Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A look at Nang Mai: Cannes Version

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nang Mai (Nymph): Cannes Version is playing in a limited run in two Bangkok cinemas. It's 15-minutes longer than the new 90-minute edit that's being called the Director's Cut.

There are things to like about both versions, though I suppose if pressed I would probably say the Director's Cut is an improvement.

Aside from running time and the absence of a score, the chief difference is that in the Cannes Version it takes longer for Nop and May to actually reach the forest. Nop, the old-school shutterbug, is seen gathering film and photo paper and borrowing a tent from the photography shop owner. Also, the drive to the woods is longer, and is broken up by an overnight stay in a hotel.

In the hotel room, there's a movie on TV. Though the sound is weirdly muffled, I'm pretty sure the movie being broadcast is Wisit Sasanatieng's The Unseeable, making the second time Pen-ek has cheekily referenced one of Wisit's films. In Monrak Transistor, it was Tears of the Black Tiger being shown at a temple fair by a travelling salesman who dubbed all the voices.

I enjoyed these extended scenes, and thought they fleshed out Nop's character a bit more.

There's also a scene involving May's lover Korn and his wife, but it is easily the most cuttable.

And in the Director's Cut, the May and Nop get to the forest faster -- just a short drive and they're there. And that's a good thing, because the forest is where the action is.

Overall, it's the absence of the score that makes for the starkest contrast between the two versions. For the Cannes Version, the forest provides its own effectively creepy soundtrack, with the ominous creaking wood foreshadowing bad things to come. But the score in the Director's Cut is so unobtrusive, it isn't really missed until there's no score at all.

Aside from English subtitles, a wishful feature for a DVD would be an option to watch the film with and without the score, along with those deleted scenes.

Nang Mai: Cannes Version is playing at SFW CentralWorld and Paragon Cineplex. Elsewhere, it's the Director's Cut, which is the new final version that will be shipped out to film festivals.

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