love this movie, and from the opening scene, where Stella Malucci, in a 1950s-style pink dress, walks along the wooden walkway in the lotus pond, in the pouring rain, to a green gazebo, to the scenes of cowboys riding across the Saraburi plains, to the ending (yes - the sad, Buddhist "life-is-suffering" ending), I was captivated.

It's a movie about movies that aren't being made anymore - and they do things that aren't being done in Thai film anymore - people pointing guns at other people's heads, brains being blown out, villains smoking cigarettes without any pixellation and drinking hard liquor, and blood spurting in a glorious, gushing fountain that would do Sam Peckinpah proud.

Just one more time, I was grateful to see this film.

Oh, a bonus about seeing this festival screening was the print included a trailer for Bangkok Dangerous, and Wisit Sasanatieng's Wranger commercial. The commercial is made in Black Tiger style, set in a boxing match, with Chartchai Ngamsuan slamming his opponent with a well-placed kick. Patented Black Tiger blood is flying. The guy's mouthpiece goes flying through the air and lands on the forehead of some bald guy. Granny Gecko from Citizen Dog turns up chewing betelnut. The guy is down and out. Chartchai runs from the ring and into the locker room. The crowd looks to see where he went, puzzled. Chartchai reappears, shirtless, zipping up a pair of new, dark blue Wrangler jeans, "sold in Thailand since 1953", which is the period that this commercial evokes.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sold out at the Bangkok International Film Festival

Attendance was up over the closing weekend at the Bangkok International Film Festival, and in looking over some shoulders, it seems there are stories coming out about record attendance this year. No numbers yet, but I'll be looking for the reports and will doubtlessly regurgitate them here.

A number of films were marked "sold out" on the schedule. There were some big international entries -- The World's Fastest Indian and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.

A bit of a surprise to see marked sold out was Rithy Panh's damning portrait of how Cambodia's contemporary and traditional arts are faring in The Burnt Theater. Good to see people checking that one out.

But then I was puzzled by a couple of others people were packing in to see -- The Kingmaker and the Ghost of Mae Nak -- two Anglo-Thai hybrids. I guess it shouldn't be surprising -- these are the kinds of "Thai" films that seem tailor-made for the crowds at this festival.

I actually saw The Kingmaker last year and thought it was atrocious, with bad acting, horrible dialogue and poor special effects. Yet I ran into a guy in line -- an expat teacher at a Thai school -- who was bumming because he couldn't see it. Seems one of his co-workers offered to loan him the DVD, but he said he thought it was the kind of movie he'd like to see on the big screen. I tried to explain that I thought it was the kind of movie that shouldn't be seen at all. Oh well. Everyone has the freedom to have their own opinion. Or watch crappy movies.

The attention given to Ghost of Mae Nak -- a contemporary Asian horror reboot of Nonzee Nimibutr's Nang Nak by British director Mark Duffield -- was equally puzzling. I gave it a pass when it played last year, but folks who did see it say it didn't have much going for it.

So I wonder, who are all these people who are going to see these films in a festival setting, and how are they getting it into their heads that they must see these films?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Bride of Silence wins Asean award

Vietnam's The Bride of Silence, by Doan Minh Phuong and Doan Thanh Nghia, won the Asean Award at the Bangkok International Film Festival.

Set in rural Vietnam 200 years ago, it's about a young woman who is tried for getting pregnant out of wedlock. When she refuses to speak, the village elders order her baby to be set adrift on the river. Just as the child is about to be sent to its fate, a fierce thunder storm breaks out and kills many people. The baby survives, but the mother is jailed out of fear. Years later, the boy wanders through the countryside seeking traces of his mother's life.

Other Golden Kinaree winners included:
  • Best Picture – Water, Deepa Mehta, India
  • Best Director – Chan-Wook Park, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
  • Best Actor – Presley Chaweneyagae, Tsotsi
  • Best Actress – Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
  • New Voices – Kept and Dreamless, Martin DeSalvo and Vera Fogwill (Argentina).
  • Best Documentary – Rize, David LaChapelle
  • Jamesan Best Asian Short Film – Under Construction, directed by Lee Hyung-Suk (South Korea)
  • Jameson People's Choice Award – Art of the Devil 2 directed by the Ronin Team - Kongkiat Khomsiri; Art Thamthrakul; Yosapong Polsap; Putipong Saisikaew; Isara Nadee; Pasith Buranajan; Seree Pongniti

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Beautiful Boxer back in the ring

Nong Toom, the transsexual Thai boxer who had her life story told in Beautiful Boxer, will be climbing back in the ring for an exhibition match on Sunday at Pattaya's new Fairtex Gym, according to a front-page story today in The Nation.

If you remember, it was Fairtex's Pattaya branch where Jack Osbourne went to shed 70 pounds awhile back, so the place isn't shy about celebrities and publicity stunts.

Nong Toom, also known as Parinya Kiartbussaba or Parinya Charoenphol, is changing her name yet again for this special match, when she'll be known as Nong Toom Fairtex Gym.

After a two-year absence from boxing, Nong Toom, 25, will be fighting in the 140-pound contest against Japan's Kenshiro Lookchaomaekhemthong on Sunday at Fairtex Pattaya’s grand opening.

Nong Toom swore to knock out her opponent within three rounds, but she concedes that the sexual reassignment surgery that made her a woman last year has taken its toll.

"I dare say I'm unsure if I can beat him," she was quoted as saying in The Nation. "The physical changes have taken their toll on me. The Fairtex Sport Club and promoter Banjong Bussarakhamwong just asked me to fight this one match."

"It's a matter of dignity. We both need the victory because I was a muay Thai champion and the Japanese boxer cannot lose to a woman. I will show that even now that I am a woman, I'm still able to punch and kick."

She shrugged off concerns about possible injury to her new feminine figure, especially her upper torso. "I will have a protector and will wear a shirt over it. There's nothing to worry about."

In June, Nong Toom plans another exhibition bout, this time in the US with a female opponent, Lucia Rijker, who portrayed the lethal Blue Bear in Million Dollar Baby.

Update: She won by unanimous decision after the three-round fight, leaving her rival with a cut near his eye from an elbow in the last round.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Review: Warlord (Khun Suk)

  • Directed by by Sakka Jarujinda
  • Starring Sombat Metanee, Nayana Cheewanan
  • Screened at the 2006 Bangkok International Film Festival as part of a Tribute to Sombat Metanee
  • Rating: 3/5

The more I learn about old Thai films of the 1970s, the more I realize that contemporary director Thanit Jitnukul has been doing nothing more than making remakes. He did it with Bang Rajan, which was first made in 1966 and netted a best actor National Film Award for Sombat Metanee. He's planning another remakewith Red Eagle, which was a series of films that Mitr Chaibancha starred in. And Thanit did it with Khun Suk, or Sema: Warrior of Ayutthaya.

Actually, there was another film that Thanit did called Warlord, but it was a different movie, also called Kun Pan, about a black-magic warrior from Thai history. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a remake, too.

The story of Khun Suk goes back to Ayutthaya-era Siam, as the country is being attacked by those pesky Burmese.

Sema (Sombat) is a humble blacksmith who also is talented in the two-handed sword technique. In a sparring match, he defeats the palace's top sergeant, Sgt Khan (Nat Puwanai, who played a helpful prison doctor in Hell of Tarutao), thus setting up a rivalry that lasts for most of the film.

The chastened Khan deploys his sister, a wealthy landlady, to collect an uncollectable debt from Sema's parents. Sema's sister ends up as a palace slave as part of the deal.

Sema is locked up, but being the handsome feller he is, he attracts the attentions of the major-general's aristocratic daughter, who ends up in trouble for aiding Sema.

On the run, Sema joins up with a rag-tag volunteer squad and proves his bravery fighting the Burmese.

Eventually, all the rivalries are resolved, with everyone agreeing that they shouldn't fight each other for the good of the country, and they all sing a patriotic tune.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Review: Dek hor (Dorm)

  • Directed by Songyos Sukmakanan
  • Starring Charlie Trairat, Jintara Sukapat, Sutthipong Thadpitakkul, Nipawan Thaweepornsawan
  • Wide theatrical release in Thailand on February 23, 2006
  • Rating: 4/5

For a film about a bunch of boys at a junior high boarding school, this sure is a mature thriller.

It's yet another film I'm at great pains to review and praise, yet I want to be careful about giving too much away. At the same time, I feel I need to point out right away that the trailers do a massive disservice to this film, making it out like it's yet another Asian horror flick with creepy little kids, and Dorm is the furthest thing from it. In the end, it's a life-affirming, feel-good film that left me a bit wistful about boyhood, much in the same way that Fan Chan left me feeling.

It's no coincidence then, that the director of Dorm is Songyos Sukmakanan, the second of the six directors of Fan Chan after Dear Dakanda's Komgrit Treewimol to strike out on his own. His solo debut is beautiful, assured and a breeze to watch.

It embraces the full range of emotions - humor, sadness, stress, anger, resentment, revenge - and does it pretty well.

Okay, what's the story? Fan Chan's Charlie Trairat heads up an excellent young cast of boys (Chaleumpol Tikumpornteerawong - Jack from Fan Chan makes a small, hilarious appearance). Charlie is Chatree, or Ton, as he's sometimes called, and he's been sent away by his strict father to a boy's boarding school. We're not sure why at first, but it's clearn that Chatree is pretty upset by his dad's decision to send him away.

The boarding school has a decayed, prison-like, institutational feel to it. Chatree's dorm features one big room filled with hundreds of little-boy sized steel-framed beds. In the morning, they all have to bathe by sloshing water over their bodies, scooped out of tile-lined troughs with little plastic bowls. They wear swimming trunks during this bathing period, and the trunks and towels are hung up on rods. Chatree struggles to find a space on the rods to dry his stuff.

Dinner's promptly at six, and the dorm mother, Ajarn Pranee (Jintara Sukapat), sternly tells him he'd better not be late.

At bedtime, in the dorm room, an eccentric crew of gangly looking boys, who have been spying Chatree all day and plotting ways to humiliate him, tell Chatree all the ghost stories about the place, including the story of why the school's swimming pool is drained and fenced off, and how that episode made Teacher Pranee "weird" - she sits in her office sometimes with a weepy love song on the record player, skipping over and over while she looks into an open drawer. "What the hell's in that drawer that makes her so sad?" one of the boys asks.

Eventually, all is explained, with the help of a mysterious student who appears out of nowhere to befriend Chatree and offer him advice on how to dry his clothes and other things, including a field trip outside the school to catch a look at the school cook's cute daughter, who is the hottest drum majorette ever in the history of the world.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fan Chan dubbed in Indonesia

The hit 2003 Thai childhood friendship story, Fan Chan (My Girl) is being dubbed in Bahasa Indonesian as Cinta Pertama (First Love), according to the Jakarta Post.

For the first time ever, the article says, a foreign film has been adapted into a Bahasa Indonesia-dubbed version with local songs.

It's the latest project by Fiesta Films, an Indonesian firm that has distributed other Thai films like Shutter, The Eye and Iron Ladies.

"The film's background has a lot of similarities with Indonesian culture, and we believe the film's moral message can touch all audiences. This is why we dared to take this project onboard," Devi Luciana, PR representative of Fiesta Films, was quoted as saying. "Not all films can be adapted to fit Indonesian audiences."

When Fiesta bought rights to the film in 2003, Fiesta's sister company Musica Group, with its extensive library of Indonesian music, made an offer to collaborate on making an adaptation with an Indonesian soundtrack.

The next step was to find the right adaptation director -- and this was when Rizal Mantovani entered. "He's passionate about films, very frank and keen to give suggestions to make the adaptation better and better," Devi told the Post.

The Indonesian script uses colloquial language, including the lingo of Indonesian gradeschoolers.

Some of the choices for voice actors are surprising. For instance, the voice of the big bully Jack, was dubbed by a woman.

"I had a hard time finding the voice of Jack, a pivotal character that had to be handled delicately," Rizal was quoted as saying. "Eventually, a woman actor was chosen as the perfect voice for Jack. As long as the audience finds nothing wrong with the voices, then I think we did our job right."

The use of Indonesian music from the era the film is set in, also give First Love a different flavor. From 1975's "Jatuh Cinta" by Emilia Contesa to Chrisye's "Hip Hip Hura Hura" and to "Ku Menanti" by Iwan Fals, the songs are undoubtedly an homage to Indonesian pop songs of the 1980s and 1990s, the Post says.

Anyone curious about the original Thai version of the film, it's available from various Hong Kong mail-order houses with Thai and Chinese soundtracks and English subtitles.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Review: The Hell of Tarutao

  • Directed by Ruj Ronaphop
  • Starring Sombat Metanee, Nat Puwanai, Aranya Namwong, Manop Asawadhep
  • Screened at the 2006 Bangkok International Film Festival as part of a tribute to Sombat Metanee
  • Rating: 3/5
I think the Canadian exchange student who sat next to me for this will be scarred for life.

In this 1970s film depicting the hellish conditions on Thailand's Tarutao Island, there's sodomizing of male prisoners by the guards, the gang rape of a female resident of the island, crucifixion, torture, shootings, shark feeding, the killing of a crocodile by lesbians and a spitting contest by the male leads.

Sombat Metanee portrays one of the prisoners sent to the island in the 1930s. A lot of political prisoners were sent there. Sombat is a former lieutenant colonel who was involved in some sort of coup against the government at the time. Another top Thai leading man is a former army captain (now prisoner) who accuses Sombat's character of cowardice, and is constantly picking fights with him.

Another character was So Sethaputra, the author of the first Thai-English dictionary. He's shown writing his dictionary in the barracks at night. Just after a shark attack kills a couple of escaping prisoners (one of whom had been sodomized by the guards), So says he's up to the T's - T E A R.

Other prisoners included the grandson of King Rama VII, Prince Sittiporn Gridagorn, who developed a new cucumber strain during his captivity and became minister for agriculture after his pardon. But he's not depicted in the film.

What was depicted was at times unintentionally hilarious. The laughter really got going when Sombat and the other hero were caught trying to escape and were tied up in the mangrove to a concrete post. At first they think they are being left there to drown as the tied gradually rolls in. But then they spot the real threat - a crocodile. Luckily, a couple of women who live on the island are nearby. One of the woman is demurely resisting the amorous advances by the other one. You see, she has her eyes on one of the guys in the river. She sees the crocodile and then ferociously attacks the beast. The butch lesbian gal clamps a knife in her mouth and swims out to cut the men free. She then turns her attention on helping her girlfriend kill the croc.

After that incident, the foursome are in a hut, recovering. Sombat and the first woman hook up, naturally, leaving the other leading man to try and seduce the lesbian. With just a few kiss on the neck, she stops struggling and soon there's some heavy petting going on.

This was my first visit to the new Paragon Cineplex, and the screening was in one of the theaters with reclining seats. It was nice. But it wasn't without problems. Arrangements had been made for subtitles, but the computer that was doing the displaying crapped out about halfway through the film, not that it mattered anyway. Even if the dialogue had been understandable, it wouldn't have made sense anyway. Besides, with most of the other films at the Bangkok International Film Festival being foreign films with no Thai subtitles, it seems only fair to have at least a couple only in Thai with no English subs.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tin Mine, Midnight My Love take honors from Critics Assembly

The Bangkok Critics Assembly, handed out its awards on Wednesday, giving the Best Film nod to The Tin Mine.

The Nation covered it, and ThaiCinema.org has a complete list of winners and nominees. A word of warning about The Nation's website - it's undergoing a revamp and the archive function may or may not be working.

According to The Nation, The Tin Mine took a movie "triple crown", since it also won awards at the Thailand National Film Awards and another ceremony, the Kom Chad Luek Awards. Anyway, here's the breakdown:

Best Film - The Tin Mine, GTH
  • Midnight My Love, Sahamongkol Film
  • Dear Dakanda, GTH
  • Crying Tigers, Sahamongkol Film
  • Ahimsa: Stop to Run, RS Film
Best Director - Kongdej Jaturanrassamee, Midnight My Love
  • Kittikorn Leosakun, Ahimsa: Stop to Run
  • Komgrit Treewimol, Dear Dakanda
  • Jira Maligul, The Tin Mine
  • Sananjit Bangsapan, Hitman File
Best Actor - Chatichai Plengphanich, Hitman File
  • Boriwat Yootoh, Ahimsa: Stop to Run
  • Pongsak Pongsuwan, The Holy Man
  • Petchtai Wongkamlao, Midnight My Love
  • Amrin Nitipon, Andaman Girl
Best Actress - Woranut Wongsawan, Midnight My Love
  • Janet Kiew, Hello Yasothorn
  • Napakapa Nakprasit, Art of Devil 2
  • Piyada Akkaraseranee, Remaker
  • Siraphan Wattanajinda, Dear Dakanda
Best Supporting Actor - Jaran "See Thao" Petjaroen, The Tin Mine
  • Theeradanai Suwanhom, Ahimsa: Stop to Run
  • Nirut Sirijanya, Hitman File
  • Petchtai Wongkamloa, Tom Yum Goong
  • Weeraphat Kaensuwan, Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect
Best Supporting Actress - Lalana Sulawan, Oops, There's Dad
  • Panissara Phimpru, Dear Dakanda
  • Maneerat Kham-uan, Dear Dakanda
  • Sathida Kiewcha-um, Beautiful, Wonderful, Perfect
  • Apasiri Nitipon, The Bullet Wives
Best Script - (tie) Midnight My Love and Dear Dakanda
  • The Tin Mine
  • Art of Devil 2
  • Ahimsa, Stop to Run
Best Cinematography - Midnight My Love

Best Editing - Dear Dakanda

Best Score - Midnight My Love

Best Arts Direction - The Tin Mine

HBO Award for Most Popular Movie - Tom Yum Goong

After picking up her award for best actress, Woranut Wongsawan was quoted as saying it was "a gift to my little twins".

"I didn't expect this because all the nominees were so good," she said.

Of his award (repeating a National Film Award win), 44-year-old Chatichai Plengpanich said: "I'm even more excited than when I won the Subhanahongsa because the nominees [at the Bangkok Critics Assembly] are very talented. I'm a Thai-movie lover and I’ve watched most of the [nominated] movies. The nominees were quite tough competitors."

Best Supporting Actor went to 74-year-old Jaran "Seethao Saothong" Petchjaroen for his role in The Tin Mine. Former superstar Lalana Sulawan took the Best Supporting Actress prize for her come back role in Wai Onlawon: Tum+Oh Return, now entitled Oops ... There's Dad – the sequel to the film that made her a star 30 years ago, Wai Onlawon.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Apichatpong, Nonzee pitch projects at HK Film Mart

This just in from Kaiju Shakedown: A rundown of projects at the Hong Kong Film Financing Forum. The news actually came out at the Rottendam Film Festival. Among the projects for the Hong Kong forum are films by Nonzee Nimibutr and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Here's a look:

Toyol - A thriller by Nonzee, the story is about a Hong Kong family that moves into a new house in Bangkok. The children, 12 and 8, are introduced by their father to their stepmother, a Thai woman who seems pleasant enough, but the children do not like her. Not only do the children have problems with their stepmother, they are having problems adapting to the new house as well. This is where the mischevious little ghost, the toyol of the title, comes in. The film, a co-production with Singapore's Zhao Wei Films, has a budget of US$2 million.

Utopia - Apichatpong's film is part of the American Dream Project (I think that's it), a series of features initiated by nine international filmmakers that explores the American dream. The film is about a "lost world" with "a pre-historic man is freed in a snow-covered landscape. Everything is white and new to him. He tries to survive in a jungle where there are periodic snowstorms. Followed by a group of fashionable old American ladies, he faces off against a terrorizing monster that hides in the jungle. He discovers a cave where he shields himself from the outside world and starts to hibernate. Through the course of his sleeping, the white and snow-covered world has turned into a lush tropical forest. He emerges from the cave and explores the new green territory in wonderment. The moist landscape is now full of miraculous fauna, flora... and elements of a fabulous adventure!"

Wow! Apichatpong says:

It's a bedtime story and it's gentle. I imagine the coexistence of the two worlds. In this tale, both of them seem real on the surface. But when paired together, because of their differences, they become each other's dreams. These dreams are intertwined without a sense of time. It is the future of an ancient time, and an ancient time of the future. It's a celebration of America and of 'America.' Here, life is tender and savage - civilized."

The co-production company behind Utopia is DViant Films Inc. A quick Google search also found another film company by that name with a website that's probably not safe for work.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tiger Blade, Ahimsa on DVD (censored) with English subtitles

Leave it to the smaller, upstart film companies to break from what's become the standard practice by the major film studios to leave the English subtitles off DVDs of Thai films.

From RS Film comes the karmic action-comedy, Ahimsa: Stop to Run (which is also playing at the Bangkok International Film Festival), and new-blood Mono Film, is offering The Tiger Blade (Twitch noticed this, too). I thought Tiger Blade was the best Thai action film of 2005, better than a certain second film by an internationally known Thai action star.

There's also Brutal River, last year's giant CGI alligator tale from CM Films. I'm staying away from it, but if you want to know more, Twitch has it.

All three of these films have English subtitles and can be purchased from several online retailers, or at Boomerang outlets in Bangkok.

Update: The Tiger Blade DVD is censored. Anytime a gun is pointed close to someone's head, the gun is pixellated or blurred out. It's pretty bizarre. Also, cigarette smoking gets the Vaseline treatment. It's an annoyance but doesn't detract too much from the experience of this cool action flick -- no I take that back, I can't watch it. If anything, the blurred guns point to the need for a ratings system that lets consumers (especially parents) -- not the police or the Culture Ministry -- decide what they want to see.

Meanwhile, one of last year's best films, Dear Dakanda, is out on DVD, including a deluxe package with all kinds of extras, but as has been the case with most DVDs released by big studios GTH, Sahamongkol and Five Star, there are no English subs.

Oh well. They have their reasons for this, which I don't fully understand. But it's everyone's loss, really, both the non-Thai/English-speaking world, and the Thai film companies ignoring what could be a lucrative market.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Invisible Waves coverage from Berlin

Invisible Waves premiered on Tuesday at the Berlin Film Festival, and while I'm careful to not read too much of the reviews of the film, I can't help but come across some reports.

The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt says: "If Jacques Tati had ever made a gangster thriller, it probably would have looked like Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves."

GreenCine snarks that Invisible Waves "has its moments. For me, those moments are a little too few and far between."

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (via the Bangkok Post) talked to Pen-Ek, who said he chose his actors on their ability to speak English badly.

Kaiju Shakedown has posted a link to the Variety review.

Kung Fu Cult Cinema has a link to Pen-Ek's press conference in Berlin.

Meanwhile, Twitch has posted a link to another trailer, this one apparently being the Thai version.

And yeah, the film has its Thai premiere at the Bangkok International Film Festival, but it's still going to be awhile before I actually get to see it, so I'm averting my eyes when I come across much more news about the film.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Review: Krasue Valentine

  • Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
  • Starring Pitisak Yaowananon, Ploy Jindachote, Kowit Wattanakul, Viyada Umarin
  • Wide release in Thailand cinemas on February 9, 2006
  • Rating: 4/5

With Krasue Valentine, Yuthlert Sippapak takes up the mantle as the Thai King of Suspense. He spins a dark tale of the consequences of bad karma, mixing in his trademark touches of Thai comedians, comedic bits and even a bit of gore and violence to to lighten things up. Overall, it's a beautiful film, lit with a warm, golden glow.

Really, this is one of those movies that it's dangerous to write too much about because it gives things away. It's better to just let things unfold. But enough has been reported already that it's okay to write a bit more.

Ploy Jindachote stars as Sao, a young nurse who hires on at a dreary, old Bangkok hospital. The very day she reports to work is Valentine's Day.

Upstairs, on the second floor, an orderly named Num (an excellent Pitisak Yaowanan from Ai Fak) is going about his duties. He's disabled somehow, with a crooked mouth and a gimpy leg. He's just had a scary run-in with an older nurse. A cute little girl is selling roses. She has one left, and convinces Num to buy it from her. But since he has no one to give the rose to, he lets the little girl keep it.

The little girl then goes downstairs, sees Sao sitting on the bench and gives her the rose, pointing to the orderly upstairs, saying he sent it to her. So now the new nurse and the disabled orderly share some kind of bond.

With no place else to stay, Sao takes up residence in a small house on the hospital grounds. It's a pretty creepy little house, but Sao says she isn't bothered by it. She has other things on her mind - like a boyfriend who left her because she turns into a ghost. How preposterous! The nerve of the guy.

But when nightfall comes, and the drunken guard and the drunken janitor (a couple of Thai comedians) are making their rounds, the guard goes off to take a whiz and sure enough, he sees the floating head and dangling, glowing entrails of the krasue ghost.

That much I can give away, just because it's been in the previews, and on the movie posters.

Much more than that, and I'll ruin it, though I will say there's a moment where I wonder if there was a continuity error that left me confused. Just a blip on what is otherwise a great movie.

Fans of Buppa Rahtree won't be disappointed, what with all the running around and screaming by the cast of comics. A couple of hilarious cops (one of them is producer-director Adirek "Uncle" Watleela) from that earlier ghost movie by Yuthlert even turn up and reprise their role, getting in the elevator and saying "it's strangely familiar".

But it takes a dark turn, too, and it's much more subtle than Buppa Rahtree, or any other Thai film I've seen recently. I like that. Just hint at something. Make me have to really look and pay attention, and I'll come back for more.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Invisible Waves website up

I can just picture the team over at Twitch checking out the Invisible Waves website and hitting reload repeatedly until they start to see some content.

Well, all their hard work has paid off, as the website for Invisible Waves is fully operational, with a downloadable trailer, galleries and more. Check it out.

This is the latest film by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and reunites the Thai director with actor Tadanobu Asano and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, along with a pan-Asian cast that includes Old Boy's Kang Hye-jeong as a baby-carrying half-Thai, half-Korean woman, as well as Hong Kong's Eric Tsang.

The film is competing at the Berlin Film Festival and is also the opening film at next week's Bangkok International Film Festival.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sia Jiang quits film association

With tears in his eyes as he made the announcement, Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert yesterday resigned as head of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand.

The Nation has the report on its front page today.

"If people think I make trouble for the federation, why should I stay?" Somsak said at the meeting held at the SC Park Hotel attended by more than 200 industry people.

Somsak, who is also president of Sahamongkol Film, had headed the federation for three and a half years.

Somsak's resignation comes after he called for the federation to boycott the Bangkok Interational Film Festival, citing a failure on the part of the festival organizer, the Tourism Authority of Thailand to properly consult the federation about festival arrangements.

"The TAT is behind the conflict. They should take responsibility," he told yesterday's news conference.

Three major studios – GTH, Five Star Production and RS Promotion – objected to the boycott and withdrew from the federation.

The federation’s secretary Chaiwat Taveewongsangthong will act as caretaker president for 30 days until the federation holds a new election.

"People say I'm like a mafia boss and the federation's committee members are my people. Do you believe that I can control all of them? Think about it, they are well respected people who are elected to work for the Thai film industry," Somsak told the news conference.

His family, however, welcomed his resignation.

"I'm glad that he has quit because he was too busy working for the federation and had no time to work for his company. It's hard for him to please everyone while wearing two hats," Somsak’s daughter, Awika, was quoted as saying.

For a look at the boycott saga so far, Kaiju Shakedown has a nice summary, and ThaiCinema has been covering the issue as well.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, February 9, 2006

European Film Market entries, Invisible Waves stills

A spurt of Thai film news over at Twitch. I guess the big one is a link to stills of Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves at Cinempire. They are absolutely gorgeous.

Next is news on the European Film Market, which is a sidebar to the Berlin Film Festival, starting today.

Invisible Waves is in competition at Berlin (and yes yes yes, it's showing at the freaking Bangkok International Film Festival) And Fortissimo Films is selling it at the Film Market.

But the business of trying to sell crappy Thai films to an unsuspecting European public also is being undertaken.

This brings me back to Twitch, which notes that the Thai Charlie's Angels, Dangerous Flowers, and the teen slasher flick Scared are being sold at the European Film Market by Golden Network. Both are fine products from Sahamongkol Films.

I can recommend neither, but that's just me. I've actually seen Dangerous Flowers and wouldn't want to ever again. The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee saw it too, though, and I think he actually enjoyed it. Go figure.

And because I'm not a fan of slasher pics, I was too scared to actually see Scared, but the reports I've heard are far from positive.

Though I probably will go to see Dorm.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Three film companies quit Federation

Five Star Production, RS Film and GMM Tai Hub have resigned from the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, after the Federation's president, Somsak Techaratanaprasert, called for a boycott of the Bangkok International Film Festival.

The Bangkok Post covers the latest salvo.

"Since we are not able to follow [the Federation's] decision, we believe it's best to resign,'' Apiradee Iampungporn, executive at Five Star, was quoted as saying.

So there will be many Thai films shown at the festival after all.

Somsak is also the CEO of Sahamongkol Film, who used his position in the Federation to favor films made by his company. For instance, in past years, the festival's sidebar film market was weighted towards Sahamongkol films.

The Federation called for a boycott after the festival's organizer, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, didn't seek the Federation's assistance this year in selecting Thai films for the program, nor did it want the Federation's help in organizing the film market. It also cut back on advertising funds, which in past years had been funneled through the Federation.

The boycott has only served to further deepen a rift between Somsak and Federation members who are affiliated with companies besides Sahamongkol, a rift that was seen earlier this year in the disputed Thailand National Film Awards.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Thai films at the 2006 Bangkok International Film Festival

Rather than have its traditional Thai Panorama category, this year the Bangkok International Film Festival is spreading out its selection of Thai films, putting them in every section of the program.

Festival program director Jennifer Stark explains it all in a press release.

The films by Thai directors are so strong that there are Thai films in all categories of competition and in every section of the festival. The quality of films is such that we don't need a special showcase for them in their own section as has been the case in the past with the Thai Panorama. These films and filmmakers are more than worthy and can compete in our international line-up."

The lineup offers evidence that the "boycott" by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand isn't going to do much damage to the festival. Here's the complete lineup of Thai films:

International Competition
  • Invisible Waves, Pen-Ek Rantanaruang
Asean Competition
  • 3 Friends, ML Mingmongkol Sonakul, Pumin Chinaradee and Aditya Assarat
  • The Tin Mine, Jira Maligool
  • Ahimsa: Stop to Run, Kittikorn Laiwsirikun
Documentary Competition
  • The Stories from the North, Uruphong Raksasad
Reel World
  • Innocence, Areeya Sirisopha and Nisa Kongsri
  • Things that Move: Fireflies, Suwan Huangsirisakul
Windows on the World
  • Dear Dakanda, Khomkrit Treewimol
  • Oops! There's Dad, Rutaiwan Wongsirasawad
  • Ghost of Mae Nak, Mark Duffield
  • The King Maker, Lek Kitiparaporn
  • Art of the Devil 2, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Art Thamtrakul, Yosapong Polsap, Putipong Saisikaew, Isara Nadee, Pasith Buranajan and Seree Pongniti
Jameson Popular Thai Film Award
  • The Tin Mine, Jira Maligool
  • Dear Dakanda, Khomkrit Treewimol
  • Innocence, Areeya Sirisopha and Nisa Kongsri
  • Art of the Devil 2, Kongkiat Khomsiri, etc.
Sombat Metanee Retrospective
  • Angelic Fighter
  • Blood of the Sun
  • Tarutao, Devil's Island
  • Tears of the Black Tiger
  • The Warrior
I'm a bit puzzled by some of this. First, I thought the Asean Competition had already been set, but The Tin Mine and Ahimsa: Stop to Run appear to have been added since the slate was first announced. I take it these are in addition to the films already selected, and there are no changes in films from other Asean countries? Also, it appears The Tin Mine is competing in two categories - Asean and the sponsored Popular Thai Film Award, which I think is new this year.

Not complaining though, except for maybe the inclusion of The Kingmaker among the lineup. It's good to see Ahimsa get some more attention, and that I'll get another chance to see Oops ... There's Dad, which I missed last year. But most of my attention will be going toward Asean films from other countries, as well as the Sombat Metanee Retrospective.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)