Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร, Fah Talai Jone) was the movie that did it for me. It's the reason I started this blog.
I first saw Tears of the Black Tiger during a visit to Bangkok in October of 2000. I was living in Phnom Penh at the time and came to Bangkok for a weekend to chill out and watch movies, because there were no proper cinemas playing movies in Phnom Penh at the time. I actually saw Black Tiger back-to-back with another Asian film that really impressed me, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, at the old United Artists multiplex at the Emporium.
But it was Tears of the Black Tiger that knocked my socks off and kept me wondering why the heck some director in Thailand would make a cowboy movie. Why was it so colorful? Why was it so melodramatic? What was it about the film that kept me thinking about it? It's one of my favorite movies of all time.
A year later, I moved to Bangkok, and a couple years later, after searching for information about Thai films on the Internet and not finding much, except perhaps Thai World View, I started blogging as a means of collating the data and contributing to the effort. I also spent a lot of time on the Wikipedia entry for Tears of the Black Tiger, and even though it's not a "good" article, I think it's okay.
I'm still not sure I know why I'm so passionate about Tears of the Black Tiger and Thai films in general. I just am that's all.
To celebrate the 10 years since Tears of the Black Tiger, and to recognize the important contribution the film has made in honoring Thai cinematic traditions and its historic role as the first Thai film to be selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival (it played in the Un Certain Regard section in 2001), the Thai Film Archive has a month of activities lined up.
They'll be playing all of Wisit's features – Tears of the Black Tiger, Citizen Dog and The Unseeable – as well as classic Thai films that influenced Wisit's style. These include the films of Ratana Pestonji – 1955's Forever Yours (ชั่วฟ้าดินสลาย, Chuafah Din Salai; a remake starring Ananda Everingham and Ploy Cherman, Eternity, is due in cinemas on September 16), 1957's Country Hotel (โรงแรมนรก, Rongraem Narok) and 1961's Black Silk (แพรดำ, Phrae Dum) as well as other influential films: 1977's Citizen Taxi Driver by MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, 1979's Mountain People (Khon Pu Khao) by Vichit Kounavudhi and 1962's The Boat House by Prince Phanuphan Yukol.
On September 25, there will be a discussion on Tears of the Black Tiger and a screening of clips of Wisit's films.
Of course, all this is an excellent warm-up for the big event of the year – the expected October 7 release of one of the year's most highly anticipated films Wisit's reboot of classic Thai cinema's Red Eagle action franchise with Ananda Everingham stepping into a role once filled by legendary superstar Mitr Chaibancha.
During September, the Thai Film Archive will also repeat some of the programs of the 14th Thai Short Film & Video Festival – the Best of Clermont Ferrand, In the Realm of Conflict and Beyond Yangon.
They are also continuing the Sunday matinee screenings of Payut Ngaokrachang's The Adventure 0f Sudsakorn until October 3.
Please see the Fapot.org website for the schedule and other details. The screenings are on DVD and I am uncertain of the availability of subtitles. Call ahead and ask at (02) 482 2013-14, ext 111, if you need to know more.