Friday, July 28, 2006

Syndromes and a Century to premiere in Venice

The selection for the Venice Film Festival is out and there's a Thai film in it - Syndromes and a Century, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Formerly called Intimacy and Turbulence and commissioned for the New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna to celebrate Mozart's 250th birthday, Syndromes and a Century will premiere at Venice and then go on for screenings in Vienna and elsewhere.

Kong Rithdee has much more in today's Bangkok Post (Everything is illuminated and Lido Lights), so hustle on over and have a look. Kaiju Shakedown has a look at all the Asian films in Venice. Or there's the Associated Press story for a rundown on the other offerings.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Citizen Dog wins in Montreal

Fantasia 2006 in Montreal just recently ended, and Twitch, which has been intensively reporting on the event, has the list of prize-winners, which you can go there right now and read.
Still with me?

For Thai films, and there was a bunch of them playing this year, the Bronze Prize for Best Asian Film and the Silver Prize for Most Groundbreaking film went to Citizen Dog.

Another highlight of the Thai-film selection was the fantastic and fun SARS Wars.

The others were a pack of gory horror films:
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

40 Thai films for Singapore

Singapore's Innoform Media has inked a deal with Sahamongkol Films, to bring in 40 titles by the end of 2007, according to an article in the Electric New Paper. (Choon, Chang May, July 18, 2006, "Are Korean films losing appeal?")

Ten of the new titles will make it to the big screen while others will go straight to "video", the article says.

They include Ong-Bak 2 and its female counterpart, Chocolate (which hopefully would be among the 10 films screening theatrically).

The article is about Korean movies that have oversaturated the market in Singapore.

"We don't want to make the same mistake and flood the market with too many movies, so we will regulate the flow of Thai releases," said Lim Teck, general manager of Innoform.

This is interesting to me, because if the films are released on DVD in Singapore, I would think that they would include English subtitles, since English is the official language in the city-state. So it's something to watch for, because virtually all DVD releases of Thai movies in Thailand are omitting the English subs -- unless you want a crappy movie like Navy Boys.

However, in looking at Innoform's website, it seems the company only releases movies in the VCD format. They have a ton of Thai titles already, such as Fake, 102 Bangkok Robbery, Pisaj, Ghost of Mae Nak and 999-9999, all in Thai with hard-burned Chinese and English subtitles. It's not as good as DVD, but for some movies, particularly the puzzler Fake, it's the only way to see the movie on video with English subs.

And, I wonder what other Singaporean distributors are up to when it comes to video releases of Thai films?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Review: Metrosexual

  • Directed by Yongyooth Thongkongtoon
  • Starring Tienchai Chaisawat, Meesuk Changmeesuk, Patcharasri Bhenjamas, Ornpriya Hunsat, Pimolwan Suppayang, Kulnadda Pajchimsawat, Michael Shaowanasai, Davide Dorigo, Yano Kasuki
  • Released in Thai theaters on July 13, 2006
  • Rating: 3/5

Just because a guy knows how best to cook mushrooms at a suki restaurant, it shouldn’t necessarily make him gay, right? What if he knows where to shop for bargains at the street stalls? Not absolutely gay.

How about if he knows when the Estee Lauder sale ends? Or if he starts giving his girlfriend tips on what foundation suits her?

Okay, this is where you start thinking he’s probably gay.

That’s the message behind Metrosexual (Gang Chanee gap E Ab) the latest comedy from Iron Ladies director Yongyooth Thongkongtoon and starring five female news presenters from Thai TV Channel 3.

Five gal pals meet up for lunch at an MK suki restaurant, during which Pang (Meesuk Changmeesuk) breaks the news that she’s getting married.

There’s Pom (Patcharasri Bhenjamas), the reporter for a women’s magazine; Nim (Ornpriya Hunsat), who works for a company that makes an erectile dysfunction drug; Fyne (Pimolwan Suppayang), the stingy owner of a beauty salon; and Pat (Kulnadda Pajchimsawat), who’s engaged to marry an older Japanese man.

They can’t believe Pang is getting married, and that they didn’t know she’s been seeing this guy for three months.

Then a guy appears at the door of the restaurant. Stylish, with neat eyeglasses, great hair and a sports jacket, he’s wins Fyne’s approval. But when he comes over to sit down next to Pang, they’re all a bit surprised.

He’s introduced as Kong (a tip of the hat to Kong Rithdee, film critic for the Bangkok Post, who coincidentally did the English subtitles for the film release). He starts off by offering tips on how to cook the hotpot meal – garlic isn’t just for spicing up the sauce, you should add some to the soup too. Then, since it’s Pat’s birthday – the real reason the friends decided to meet up – Kong hands over some earrings that he had picked out himself.

Later, the friends, minus Pang, get together at Fyne’s beauty salon. Pom reveals that she’d seen Kong earlier, backstage at a men’s beauty pageant she was covering for the magazine, hugging another man. It was perfectly innocent, but it still looks bad. And don’t you know, all male models are gay.

So Kong must be gay.

The four ladies conspire to find out more about Kong. For help, Pat enlists her gay brother, Bee (Michael Shaowanasai, playing it, um, straight as a Thai Airways flight attendant), who helps the girls create a checklist on ways to tell a guy is gay.

Among the hints: Just because a guy sticks his pinky out when he sips his tea, or wears an earring in the left ear doesn’t matter anymore. But if he gracefully lifts up his foot behind him to check if something’s stuck to his shoe, rather than grabbing his foot and hopping up and down clumsily, then he’s probably gay. Or maybe he just has common sense. Really, some of Bee’s tips are just stupid.

The girls have to check Kong’s background. Was anybody in his family gay? Did he attend a boy’s boarding school? Does he have any gay porn in his apartment?

Finding out answers to these questions means the four ladies must be more and more intrusive.

To get into Kong’s apartment, they set up a fake fortune-telling reading and get Pang to hand over her set of keys – they’re apparently going to press her boyfriend’s apartment key into some wax (hmm, she has a key to his apartment and they haven’t had sex yet?).

Pat and Pom then get past the cross-eyed security guard and check out apartment 69 (a homage to Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Ruang Talok 69 that prompted snickers from the audience for other reasons) and find that Kong is an obsessive-compulsive neat nut (like another Pen-ek character from Last Life in the Universe). His shirts are arranged by colour and he even folds the end of the toilet paper.

Of course, while Pat and Pom are in the apartment, Kong and Pang arrive, so the intruders have to hide in the shower and barely manage to escape the apartment without being spotted. There, they find a yearbook from a boy’s boarding school, with a possibly incriminating poem scratched out. But no gay porn? Darn!

That’s about the funniest scene in the film, other than the times Michael Shaowanasai is onscreen.

Each of the four friends also have their own love-life problems – Pom is fending off interest from Off (Seed 97.5 DJ Davide Dorigo), the Afro-haired young photographer. Nim is vying with a more extroverted co-worker for the attention of a man in her office. Fyne must find it in her heart to be kind to her hen-pecked husband. And Pat’s older Japanese boyfriend Kengi, played by Yano Kasuki, is having second thoughts after he’s mistaken for Pat’s father too many times.

The best of these pairings are Pom and Off, who have a playful, competitive banter, like a younger brother and older sister. Though Kasuki, who’s a gifted Bangkok-based Japanese mime actor, has his moment demonstrating how he orders roast chicken and som tam.

Like all romantic comedies, the big revelation disrupts the wedding. And from there the movie takes a confusing and depressing turn that’s probably meant to represent the kind of confusion that people feel when they are denying their own sexual orientation.

And it struggles to regain its footing, tie up loose ends and somehow end the story on a positive note, which it still manages to do, at least for straight women. It's pretty depressing if you're gay, because the movie paints them as outsiders, scamming for tricks in parking lots near oil refineries.

But the real the loser is the so-called metrosexual guy – who knows about art, culture and fashion, could care less about sports, doesn't drink beer, gets manicure-pedicures and has at least a little compassion for other people’s feelings.

It seems the message in Metrosexual is that women don’t want a sensitive guy. So, it’s okay to be a dumb, uncaring slob. According to this film, that’s apparently what every woman wants.

See also:

(Corss-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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)

Bangkok Dangerous = Time to Kill

Time to Kill is the working title of the Bangkok Dangerous remake, starring Nicolas Cage. It will still have a deaf-mute character, Oxide Pang says in the International Herald Tribune, though this time it will be the gunman's Thai girlfriend, who will be played by an as-yet-unamed, "well known" Asian actress.

"We'd like to keep [the gunman] the same, but we understand that from a marketing purpose Nic needs to have some lines," Pang says. "So what we're going to do is transform his girlfriend into a deaf-mute. By switching the roles, the drama of communication between two people will remain the same."

Re-cycle, meanwhile, has opened in Hong Kong and Singapore. Their latest horror film, which reunites them with The Eye's Angelica Lee (okay, she's also Oxide's girlfriend), is going to straight to video, along with their solo efforts, Oxide's Diary and Danny's Forest of Death, having been picked up in the UK by Image. So reported Kaiju Shakedown awhile back.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, July 7, 2006

Graceland and five other short Thai films

The Fourth International Short Film Festival in Bangkok got under way last night with six Thai shorts, all making their Thailand premieres. The big draw was Graceland, the first Thai short selected for the Cannes Cinefondation program. Many of the films have been kicking around the European art and short-film circuits for a number of years, but last night was the first time they'd been seen in Thailand.

Part of the La Fete French culture fest, the short film program continues until Sunday, with Malaysian, Singaporean, shorts from elsewhere in Asia, as well as France. has the details.

It's impossible for me to critically comment on these films or to try and interpret what they really mean. But I'll give it a shot. Individually, I felt some of the films were lacking, but as a package they had a strong message about loneliness. And I think all short films are about loneliness, really. Even music videos and Warner Bros cartoons.

Here's what I saw last night:

  • Graceland, by Anocha Suwichakornpong - An Elvis impersonator (Sarawut Martthong) from Bangkok is taken out into the countryside by a strange woman (Jelaralin Chanchoenglop) and abandoned. This was the first Thai short film selected for the Cinefondation program at the Cannes Film Festival. Produced for a master's thesis at Columbia University, some of the top talents in the Thai film business worked it, including top editor Lee Chatametikool. 2006, 17 minutes.
  • I Move Faster Than I Am, by Sutthirat Supparinya - Railroad-themed, digital experimentation with images, placing the artist in the same pose, standing still, in various busy locations. 5.45 minutes.
  • The Reflection from Lifeless Work, by Suwannee Surachescomson - A Chinese opera performer against a black background. 4 minutes.
  • False Move by Soraya Nakasuwan - Animated short with two people dancing and become one. From Random-ize Film and Video Festival, 2002, London, 3 minutes.
  • Fantasmagorie by Surachai Pattanakijpaibool - Science-fiction themed, with a naked man in various poses, though he always has a drapery to hide his privates, to avoid full frontal male nudity. Lille Film and Video Art Festival 2004, France, 14 minutes.
  • Memories Haunt by Kamol Phaosavasdi - Buddhist-themed montage. Right after it was over, I couldn't tell you about any the images in it, but I liked this one the best, with its text of quotes on the facts of life by plain-spoken monks. Basically, life is suffering. It's a fact. Get over it and you'll be happier. Kamol is a well-established artist who teaches at Chulalongkorn University. 50th Venice Biennale 2003, 10 minutes.
  • The Ceiling by Nonzee Nimibutr - A woman climbs up into the crawlspace above her ceiling and crawls over to the grating above her sexy neighborlady's apartment and spies on her, growing more obsessed with the neighbor's life. AFA Short Film Project, Pusan International Film Festival, 2005, 18 minutes.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)