Monday, June 15, 2009

Pen-ek and the backlash against art films

Art films don't tend to do well in Thai cinemas. And Thailand's bigger studios try to avoid making them. Recently, one big-name producer was able to convince a studio head to give a greenlight only after he ensured the exec that his director's project wasn't an art film.

Then there's Pen-ek Ratanaruang, who's had the support of Thai studio Five Star Production (and international arthouse nurturers Fortissimo Films) in making a string of challenging dramas -- Last Life in the Universe, Invisible Waves, Ploy and now Nymph (Nang Mai), which have enjoyed varying degrees of critical acclaim on the international arthouse circuit but haven't been considered commercial successes in Thailand.

And even among crowds that have been arthouse friendly, there seems to be a growing backlash. Pen-ek addresses this in the Good Morning Bangkok blurb on the cover of today's Daily Xpress:

From my observations of the Cannes festival, I see an alarming trend that art films are under threat. People patient enough to see these films are ageing and dying. The new generation of audience have short attention spans: they are used to fast-paced content provided by the likes of YouTube and video games. They just can't spend one-and-a-half hours to two hours on a film. So, films may have to be 60-80 minutes in length to respond to the new trend. It leaves us filmmakers with a fresh challenge -- how to serve the fast generation and how to adapt to the change.

So with a faster-pace and a shorter running time in mind, Pen-ek confirms he's editing a more-concise version of Nymph that'll be geared for the multiplex crowds. It's being marketed as a horror film. I've been seeing the Thai trailer on the big screen and it looks gorgeous, even if it is a bit loud and jumpy.

There are plans to show the more meditatively paced international arthouse version of Nymph in a limited number of cinemas in Thailand at the same time the horror edit is released. Nymph is due out on July 1.


  1. "People patient enough to see these films"

    well, if you talk like this about your own kind of implying yourself that they are boring.... just my 2 cents

    and also: you cant blame production houses for not wanting to produce movies that are not viable commercially. business is business!

  2. Well, I read a few Cannes reviews of Nymph in various trade journals and they weren't too favorable. And don't get me started on Invisible Waves.

    Pan-ek should follow Steve Soderbergh's strategy. Make commercially-viable films interspersed with personal ones. This way you'll remain in favor with the production companies AND get to maintain your artistic integrity.


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