Monday, October 27, 2008

The Elephant King has come

Two years after being made, The Elephant King, about young American males indulging in hedonism in Chiang Mai, has received a limited theatrical run in the U.S. It premiered in 2006 at the Tribeca Film Festival and played at a few other fests.

Produced by Thailand-based De Warrenne Pictures and distributed in the U.S. by Unison, The Elephant King is written and directed by Seth Grossman and stars Jonno Roberts as a partyboy who's enjoying the nightlife in Thailand too much, whooping it up in bars and brothels and getting knocked down in the Muay Thai ring. He urges his brother, played by Tate Ellington, to join him. This shy, quiet, more responsible guy comes over and falls for the charms of a Thai woman -- his brother's girlfriend -- played by Florence Faivre.

Featured bigger than anyone else on The Elephant King poster, the French-Thai actress made her debut in 2004's Tawipop adaptation The Siam Renaissance and since then her other roles have included the French-Thai boxing drama Chok Dee, and, just recently, co-starring in The Coffin, playing the best friend of Karen Mok's character.

Ellen Burstyn also stars in The Elephant King, playing the worried mother of the two men.

Back in 2006, the movie sparked a series of letters in The Nation, starting with one from Scott Rosenberg that decried the film and its depiction of drugs, booze and general unThainess -- not to mention the mistreatment of an elephant -- and warned that such depictions would spell ruin for Thailand's industry as a foreign-film location. Replies included one calling for Hollywood to police itself and another saying efforts to rein things in would simply be censorship.

The trailer on YouTube, embedded below, features plenty of the sort of Thai exoticism that can be seen in such films as Butterfly Man, The Beach, Nic Cage's Bangkok Dangerous, and Naomi Kawasi's Nanayo and if anything, The Elephant Man can serve as an instructional video for the Thai tourism industry, showing the stupid things farangs do when they come to Thailand.

Stateside, the movie has a viral marketing campaign in which special screenings are arranged for Asian, Thai, drug and alcohol groups, and university film schools, with the various special-interest groups inviting their members to watch the movie and then stay afterward for question-and-answer sessions in which their concerns are addressed.

Update: Hollywood Reporter/Reuters reports The Elephant King had the highest opening per-screen gross in the U.S.

(Via Asian Sweetheart)

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