I finally was able to reserve a ticket to Chukiat Sakweerakul's The Love of Siam Director's Cut screening at House cinema on Royal City Avenue in Bangkok, only to be told that it does not include English subtitles. This news is disappointing, heartbreaking even, because I don't speak Thai, and though I am familiar with the film, I fear that much will be lost in the non-translation.
At the same time of hearing this bad news, I received an e-mail from Chiang Mai Mail movie correspondent Mark Gernpy, who has seen the Director's Cut. He knows the film better than I do. He has these things to say:
First off, it is only three hours long, not four. In talking with the manager [of House] she told me that when the subject of the Director’s Cut first came up, they were told it would be four hours long, but when it actually arrived it was only three. I have to say that for me the additional 30 minutes (approximately) contains absolutely essential material that needs to be seen. In addition, after the film has finished, House now screens another 20 minutes of Love of Siam material: a compilation of additional deleted scenes and what looks to me like outtakes. Of this material, only one segment do I think cries out to be in the movie, a short sequence where Music [or Mew] as a young boy is playing the piano as his grandmother dies, propped up in her bed, listening to him play. A nice touch.
Second, there are no English subtitles; it’s all in Thai, so be forewarned. I missed a lot of details because of this, but I know the movie pretty well, and almost always knew what was going on. The one big exception was a sequence that brought a roar of laughter from the audience, in a crucial scene that the commercial version needs badly. In the released version, Music’s return to the band at the last minute has always seemed unprepared and unmotivated. This short scene eases a bit his abrupt change of heart. As he makes his entrance to the rehearsal room on his return, he is greeted by the guitarist with what a Thai friend tells me is a slang phrase welcoming him back, which is not easy to translate to English without sounding too offensive, but would mean something to the effect of "SHE IS BACK!” Then apparently the big joke is that in explaining his prolonged absence from the band, his friend “X” says that Music was needed in recording an album, “Gay Power 4.” Music looked abashed, but it was done in a good-natured way, and anyway the audience erupted in laughter. It’s referred to in the list of cuts below as Cut Number 5.
Third, if you go, wear a parka. I am now used to the fact that Thai movie theaters can be very cold; I always bring a jacket along, as well as earplugs. But this was the coldest theater I have ever been in, in my entire life. My teeth were chattering at the end; all of my farang friends with me, and even a few of the Thai, were astounded at the cold, and in pain. I know it’s a hot movie, but this is no way to compensate.
Yes, this version is better than the commercially released one. There’s a lot of additional material on the younger boys’ relationship, showing they really had a close bond, helping each other out considerably over the rough times of growing up. A couple of plot points are cleared up. Things are sharper. It’s more fun. Makes more sense. The three-hour version should become the standard version, no doubt about it.
Want to know more? Bangkok of the Mind has a two-part posting (Part 1 and Part 2) that details all the missing scenes.
Still can't get enough? Well, the young stars of The Love of Siam will appear in a charity Special Greeting Concert at 1pm and 6pm on February 9 at CentralWorld in Bangkok. The show will feature Mario Maurer (Tong), Witwisit Hirunwongkul (Mew), Aticha Pongsilpipat (Donut) and some surprise guests. The "commercial" version of the film will be revived at SF World Cinema as part of the event, and there will be a collection of souvenirs on offer. Tickets are Bt350, available at SF Cinema ticket counters.
Still not enough? Well, how about a Love of Siam Special Edition DVD? Deknang has been posting what I guess are unofficial mock-ups on its Popcornmag forum, featuring a package that would include four discs and the wooden Christmas doll that is featured in the film. It'll be interesting to see if Deknang's dream vision makes it to store shelves. Even without English subtitles, a special edition DVD with that wooden toy - the nose included - would be worth having.
The success and staying power of the film has been phenomenal. Marketed as a (straight) teenage romance when it was first released, the multi-faceted exploration of teenage sexuality and family dysfunction was only scheduled in cinemas for about a month after its release in November. But it has since gone on to build up its own grassroots base of fans, who have bought the soundtrack, packed into the Director's Cut screenings, followed the stars around as they make appearances and cheered the film as it wins awards.
Recently, it swept the top five categories at the Starpics Awards, and more accolades are sure to come when the Bangkok Critics' Assembly and the Supannahong Awards are announced.