Thursday, October 28, 2010

Will I ever see Camellia?

On the mean streets of Silom the other night, I bumped into artist and actor Michael Shaowanasai. We exchanged pleasantries and our views on recent movies using the Mexican standoff, as well as the Falcon Crest days of Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston and the rising star of Karl Urban, recently seen holding his own against Bruce Willis in Red.

But my main question for Michael was "when will I ever see Camellia"?

That's the pan-Asian omnibus of three shorts also known as the Busan Project, commissioned by the city of Busan in South Korea and premiered earlier this month as the closing film of the Pusan International Film Festival.

In a segment directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, Michael reprises his role as the flamboyant cross-dressing secret agent Iron Pussy, most famously seen in a feature he co-directed with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, but has also been featured in a number of shorts.

Iron Pussy: A Kimchi Affair has been highly anticipated just for the sheer energy that could come from a collaboration by Wisit and Michael, two of Thailand's top creative talents who share sensibilities that keep in mind Thailand's rich cinematic history, and, specifically, the movies of 1960s and '70s leading lady Petchara Chaowarat, who the beehive-coiffed Iron Pussy is modelled after.

A review by Elizabeth Kerr in The Hollywood Reporter whets my appetite further. Here's a bit:

In Iron Pussy: A Kimchi Affair, Thailand's Wisit Sasanatieng (The Red Eagle) resurrects the great satirical, transvestite superspy Iron Pussy for another mission that begins in 1979 and concludes with some time travel to 2010 ... Sasanatieng brings some typical and much needed Iron Pussy humor to Camellia (check out Iron Pussy getting drunk on perfume in response to her romantic dilemma) and laces the film with his signature irreverence. He's come a long way from Iron Pussy's early shorts, but the cheekiness that made the character played by writer Michael Shaowanasai, possibly one of the world's homeliest drag queens, so much fun is still there. But working outside his native Bangkok doesn't always work; Busan lacks the gleefully kitschy vibe Iron Pussy adventures so desperately need.

I think they were all just cold, filming in Busan.

The other segments are A Day on the Planet by Japan's Yukisada Isao and Love for Sale, by South Korea's Jang Joon-hwan, all filmed in Busan.

Not surprisingly, Michael says the Camellia short by Wisit has more of Wisit's colorful and playful style than his feature, The Red Eagle, the making of which was such an exhausting ordeal that Wisit has said he's not going to make any more studio movies.

And it's true, Michael says. "There's not going to be a part two of Red Eagle." At least not from Wisit.

As for Camellia's chances of being seen, Michael says he thinks it's going to hit the festival circuit for the next year or so.

But as for when it will be shown in Bangkok, that's a big unknown.

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