The Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival's lineup has been posted, and among the 60-plus action, horror and fantasy films is 4Bia and Queens of Langkasuka.
GTH's 4Bia is already a fixture on the festival circuit, and it's a great addition to the BIFFF schedule, but I'm even more pleased to see Nonzee Nimibutr's Queens of Langkasuka added to a festival where I think it will find an appreciative audience.
Here's the BIFFF synopsis for Queens of Langkasuka:
It is not easy to be a queen. You have to face attempts of takeovers instigated by nasty rebels and ugly pirates, masters of martial art and black magicians. Black Raven, the pirate in question, is fixated on salvaging two big cannon from the bottom of the sea. But Queen Hijau doesn’t seem to agree and sends her two daughters to a remote fishing village to find the cannon’s inventor, with the pirates hot on their heels. Fortunately, one of the villagers is Pari, a young hero schooled in the arts of Dulum, the magic to control the creatures of the ocean. He has a grudge to settle with the pirates and is ready to do those beautiful princesses a favour.
Queens of Langkasuka is the most expensive Thai film ever made and it oozes from every image [comment: no it isn't -- much more was spent on Chatrichalerm's Suriyothai and Naresuan epics]. The sumptuous production design, the magnificent costumes and the dazzling action fill up the screen from start to finish. The film has the same nostalgic charm of classics such as Sinbad the Sailor and director Nonzee Nimibutr (Nang Nak) manages to keep everything nicely under control. Sorcery and sword fights, fairytale romance, beautiful underwater photography and epic battles are the essential ingredients for two entertaining hours of magic and fantasy.
The stated budget figure for Queens of Langkasuka has been around 200 million baht, while around 300 million baht was spent on Ong-Bak 2. And it's anybody's guess how many hundreds of millions MC Chatrichalerm Yukol has actually spent on his Suriyothai and Naresuan epics.
However, it's safe to say that Queens is Nonzee's most ambitious, biggest-budget film yet. And it is indeed a spectacle, if not for the action and award-winning costumes, but also for the star-studded cast that includes Jarunee Suksawat, Ananda Everingham, Dan Chupong, Winai Kraibutr, Sorapong Chatree and Jesdaporn Pholdee.
Reception for Queens at Cannes and Venice last year was mixed, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and am hopeful it will play well at more genre fests. I also hope it gets picked up for international distribution so that there's an English-friendly DVD release.
The Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival runs from April 9 to 21.