Wednesday, July 2, 2008

NYAFF '08: King Naresuan 2 leads Audience Award voting

The New York Asian Film Festival screened King Naresuan 1 and King Naresuan 2 in epic, six-hour-long back-to-back screenings on Sunday night.

The festival's Magic Marker Rembrandt outdid himself with a rendering of the Black Prince. I can just picture the artist gripping a black dry-erase marker in his teeth as the detail of the flames for the King of Fire were added. Truly an epic artwork to match the scope of M.C. Chatrichalerm Yukol's two films.

Subway Cinema News reports that the two Naresuan movies are leading the Audience Award voting.

Festival co-founder Grady Hendrix elaborated on that in a comment on my previous posting about the festival, reporting that audiences have loved the movies, despite harsh reviews.

True, the audiences have been smaller than we'd have liked (in the 50-60 range mostly) but our Thai films never do that well for some reason. And, the audiences have been fanatical about these two movies. Even after a projection problem caused a 50 minute delay in the start of Naresuan 2 on Sunday night, two-thirds of the audience stuck it out and stayed 'til after midnight wallowing in the film, and [both films] are currently leading our Audience Award poll. In fact, no other movies have gotten so many "10" ratings on a scale of 1-10 as King Naresuan 2.

Naresuan 2, which made its North American premiere earlier this year at the Palm Springs International Film Festival as King of Fire, has fared slightly better critically. Following up his review of Naresuan 1,'s Keith Uhlich gives Naresuan 2 another mixed review, saying:

It's clear by this point that the Naresuan films are patriotic propaganda, barely cloaking their myth-making nationalism in the most simplistic of narrative contrivances, e.g.: a hot-headed romance between Naresuan's second-in-command and an enemy princess (soon to become best friends with orchestra-swelling benefits), which is a pungent piece of crumbly romantic cheese. Like the first Naresuan and Yukol's earlier epic Suriyothai, the melodrama is put-upon and expected, barely felt beyond the level of the crudely skeletal and schematic. Yet Yukol has most assuredly improved as a director of action, finally using the massive, elephant-assisted armies at his beck and call (with reportedly little CGI enhancement) to genuinely exciting ends.

The third part in the trilogy, King Naresuan 3, is reported to be about 80 percent finished, and is due for release on December 5. I wonder if a revival run for the first two films might be organized, giving audiences a chance to see all three back to back?

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