Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pen-ek, Apichatpong and more in Blissfully Thai series in New York

Classic and contemporary films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Pen-ek Ratanaruang, as well as Wisit Sasanatieng, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon. Aditya Assarat and ML Mingmongkol Sonakol will be featured in a film series from May 13 to June 17 at the Asia Society in New York, co-organized by Cineaste magazine.

Here's more from an e-mailed press release:

[This] major film series celebrates the current Thai film renaissance and the emergence of some of the world’s most original cinematic voices since the late 1990s.

Directors such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Wisit Sasanatieng have put Thai cinema on the international map. Thai films are now regular fixtures in major film festivals, garnering awards around the globe, culminating in the riveting Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or win of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong, 2010).

"Although these filmmakers share an innovative and kindred spirit, what is really exciting is that they embody very different artistic visions,” says La Frances Hui, curator of the series and Senior Program Officer of Cultural Programs at Asia Society. This series includes works made since 2000 by six filmmakers, all born in the '60s and '70s, and offers New York audiences a rare opportunity to sample a diverse group of films from Thailand.

Highlights of the program include appearances by Apichatpong and Pen-ek for individual Q&A session after their film screenings and together in a May 14 discussion on the burgeoning Thai film industry.

All films will be shown on 35mm prints with English subtitles. Here's the lineup:

Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2007, 107min.) – A death in the family brings husband and wife, Wit (Pornwut Sarasin) and Dang (Lalida Panyopas), back to Bangkok from the US. Jetlagged and restless, Wit encounters a young lady, Ploy (Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, in her debut role), in the hotel bar while she is waiting for her mother to arrive from Stockholm. The couple and this stranger soon find themselves trapped in a hotel room, where paranoia and jealousy force the couple to confront their rocky marriage. Seamlessly moving between dream and reality, this unsettling drama mirrors the characters’ state of sleep deprivation. Friday, May 13, 6:45pm with a post-screening Q&A by Pen-ek.

A Conversation with Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Pen-ek Ratanaruang – Two award-winning figures of Thai cinema join La Frances Hui of the Asia Society in a conversation about the Thai film renaissance. Saturday, May 14, 2pm, followed by a reception.

I-San Special (Mingmonkul Sonakul, 2002, 110min.) – On a full-moon night, something unusual takes place aboard a bus traveling from Bangkok to I-San in northeastern Thailand. Seemingly possessed, passengers act out parts of a soap opera playing on the radio. Whenever the bus makes a stop, the passengers spring back to real life. Inspired by an idea of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, this unusual and dream-like road movie playfully explores the dichotomies of real life and drama, and of professional actors on the radio and non-actors playing passengers. Friday, May 20, 6:45pm

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010, 113min) – Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Uncle Boonmee follows the final days of a man’s life. In the lush countryside, Boonmee is visited by his loved ones, including his deceased wife appearing as a ghost and his long-lost son who has taken on a non-human form. Mysterious as it is, nothing is scary in this world. This peaceful and poetic film meditates on the myths and secrets of the universe. Sunday, May 22, 5pm, with post-screening Q&A by Apichatpong.

The Iron Ladies (Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, 2000, 104min.) – This fact-based sports drama is about a male volleyball team of gays and transsexuals that competed in the Thai national championships in 1996. Depicting the rise of a team against all odds, The Iron Ladies is filled with such colorful characters as a transsexual cabaret beauty, a muscular cross-dressing army sergeant and three seemingly identical cheerleaders always moving in synchrony. This upbeat and hilarious comedy was a major audience hit in Thailand and has picked up awards at many international LBGT film festivals. Thursday, May 26, 6:45pm.

Monrak Transistor (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, 2001, 115min.) – Newly married with a pregnant wife, the charming country boy Pan (Supakorn Kitsuwan) is drafted into the army, where he enters a singing contest and places second. In order to follow his singing dreams, Pan deserts his post and ends up in Bangkok, where he faces a series of misfortunes. “A piece of candy with just a taste of satirical poison at its center,” is how director Pen-ek Ratanaruang describes this tragic, bittersweet tale. Paying homage to the luk thung music of Thai pop star Surapol Sombatcharoen (1930-68), Mon-Rak brims with melancholy and longing. Friday, June 3 at 6:45 PM

Tears of the Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng, 2000, 113min.) – Some call this a Pad Thai western but it is no ordinary cowboy movie. At the center is a doomed romantic affair between the impossibly stunning Rumpoey, daughter of a governor, and Dum, her childhood love turned bandit, a.k.a. Black Tiger. With its corny dialogues, over-the-top action choreography and digitally enhanced pulpy hues, this irresistible eye-candy film – the first Thai film to be screened at Cannes – pushes cinematic boundaries in every direction and is a big-screen must-see. Friday, June 10, 6:45pm.

Hi-So (Aditya Assarat, 2010, 102 min.) – Ananda (Ananda Everingham) has returned to Thailand to work as an actor after living abroad. On a seaside movie set, he is visited by his girlfriend from California. Tacitly, the two are drifting apart. Several months later, Ananda is in Bangkok living with his new girlfriend. The two share moments reminiscent of Ananda’s previous relationship. A directorial follow-up to the much praised Wonderful Town (2007), Hi-So, which refers to Thailand’s high-society types, portrays life between languages and cultures with an eloquent grace. Saturday, June 11, 3pm

Blissfully Yours (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002, 125 min.) – Set in a small town and a jungle near the Burmese border, Blissfully Yours follows a young Thai woman and her Burmese boyfriend, an illegal immigrant, on an afternoon of blissful interlude. Though peaceful and calm on the surface, the lovers and a middle-aged woman who joins them, and the jungle itself, embody hidden conflicts. With the opening credits leisurely appearing 45 minutes into the film, this early work by Cannes Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul offers a meditative journey into a world of nature and manmade conflicts. Friday, June 17, 6:45pm.

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