Thursday, July 31, 2008
Kongdej Jaturanrasamee's loopy road-trip romance Handle Me With Care continues its rounds on the festival circuit, heading to the sophomore edition of the Chungmoro International Film Festival in Seoul, where it's part of the fest's first competition slate.
Other films in the 11-title competition include Johnnie To's Mad Detective and Zhang Chi's The Shaft. The Chungmoro festival, which runs from September 3 to 11, will feature 170 titles from 40 countries.
It's showing out of competition in a special program in collaboration with the Udine Far East Film Festival. Two films are in that program. The other is Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit! by Minoru Kawasaki. What a wild pair of films. Stingray-riding magical sea gypsies and a movie that has Beat Takeshi as the monster's voice.
Of interest to Southeast Asian film fans, there are two Filipino films in the Horizons section: Francis Xavier Pasion's Jay and Melancholia by Lav Diaz. What the heck? Melancholia is only seven hours long! But Lav Diaz is a fixture at Venice, so he can do whatever he wants.
Back to Queens of Langkasuka. It's set for general release in Thai cinemas in October, but Venice will likely be the beginning of a festival run. I've heard it could very well turn up in an important spot at the Bangkok International Film Festival.
- Now set for October release, Variety reviews Queens of Langkasuka
- Queens of Langkasuka release postponed
- New teaser for Queens of Langkasuka, and a mixed response from the market
- Cannes Film Festival: It's Queens of Langkasuka
(Via Quiet Earth)
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Spiritual World, a horror film released by Sahamongkol in Thailand last year, is out on English-subtitled DVD in Singapore.
The film stars Nuttamonkan Srinikornchot as Ming, a young woman who has the ability to communicate with ghosts, but there's one ghost in particular that is threatening Ming. However, try as she might to stay away from the spirit world, she is compelled to once again cross that threshhold when a young doctor (Anuchit Sapanpong) seeks Ming's help in finding the truth behind his father's death.
Ever the eager consumer of just about any Thai horror film that's had subtitles slapped on it, Delirium Vault's Nekoneko recently received the DVD by mail order. Here's an excerpt from her detailed, meowing review.
This one is a very atmospheric film, and the cinematographer knew just how to light the scenes, film the angles and use all the tricks of the trade to give it an uneasy and very off kilter feel very much complementary to the story. The acting is good…. particularly by Nuttamonkan Srinikornchot, who plays her role seriously, but without the melodramatic excesses that often come with such characters in Asian cinema. The overall direction and pacing are good as well, director Tharatap Thewsomboon tells a simple story without overly embellishing the plot with any superfluous elements that would distract you from the story.
She gives Spiritual World a rating of "4 Meows", which I guess means she likes it.
Spiritual World is available from MovieXclusive.
Junhaporn Rerngronasa, deputy governor for marketing communications of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said the festival will continue as a "world class" event, and she emphasized that for the first year the TAT was cooperating with the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand (FNFAT) to co-host the event. Here's an excerpt from the translated text of her speech:
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has organized the Bangkok International Film Festival for five years, and now in its sixth year it will be presented for the first time as a result of co-operation and collaboration between all parties. It is a great opportunity for Thailand to support the film industry and establish a position as the cultural and entertainment hub of the region."
FNFAT president Jareuk Kaljareuk, who is the festival director, said the festival's focus will be on films from the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc. Here's some of his speech:
This year our emphasis is on films and filmmakers from the ASEAN region. As the film industries of the region develop and strengthen, Thailand has an important role to play in this growing film culture. New technologies present new opportunities for filmmakers to present their visions. One of the challenges is how to accept international techniques and influences and to achieve success in a global marketplace without losing the unique cultural voice of the region.
Not much other information was provided. Reporters had to work the sidelines, between bites of tuna sandwiches, to pump out other information.
The FNFAT has enlisted Thai Film Directors Assocation president Yongyoot Thongkongton as artistic director, and indie filmmakers Pimpaka Towira and Mei Meksuwan are the programmers. Filmmaker Paul Spurrier, whose film P I have yet to see, is the festival's administrative director.
Pimpaka was quoted in a brief in today's Daily Xpress as saying she doesn’t know how much money she can spend but expects it to be about half of last year’s 80 million baht. Earlier reports have put the TAT's contribution at 20 million baht, so the FNFAT will have to find sponsors to kick in more. Hence, I think, the involvement of duty-free moguls King Power, which is providing its Pullman Hotel for the festival's workshops and the awards banquet. The screenings will be in the same venue as last year, SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.
To attract Thai filmgoers, “we plan to introduce Thai-script subtitles this year,” Pimpaka told Daily Xpress. The lack of Thai subs has been a major criticism of the festival in past years, though in past years the festival had a budget that might have easily covered that -- if it hadn't been spent on flying in Hollywood stars for glitzy red-carpet ceremonies, banquets and golf tournaments.
Mei told me they weren't ready to announce any of the films, but an Agence France-Presse article quotes Yongyooth as saying the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading, which is premiering at Venice, and the Diego Maradonna biopic from Cannes are strong contenders for the program. "There will be many international films," he is quoted as saying by AFP.
Still hanging over the festival is the taint of a bribery scandal in which a former TAT governor is alleged to have accepted US$1.7 million in bribes from American film producer Gerald Green and his wife Patricia in exchange for awarding the Greens' company a management contract to run the festival. The Greens were arrested last year in Los Angeles by the FBI. But in Thailand, though an investigation found the allegations were "well founded", and the results forwarded to the National Counter Corruption Commission, the case has not progressed.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Ong-Bak 2 is no longer a martial-arts epic. It's a soap opera.
First there were the tears welling up in the eyes of Sahamongkol boss Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert, saying he loves wayward star and director Tony Jaa like a son.
Then, yesterday, Tony emerged to talk to television cameras for the first time since he walked off the set of Ong-Bak 2. And he was all red-eyed and crying.
It's painful to see him like this. This is not how the world's next big martial-arts star is supposed to act. But then you put that kind of pressure on a guy -- saying he's the next Bruce Lee -- no wonder he cracked.
With a suit-and-tie lawyer at his side, Tony appeared on a Modernine's "Nine Entertain" show for broadcast today. In his interview, he says he's fine and ready to return to work as director of Ong-Bak 2. Today's Daily Xpress, splashed a tearful, red-eyed Tony on its tabloid cover, with the sensational headline "I don't dabble in black magic". Here's more from their story:
He denies he’s superstitious.
“It’s untrue,” he says. Rumours are widespread the actor is involved in black magic. “I know what I am doing. I am a director. I have to research what’s in the film,” he says.
Jaa’s absence sparked rumours he’s obsessed with black magic and had been “exhibiting strange behaviour on the set”. He is reported to dress as a shaman and meditates while cast and crew are ready to shoot. He has suddenly cancelled shooting for days.
There's the argument over money, with Tony saying Sahamongkol has given 117 million baht for the picture, and he was run out and gone broke trying to make the film. But Sahamongkol execs, along with Tony's former director Prachya Pinkaew and erstwhile mentor Panna Rittikrai, have said they have spent 250 million baht on Ong-Bak 2. So there must be a misunderstanding, to say the least.
Meanwhile, Prachya has been tasked with taking over the movie and completing it in time for its planned December 4 (or 5th?) release.
The Daily Xpress story continues:
[Jaa] was “shocked” to learn there’s no more money and went away to work out his “frustration” in a “quiet place”.
He vows to return and finish the film. “But, I have to meet Sia Jiang first,” he says. “I still respect Sia Jiang, Panna and Prachya.”
Sia Jiang says he loves Jaa and “forgives” him. But, Jaa says “different filmmaking philosophies” might cause further delay.
And some further raw quotes from the interview:
He said success has not changed him. “I’ve never forgotten that I came from nothing.”
“I consider film as an art created by the soul, not business, so anything I do has to be perfect. But I apologise for the problem. I will go to see Sia Jiang to find the way out and finish the film."
International reaction to Tony's troubles has been one of shock and sorrow.
Mark Pollard of KungFuCinema.org puts things into perspective, comparing Tony with another stressed star who walked away -- comedian David Chappelle. Pollard says Tony has taken on too much responsibility too soon, given his meteoric rise to fame, as opposed to stars like Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, who toiled away for decades before they reached international superstardom. Pollard goes as far as suggesting that Tony give Hollywood a try, where though his action would be dumbed down, he might learn something.
I don't know. I think Hollywood would eat Tony alive. What a horrible, demeaning, humiliating business.
Update: TonyJaa.org has a translation of the "Nine Entertain" transcript (via Kaiju Shakedown).
- English-language press on Tony Jaa's troubles
- Jaa forgiven but Prachya Pinkaew asked to take over Ong-Bak 2
- Troubles for Ong-Bak 2 and Tony Jaa
- Report: Tony Jaa in the poor house
(Photo by Warisara Wuthikul/Daily Xpress)
Ahead of the August 7 opening of Where the Miracle Happens, a drama that stars Princess Ubolratana, press coverage is ramping up to promote the film.
Where the Miracle Happens premiered at a specially organized screening on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival. The film debut for the Princess, eldest daughter of His Majesty the King, it is based on her novel “Rueang San Thee Chan Kid”. The Princess portrays Pimdao, a wealthy businesswoman who is involved in a traffic collison while riding in a car with her daughter. The daughter's heart is then transplanted into her mother. Pimdao then devotes her life to fulfilling her daughter's desire to volunteer as a teacher at an impoverished rural school.
Among the supporting cast are Sukolawat Kanaros as a young doctor, Siraphan Wattanajinda (from Dear Dakanda and The Unseeable) as a teacher and veteran actor Somchai Sakdikul.
The Princess is well known for her extensive charity work, and Where the Miracle Happens will benefit her Miracle of Life project to build schools in remote areas.
The director is Siripakorn Wongchariyawat, who is making his directorial debut. His previous credits including working on the art department for Nonzee Nimibutr's Dang Bireley's and the Young Gangsters. He talks about the film in a story in today's Daily Xpress. Here's an excerpt:
“The Princess has always enjoyed helping people. Since losing her son in the tsunami, she wants to do something bigger,” he explains.
“I hope the film will help the audience understand more about the Princess and the project,” he says.
“I realise some people might have preconceived ideas and refuse to see the film. I would ask them to keep an open mind, to come to theatres and if they don’t like the movie, to blame me.”
The director attempts to add credibility to the Princess’ acting abilities by adding some dramatic scenes, such as the one where Nil shouts at the older Pimdao.
“I want to break down some walls. The Princess has worked very hard at her acting. These scenes could not happen unless she believed she was Pimdao at that moment,” says the director.
I understand from reading a story awhile back in Singapore's New Paper (sorry, no link) that the Princess did her own stunts, which includes getting trapped in a burning building. The trailer is at YouTube, and I have posters squirreled away here and here. Production values appear to be top notch, and I think people are going to be surprised.
(Photo of Siripakorn Wongchariyawat courtesy of Oriental Eyes)
Monday, July 28, 2008
Boonchu 9 is the latest film in the teen-comedy series from the 1990s, directed by Bhandit Rittakol from Five Star Production. The trailer from YouTube is embedded above.
I love the posters for Boonchu 9. I think they've captured the look of the posters from the original series.
The original series was about the trials and tribulations of Boonchu (Santisuk Promsiri) and his long-time sweetheart, Mo (Jintara Sukapat). The new film focuses on the story of on Boonchu's son, Boonchoke, played by fresh-faced young actor, Thanachart Tulyachat, following his adventures as he moves from upcountry to attend university in Bangkok. Santisuk and Jintara reprise their roles, now playing worried parents. Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, currently starring in Friendship, can be seen doing a jig while wearing the white mini-skirt uniform of the Chester's fast-food chain -- a bit of product placement for one of the film's sponsors. The humor looks mostly clean and homespun, which is refreshing. But will it attract audiences?
With good reception of the Five Star Remastered release of the Boonchu series on DVD earlier this year, Five Star Production certainly hopes to have a hit on their hands.
Boonchu 9 opens in Thai cinemas on August 28.
(Via Myfivestar's YouTube channel, SiamZone)
During this recent spot of bother for Tony Jaa and his latest movie Ong-Bak 2, Bangkok's English-language press has been silent.
Well, neither the Bangkok Post nor The Nation typically give much coverage to Thai celebrities -- unless they are hi-so singers.
For the most part, politics and business news dominates the pages. It's positively gripping stuff.
And there are other issues with the English-language press as well, which I don't feel like going into at this point.
Because this is a post about Tony, and how I was surprised to find The Nation carried an editorial on Saturday about Tony, referred to in the piece by his given Thai name, Panom Yeerum. Here's an excerpt:
For those not familiar with Thai movies, Panom is the most popular Thai action star of his generation. His films, Ong Bak in particular, became international hits. He was once considered the "next big thing" in international martial-arts movies.
While Panom is obviously a potential action star, it might have been too soon for him to take the director's chair, especially for a movie with a budget on this scale. Bt200 million is considered a massive budget for a Thai movie.
Panom said in March that he received Bt117 million from Sahamongkol Film, which was short of the Bt232 million of the estimated budget.
Panom said he nonetheless managed to shoot 80 per cent of the movie. But now Panom said he didn't feel like working anymore, and would rather wait to straighten out the budget issues with Sahamongkol first.
We hope that the actor-turned-director will be able to sort out the differences with Sahamongkol soon because audiences can hardly wait for the sequel to Ong Bak to hit the screens.
Update: The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee, wearing his hat as correspondent for Variety -- it's a fedora with a card that says "press" stuck in the hatband -- reported on Friday night's press conference with Sahamongkol head honcho Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert, Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai and other company officials. Variety published the report on Monday. Here's an excerpt:
"I guarantee that this is not a case of financial fraud, and I have no intention of pursuing any legal action against [Jaa]," Techaratanaprasert said. "We're running behind schedule, and some of our international contracts have been cancelled because of that. I know he loves this film very much, so I just want him to finish the film because there's only a little work left."
Prachya Pinkaew, who directed the first Ong-bak and Tom-yum-goong (shown as The Protector in the U.S.), confirmed that he will step in to edit the footage and maybe direct the rest of the movie.
"Jaa has little experience directing," said Pinkaew. "He's spent nearly $7.8 million. The film is almost finished, so I'll try to see what I can do with the footage that he's shot."
I think Tony has shown a real flair in his first outing behind the camera for capturing action in a frame, judging from the flabbergasting showreel that premiered at the Cannes Film Market. But he needs the guiding hand of experienced producers -- people like his old director Prachya and his old mentor and action choreographer Panna, both veteran filmmakers who were involved in shaping Tony's career. But Tony drifted away from them because he wanted more creative control -- control he clearly could not handle alone.
He also could have used a script, apparently, so he wouldn't have to go off to a cave and meditate, or sacrifice a live chicken in order to make decisions about how to shoot a scene.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Thai actor/director Tony Jaa is lucky his bosses at Sahamongkol Films (SF) - which is financing his period martial arts epic, Ong-Bak 2 - are so accommodating.
Sia Jiang, the firm's boss, says he regards Tony Jaa as his son. He had no intention of taking legal action against him for fleeing the set of the big-budget movie. He just wanted him to come back and finish the film.
According to some Thai press reports, tears welled in Sia Jiang's eyes as he talked about Tony Jaa, the young man from Surin with whom he entrusted the job of making the sequel to his 2003 martial arts spectacular, Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior.
Sia was accompanied by his son Akarapol Techaratanaprasert, Ong-Bak 2's producer, Panna Rittikrai, and the director of the first Ong Bak movie, Prachya Pinkaew, whom Sia has asked to finish work on the movie in time for a Dec 5 release date.
'He is like my son. What good would suing him do? He claims he loves this movie. In that case, why doesn't he come back and finish it,' asked Sia Jiang.
A video of the press conference is at Manager Online. The rest of Bkkdreamer's summary is on his blog.
(Photo of Sia Jiang from Manager Online)
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Produced by DeWarrenne Pictures and directed by Thomas Clay, the Anglo-Thai production garnered mixed reviews for its bifurcated structure -- similar to Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films -- with the first half in black and white and the second half in color. The first half is about a western man and his pregnant Thai prostitute girlfriend, and the couple's strained relationship. The second half casts the same characters in different roles in a crime drama. The film has also been compared to the works of David Lynch.
A new review has turned up at an Indian site, Passion for Cinema, where the writer reviewed a screener DVD. Here's the summation:
Thomas Clay’s Soi Cowboy dilutes and rejects the conventional narrative and straightforward realism. It does not delve in a simplistic causality and neither uses the term of ‘beginning’ or ‘end’. The protagonists and personages exist and act with complete uncertainty like they would do in real life. There are no simple explanations given to us or any formulae of logic. The ‘pseudo realism’ of commercial cinema is left aside for poetic interpretation and modern visual art. Soi Cowboy destroys the hegemony of the plot and the linear narrative structure.
Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior is a martial-arts fantasy from Phranakorn. Directed by Sakchai Sriboonnak, it stars Sornram Theppitak and Yardtip Rajpal. Comic actor Kotee Aramboy has a supporting role and looks to be exploring his dramatic chops.
The story involves the "blood battle of the supernatural animals", whose spirits are reborn in modern-day warriors. Sornram plays a guy who has the spirit of Hanuman, the monkey god. One of the bad guys is a westerner actor Damian Mavis, who has the tiger spirit. That explains his strange haircut. Mavis has acted in many other Thai action films, most recently in Somtum. Another cast member from Somtum, 7-foot-tall Conan Stevens, is also in the cast
The trailer reveals a lot of CGI and wirework, though I don't really get a sense of the fighting.
The music's cool, though. And there's a music video.
Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior opens in Thai cinemas on August 12.
- Stills from Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior
- Action from Phranakorn Films: Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior
(Via 24 Frames per Second, Phranakornfilm YouTube channel)
Friday, July 25, 2008
According to the stories, Tony has been feeling stressed by running his own Iyara Film Company and directing and starring in his own film. He walked off the set of Ong-Bak 2 two months ago to go on a retreat in the jungle.
Executive producer Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert and Sahamongkol Film International had budgeted Ong-Bak 2 at 100 million baht, but it has gone over budget by three times that amount, the reports say.
Prachya Pinkaew, Tony's director on Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong, has been brought in to salvage Ong-Bak 2. As rumors have it, Prachya and Tony had a falling out over Tony's decision to direct the film himself. But with about 70 to 80 percent of the film completed, they still need Tony to act in the scenes, unless they use stunt doubles, CGI or cardboard heads like they did to finish Bruce Lee's last film Game of Death.
Meanwhile, Tony's mentor Panna Rittikrai was dispatched to hunt for Tony and try to get the production back on track. Panna is said to have met with Tony once or twice, with no solution reached. After that, Tony was in the wind. Panna went looking in the actor's favorite meditation caves, but turned up no sign of him.
But Tony's family in Surin Province saw him during Buddhist Lent last week, and they denied he was in the forest practicing black magic, as reports have suggested.
And actress Bongkot "Tak" Kongmalai, who co-starred with Tony in Tom Yum Goong, said she'd been in contact with him by phone, and that he was fine.
Akarapol "Joe" Techaratanaprasert, son of executive producer Sia Jiang, is quoted as saying that Jaa didn't disappear - he asked for time away to contemplate martial-arts moves and stunts for the film's big ending climactic scenes.
But Bangkok of the Mind has a more sensational report from Thai Rath, Thailand's biggest mass-circulation daily, which has a reporter meeting Jaa at a "safe house". A newspaper photo has Tony looking grim-faced, clutching a bundle of documents, I guess as proof of his money troubles.
He denies he's stopped working on the film. And he denies he's spent 300 million baht. He says the movie was budgeted at 232 million baht, but he's only received 117 million baht.
Sahamongkol has cut him off, Jaa says, so he used his own money to pay workers on the set, and has gone broke in the process. He's behind in his mortgage, and his electricity is disconnected. "He sought out a quiet place to figure a way out of his problems," Bangkok of the Mind says.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Set during World War II, Cusack plays an American spy investigating the death of a friend in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. He uncovers a conspiracy and he becomes entangled in a triangle romance involving a local woman (Gong Li) and a mobster (Chow Yun Fat).
The production is making use of old-timey backdrops in Chachoengsao outside of Bangkok, as well as the colonial-style Hualumphong Railway Terminal in Bangkok.
The film is directed by Mikael Hafstrom.
An action-packed film, stunts are being coordinated by Vic Armstrong, an industry veteran who has doubled James Bond and Indiana Jones. Armstrong has some thoughts about Bangkok and the Thai film industry on his blog. He's pictured with Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai and Kawee Sirikhanaerut. The Weinstein Company's Bey Logan can't pass up another chance to make a film in Bangkok, so Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, and Logan writes about him too.
Some blurry photos by hangers-on around the shooting locations have turned up over at Pantip.com.
Shanghai had been slated to actually shoot in Shanghai, but The Weinstein Company had its permits taken away by the Chinese government, which was said to have been wary of the film, due to the controversial time period it is set in. Shanghai then packed up and moved. It's also used London as a location. The film is set for release on Christmas Day in the US.
(Via Kaiju Shakedown)
The four-segment horror anthology 4bia won the third-place bronze award in the Public’s Prizes voting for Best Asian Film at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
The gold prize went to Tokyo Gore Police by Yoshiro Nishimura while Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django took the silver -- interesting company for the often-subtle portmanteau horror-thriller from Thailand.
Veteran director Yongyooth Thongkongtoon led the other three directors -- Banjong Pisanthanakul, Parkpoom Wongpoom and Paween Puritpanya -- to Montreal for the screenings. He is quoted in today's Daily Xpress:
I'm very glad and felt relief when the audience applauded and greeted us when the film finished," he said. "They were eager to ask questions about the film."
I know when I spoke to Yongyooth last week at The Dark Knight IMAX premiere in Bangkok, he was so jazzed that 4bia was in the festival.
Fantasia began on July 3 and wrapped up on Monday. In all, five Thai films were selected for the annual genre fest, which is North America's largest. Along with 4Bia, Banjong's and Parkpoom's Alone was showing, as was one more from Grammy Tai Hub: Handle Me With Care. Two other films were from Five Star Production: Art of the Devil 3 and Muay Thai Chaiya.
(Info via Twitch and festival website; photo by Daily Xpress/Penprapar Rodklai; from left: Yongyooth, Parkpoom, Paween and Banjong)
In a story loosely based on his book, boxer Dida Diafat stars as an ex-con who learned Thai boxing in a French prison, and upon his release, came to Thailand to enroll in a Muay Thai academy.
The DVD was released in the U.K. last month, and now DVD Times has a review. Here's an excerpt:
He has to start at the bottom, cleaning toilets before he can earn the respect of his teachers and peers, who are evidently suspicious of a foreigner in their midst. What do you reckon the chances are that he’ll gain that respect and go on to greater things? You can admire the smooth efficiency of the film’s as the storyline falls into place, but at the same time it’s predictable and consequently it holds no dramatic tension whatsoever – you know that despite the minor setbacks he suffers along the way, his determination and dedication, not to mention his vow to his poor mother, will see him through.
The Thai cast includes Florence Vanida Faivre from Siam Renaissance. She plays a love interest for the protagonist. And Sombat Metanee figures in there somewhere too. The director is Xavier Durringer.
The disc is a Region 0 release, with the original French-English-Thai soundtrack that offers English subs on everything but the English dialogue. Or there's an English dub track that dubbed everything but the Thai, so they offer subtitles for those bits.
The U.K. DVD release of Chok Dee follows a festival screening in May at the Tiger Far East Film Festival in London.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Chocolate will make its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the Midnight Madness roster.
It's the first Thai film announced for this year's TIFF, the biggest film festival in North America. Thai films that have played at Midnight Madness in the past have included Ong-Bak, Buppha Rahtree and Bangkok Loco. The festival's synopsis continues:
The 2003 Midnight Madness screening of Ong-Bak Muay Thai Warrior heralded action superstar Tony Jaa as the first internationally recognized celebrity from Thailand – an overdue feat considering the nation’s long cinematic history.
Director Prachya Pinkaew and action choreographer Panna Rittikrai ushered in a new era of action cinema featuring no-holds-barred, full-contact fight sequences matched with death-defying stunts, and left bruises all over the genre. Five years later, Pinkaew and Rittikrai unveil a new action discovery: twenty-four-year-old Jija Yanin, the delicate yet deadly star of Chocolate, who seems destined to join other “femmes of fury” like Angela Mao, Michelle Yeoh and Kara Hui.
With fluid combat moves that emerge as second nature, Zen leaves a trail of cracked and broken limbs, placing her in sight of the vicious gang that her mother has tried to leave behind.
In a manner that echoes Ong-Bak, the plot serves to propel Jija through creative set pieces and acrobatic razzle-dazzle. Already a black belt in taekwondo, which she began studying at the age of eleven, Jija trained in Muay Thai boxing for two years even prior to filming Chocolate. Tackling the role chanting the “no stunt double” mantra, she endured nasty bruises and cuts during the arduous filming regimen, as is revealed in a montage of wince-inducing outtakes at the film’s conclusion.
Prepare to cheer the return of Muay Thai Midnight Madness, but be ready to duck from Jija’s flurry of feet, knees, shins and fists.
Additional screenings of Chocolate will be announced on August 26. Anyway, this is a pretty big deal for Chocolate, and now I can understand why there's been a delay in getting it to English-friendly DVD.
(Via Bloody Disgusting)
Aditya Assarat's romantic drama received one of two Silver Apricots. The other went to Lemon Tree by Israeli director Eran Ricklies.
The Golden Apricot for Best Feature Film was awarded to Russian director Anna Melikian’s Mermaid. A Jury Special Diploma went to End of the Earth by Abolfazl Saffari from Iran.
Wonderful Town, by the way, has been playing at New York's Anthology Film Archives. The show ends on Thursday (July 24). Brian N. has written a review at Subway Cinema News.
(Via AZG Armenian Daily, festival website)
Tony Jaa is having money problems, according to a report by Kom Chad Luek newspaper, as translated on the TonyJaa.org message board.
With Ong-Bak 2 70 percent completed and set for a December 4 release, Tony's Iyara Film Company has not paid workers for three months, and water and electricity bills and house payments are also in arrears, according to the story.
The article is by Kom Chad Luek columnist Nanthaphorn Waisayasuwan. Kom Chad Luek is the mass-circulation daily newspaper put out by Nation Multimedia. If it were one of the gossip tabloids, I'm not so sure the folks at the TonyJaa.org forums would have bothered to translate the story. The columnist continues:
From one of my close friends, I was told that these past three months Tony Jaa has been so miserable that he decided to relieve his stress in temple or in shaman house.
What his stress is all about? Shouldn’t he feel free after Sia Jiang opened Iyara Film Company for him to spend time on administration and to manage his directorial affairs?
What makes the honest heart of this guy from Surin bear with great misery?
I heard that he has been bored and tired of people who came to exploit him or dishonestly use him. The situation lasts for a very long time. Therefore, he finally turns to those things he considers sacred.
I think of a popular boxer in the past, Saeb Saensak Muang Surin (aka the Hard Left Fist), who used to be in this situation.
It will be so regrettable if Tony Jaa walks the same track of that boxer.
Sia Jiang, please turn to help this beloved son again!
Where has all the money gone? Didn't he make anything on Ong-Bak and Tom Yum Goong? What about promotional appearances? The article says he was paid 30 million baht to be the presenter for Mitsubishi truck ads in a campaign last year.
Oh there were other gigs, too, like his position as official Culture Representative for Thailand. Or the Award for Best Action Actor from last year's inaugural Global Chinese Martial Arts Presentation Ceremony. Or how about that television commercial to promote Thai longan exports? But I don't suppose he was paid for any of those.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Much of the review is spent trying to unconfuse people about its confusing chronology. It's the third film in the Art of the Devil series, but is only related to the storyline of the second film, hence it's name Long Khong 2. But even more confusing, it's a prequel to Long Khong. And it's not related at all to the first film, Kon Len Khong.
Still confused? Well, then take to heart this bit of advice from Stefan:
But watching Long Khong 2, I felt one would be better off in having no background knowledge from the previous film, and approach this clean.
Thanks in large part I think to the graphic posters and the fierce trailer, the film series has gained a reputation for goriness. Unfortunately for Singaporeans, the gore has been cleansed. Stefan has more:
Unfortunately for us in Singapore, despite its R21 rating, we still get this in edited format. Worse, these jarring cuts were made usually at the final moments of a black magic delivery, cutting away most of the gore that audiences turned up in droves for. Even the movie's climatic scene as suggested in the trailers, the one involving pins and the human eye, doesn't get spared the censor's scissors, and what's left intact of course were the more tamer sequences that even made Final Destination look better. And you'd have to wait quite a while before sorcery gets used, and when it got delivered in edited mode, you can't help but to feel short changed. Some deja-vu moments courtesy from scenes covered in the earlier movie didn't help too, making this feel like it's running on repeat.
This is one movie that the trailer had made it to be more frightening that it actually was, but for those curious to want to see this despite the edits, heed my advice - if you've watched Long Khong, rent the DVD to watch it again just before you watch Long Khong 2, but if you haven't, then forget it and watch this first, before the previous movie.
- Art of the Devil 3, Muay Thai Chaiya announced for Fantastic Fest
- Deal tied up for Art of the Devil remake
- Art of the Devil 3 attacks the box office
- Extended gore-filled trailer, uncensored scenes for Art of the Devil 3
- Three new posters for Art of the Devil 3
- English-subtitled trailer for Art of the Devil 3
- This is torture: Art of the Devil 3 trailer
- Upcoming Thai film: Art of the Devil 3
- Official website
I haven't seen Friendship, the romantic drama starring Mario Maurer from The Love of Siam and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk from Ploy. Though I liked Hormones, I simply haven't been in the mood to watch another romance film. So I've been putting off seeing Friendship.
The first production effort from Right Beyond, which has been around for years as a distribution company, Friendship hasn't fared very well since it opened on July 2, the same day as Hancock. It doesn't even show up in the totals at Box Office Mojo. The reason for that, I've learned (thank you Thomat), is that studios and distributors are responsible for submitting their numbers to Box Office Mojo, and Right Beyond apparently wasn't clued in or simply elected not to provide their totals. Oh, why isn't there an unbiased central authority in Thailand for reporting of things like box-office figures, DVD rentals and music sales?
In Friendship, singer-actor Jay Jetrin Wattanasin portrays a guy who is obsessed with finding the whereabouts of his high-school crush. The action then flashes back to his schoolboy days, during which he's played by Mario. Saipan Apinya is his love object.
The posters and trailer make the film look gauzy and light, like a romantic comedy. The storyline, and casting of Chalermpon "Jack" Thikumpornteerawon, recalls Fan Chan. But this is not Fan Chan and it's not a comedy. In fact, it is a drama and is quite grim. Bangkok of the Mind has a spoiler-filled, blow-by-blow, graphic account of it. Read it if you dare.
Here's a bit of what Bkkdreamer has to say about it (spoiler free):
Friendship, which is Mario's second movie, appears to have bombed. The company which made it, Right Beyond Films, will say it clashed with big Hollywood titles such as Hancock, so did not have a chance to shine. The truth may be more prosaic: audiences just didn't like it.
The film met with lukewarm reviews. More importantly, it created almost no Internet buzz. I can find half a dozen posts at the popular Pantip board, written by Thais who have seen it. Compare that with the hundreds written in praise of Mario's first film, the gay coming-of-age drama, Love of Siam.
This is another case of a film not finding its audience because of misleading posters and marketing. And anyone who went to see the film expecting a comedy came away sorely disappointed. The same thing happened when the gay angle of Love of Siam was concealed, though fans quickly rallied around Love, once word of mouth spread about its fabulousness. A better example might be 2004's Ai-Fak, which was marketed as a sexy romantic comedy but was actually a tragic downer.
Knowing the full brutal nature of Friendship, I am actually kind of curious to see it. I'd better hurry, though. It's fast disappearing from Bangkok cinemas.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The 17th St. George Bank Brisbane International Film Festival has a program of Thai films called "Meteorites: Thai Cinema on the Move" featuring Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy and Wisit Sasanatieng's The Unseeable.
Those are the usual films being shown at festivals around the world this year. But in a bit of a departure from most other festivals, Brisbane has also acquired four Thai short films.
Uruphong Raksasad's The Rocket is packaged with some other shorts from other countries. And Uruphong's The Planet is packaged with The Unseeable, as is A Voyage of Foreteller by Jakrawal Nilthamrong.
And Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Anthem will purify the sound system ahead of Ploy.
What a great idea to package the shorts with the features. I wonder if the programmers had intended to also get Apichatpong's short called Meteorites?
(Via comments by Hobby, photo of Uruphong Raksasad's The Rocket)
Ahead of August 21 Thai release of The Coffin, the Thai website (www.longtortai.com) has gone live and has the international trailer embedded.
The story is based on a true Thai ritual called non loeng sadorcro (literally "lie in coffin, get rid of bad luck"), in which adherents sleep in coffins in hopes of changing their bad karma.
The film features a Pan-Asian ensemble cast that includes Ananda Everingham and Hong Kong actress Karen Mok. Ananda portrays a claustrophic architect whose Japanese fiancee (Aki Shibuya) is dying of brain cancer, while Mok's character, a nutritionist from Hong Kong, has been diagnosed with cancer one week before her wedding. The storylines intertwine as the two main characters take part in the morbid ritual.
Malaysian journalist Philip Golingai, Bangkok-based reporter for The Star newspaper in Kuala Lumpur, has written an article about The Coffin, based largely on his watching that freaky trailer. He interviewed writer-director Ekachai Uekrongtham.
It is a story that I was keen to tell as it deals with one of my greatest fears – death. Not so much my death but the death of my loved ones,” explained Ekachai, who also directed Beautiful Boxer.
His intrigue with the ritual began three years ago when he read an article in a Thai newspaper about thousands of people attending a death ritual for the living.
“How was it possible that you have to go so ‘near’ to death in order to prolong your life? It seems like a contradiction,” he said, adding that at that time he also had difficulties in dealing with his father’s death.
The interview goes on to explain how the ritual evolved from the practice of purchasing coffins to donate to the poor -- a form of merit-making.
Ekachai says he spoke to many of the adherents.
Many participants felt as if they were reborn after the ritual – with all their bad karma buried behind them,” Ekachai said. “Some claimed that the ritual helped fool the spirits that they’re already dead so they could start their new lives afresh like newborns.”
In his interviews with believers, Ekachai said some told him that they met the spirit of their dead loved ones while they were lying in the coffin. “They told me that they made a connection with the dead,” he said.
The scriptwriter also went through the archives of a Thai TV station, watching a documentary of a man – with a serious heart problem – who even his doctor gave up on his chances for recovery.
“The man claimed after going through the ritual he recovered gradually. And since then he performed the ritual annually,” he added.
The Coffin has already opened in South Korea, where it started playing on July 10. I'd like to know how it's been doing, but am having trouble locating any box-office records for South Korea, since a couple of the usual sources have not been updated in several weeks.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Last year, the inaugural Phuket Film Festival was held in October, but the second edition of that festival won't be held this year. Organizer Scott Rosenberg says he's taking a hiatus, given the already tight regional filmgoing calendar - Pusan is happening around that time too - and the dismal outlook for Thailand's tourism-based economy.
Tentatively, dates for the next Phuket Film Festival have been set for June 4 to 11, 2009. "I have always advised that the beginning of June is the best time for a film festival in Thailand," Scott says in an e-mail. "Cannes is just ending and many film industry folk slip into the high-end spas in the Kingdom to chill anyway."
Also, the Shanghai International Film Festival is in mid-June, so more film-festival professionals might swing through Thailand "as they make the circuit".
Additionally, the Phuket Film Festival might move to the Coliseum Cinemas in Phuket town, instead of being held at Jungceylon on Patong Beach. The plan is to show around 50 to 60 features, documentaries and shorts, with an alternative lifestyle section, Scott says. There will be a focus on film preservation and as well as new section on networking between Thailand's film production services and film-industry VIPs with an aim towards showing off filming locations in Phuket and southern Thailand.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Nathan Lee, writing for The New York Times, reviews Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town, which has started a week-long run at New York's Anthology Film Archives. As Wonderful Town unspools for the eyes of the world's elite film critics, the comparisons between Aditya's film and the works of compatriot Apichatpong Weerasethakul are going to be more frequent.
Here's an excerpt from Lee's review:
Mr. Assarat shelters this budding romance with surpassingly lovely filmmaking, easing into and out of scenes with an unrushed tempo that lets each emotion, thought and subtle effect flower, then fade away. His frames are meticulous without being fussy and his camera movements suave and suggestive, delineating the sentiment of the moment with precision and grace.
You could call such camerawork Jamesian, for the elegance with which it traces the contours of experience — or perhaps, given the context, Apichatpongian is the better term. The mellow bliss and aesthetic delicacy of Wonderful Town recall the work of the ingenious Thai cinéaste Apichatpong Weerasethakul, creator of idiosyncratic romances like Tropical Malady and Syndromes and a Century. Mr. Assarat shares with his compatriot an elegant, intuitive ease coupled with prodigious formal control, though of a less experimental bent than his better-known colleague.
As in one of Mr. Weerasethakul’s beguiling narratives, where time and space are mercurial creatures and mythical beasts pad through the forest, the air in Wonderful Town feels charged with weird energies, as if something strange and possibly menacing is about to erupt. And so it does, in a single word, uttered by Na in pillow talk with Ton: “Tsunami.”
For whatever reason, I didn't want to draw comparisons between the works of Apitchatpong and Aditya when I reviewed Wonderful Town. But they were being made by Thai critics in conversations outside the Bangkok press screening, with one pundit quipping it's "Apichatpong lite" and pointing to a motorcycle-riding scene in Wonderful Town that was similiar to one Tropical Malady (and I've since noticed is a staple of every single Thai romance film).
He's been doing enticing things at Rotterdam, last year organizing "Happy Endings: When Festivals Are Over", which offered a DVD bazaar, a performance by a punk band during a silent-film screening and a futsal tournament inside a cinema. Next year he is planning another experimental sidebar event called "Haunted House", in which he plans to screen Southeast Asian horror films. Zuilhof was in Bangkok last week to ask Thai film directors to contribute.
The interview touches on the differences between Asian and Western horror, as well as the glut of Asian horror films and the "Hollywood fad" of remaking those films. Here's more (cache):
To me the specific quality of Southeast Asian horrors is the fact that the people who make them and the people who watch them actually believe in ghosts - not necessarily the ghosts on the screen, but the ghosts in their daily lives, or from childhood experiences, or from a story they've been told," says Zuilhof, who tours the region every year looking for new movies.
"This is a huge different from the European and American audiences, who see horror films for their stories, but it's not in the culture and actually traditionally forbidden by the religion. The Christian Church, for example, doesn't allow you to believe in anything else besides Jesus Christ and God - maybe in angels and saints. The devil is not a ghost in the same sense as an Asian ghost - the idea that your dead ancestors are still present. It's a very important idea, and it's totally absent in the West."
"The Hollywood remakes always change the ending, and the ghost is either conquered or gone, and there's a hope at the end," he says. "But if you believe in ghosts, they don't go away, and at best you can only live in peace with them.
"The excitement of Asian people when they watch ghost films, I believe, is connected to their inner beliefs. For Western audiences, it's all about action and violence. It's all about getting scared."
With a severely slashed budget, and the role of past organizer the Tourism Authority of Thailand reduced to that of the main sponsor, the Federation of National Film Associations and the Thai Film Directors Assocation take over the running of the fest. NFAT chairman Jaruek Kanjaruek, who's also the head of Kantana Group, is the festival president. Youngyooth Thongkonthun, president of the directors' association, will be the artistic director. Film selection is being handled by filmmaker Pimpaka Towira, who programmed the old Nation Multimedia-sponsored Bangkok Film Festival in 2000. Kong writes (cache):
In short, the TAT will take a back seat and let the industry people, through FNFAT and the directors' association, handle the country's biggest, and most historically troubled, movie event.
The story goes on to mention the bribery scandal, which has seen no recent developments, and the festival's budget history, from a star-struck high of 180 million baht to 80 million baht last year. This year, the TAT will contribute 20 million baht, with the FNFAT trying to find sponsors to kick in some more funds.
The festival is set for September 23 to 30 at CentralWorld, with additional seminars and the awards banquet scheduled at Bangkok's new Pullman Hotel. The fest will coincide with the Commerce Ministry's inaugural Bangkok Entertainment Expo, which will be held from September 24 to 28 at Bitec on Bangna-Trad Highway.
The spread-out nature of the two events will surely be a cause of criticism.
In a column in The Nation today, theater critic Pawit Mahasarinand issues the call for a multi-genre arts festival in Bangkok (cache).
He points to such events in Bangkok as the recent La Fete French cultural festival and the Italian Festival, which organized dance, theater and music performances, art exhibits, food fairs and film screenings. Why not something like that as a spotlight for Thai arts? And, how about attracting filmgoers to dance performances, or electronic music fans to art shows? Pawit continues:
In fact, extra effort needs to be put now into overcoming our biases and taking risks. Despite the multi-genre nature of these festivals, most of us stuck to the venues and types of performances with which we were already familiar. Movie buffs went to the film festival component held at a famous cinema; classical music and dance aficionados attended symphony concerts and dance performances at Thailand Cultural Centre; and little less. I usually arrived at the latter venue about an hour ahead of curtain time to make sure there was a parking space. As such, during these festivals, I wish I had better options open for me to kill time, like a relevant visual arts exhibition to browse at my leisure, rather than chatting and socialising.
The festival organiser could have further pitched in by holding more than one event genre at one single venue on one day. It may sound like a buffet, but with the fuel price rising indefinitely as it is, we need to see as many selections as possible before making a decision and without feeling overstuffed. And this has already happened - not at an arts centre, but at a shopping centre which has both movie houses and open areas for concerts and visual arts exhibitions, as well as other commercial distractions.
A new documentary by ThaiIndie filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul, This Area Is Under Quarantine, will premiere at Makhampom Studio at 7.30pm on August 27.
Makhampom Studio is an experimental theater space in Bangkok. It's at the Saphan Kwai intersection, behind the police box, and near the Saphan Kwai Skytrain station.
(Via Matthew Hunt)
The gore-filled occult romantic drama and the gritty boxing picture, both from Five Star Production, are among the early titles announced for the genre fest at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. It's scheduled for September 18 to 25.
(Via Twitch, Quiet Earth, Cinematical)
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Apichatpong Weerasethakul showed his short film Vampire last week at the Alliance Francaise in Bangkok as part of the proceedings for his being awarded the Chevalier l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government.
The film was made for Louis Vuitton and is part of LV's Travelling show until August 31 at the Louis Vuitton Space. Other shorts are by Belgian director Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Anglo-Italian filmmaker Eduardo Winspeare and Chile's Carmen Castillo.
Parinyaporn Payee, writing for the Daily Xpress, talked to Apichatpong about Vampire. Here's most of the story from today's edition:
Set on the Thai-Burmese border, Vampire follows a refugee from Shan State as he hunts the nok phii – the ghost bird – which is believed to feed on other animals’ blood.
It’s 19 minutes of crawling through a jungle illuminated only by flashlight, with varying perceptions emerging of the hunter and his prey.
Apichatpong says he took the point of view of Vuitton as a modern colonist, although “that doesn’t mean I judge them as good or evil”.
The company executives took his critical view in stride.
“They separate the brand from the institution that supports artists. They have a spirit of acceptance that proved to be a good experience for me.”
Vampire ties in with the installation project Apichatpong is developing in Isaan. It symbolises the communism that is now extinct in Thailand, he says, and of course the Northeast was the focus for the government’s anti-communist efforts during the Cold War.
“Conceptually communism is good,” he says. “I’m interested in what happened in Thai society during that era, when communism was widely seen as an evil.”
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Lyn's Lakorn Blog, now back on track after a recent, traumatizing and disruptive host change, has turned up some positively goofy production stills from Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior, an action drama from Phranakorn Film.
I didn't have high expectations for this film. In fact, I'm not sure I had any expectations at all. Now I am sure. I just don't know what to say. So I'll let Lyn do the talking:
What the!!! And they call themselves villains? The one dude looks like he has a rag over his head and the other guy just looks mentally retarded with his triangular face tattoos. Umm ... you don’t scare me. You just look like a guy who totally got wasted one night and decided to get a stupid tattoo. Smart villains want to blend in with society and stupid villains just get face tattoos that makes it look obvious.
Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior stars Sornram Theppitak and actress Yardtip Rajpal. Both have been in the news recently.
Sornram was recently heckled by anti-Thaksin protesters when the actor-singer gave a mini-concert at a department store in Sing Buri. The Daily Xpress had an article about it, but better reading is to be had at Bkkdreamer's blog, which details the background as to why Sornram was being heckled.
While Sornram has been met with protests, his co-star Yardthip has been collecting accolades, being recently named the FHM Sexiest Woman in Thailand 2008.
Hanuman: The White Monkey Warrior will be released on August 12.