Thursday, January 26, 2012
9th WFFBKK reviews: Short Wave, Mango Filmmakers, Unreasonable Man
Thai shorts were seeded throughout the World Film Festival of Bangkok's Short Wave selections and the special Mango Filmmakers program. There was also the feature, An Unreasonable Man, which is actually a trilogy of shorts.
Short Wave 1 – Distinction by Tulapop Saenjaroen was the lone Thai short in this international package. It won a special mention and the Vichitmatra Award at last year's Thai Short Film & Video Festival. It's an interesting social experiment, interviewing a maid and the lady of the house and having them switch roles, with the maid putting on her boss lady's blouse, hairdo, make-up and earrings, and the lady throwing on the maid's ratty T-shirt and tying back her hair. After awhile, the identities blur so it's somewhat hard to tell who is who.
Short Wave 2 – Kong Pahurak brings his usual sense of dark humor to An Indiscreet Incident on Yotha Street, about a young man living in a rooftop apartment who is visited by a crow spirit. A symbiotic relationship turns tormented when they run out of canned fish. Clothes Pegs is from Japan with Japanese actors and a very Japanese fatalistic sensibility, but the director is Thai. Like Kong, he studies at Waseda University. It's a strongly acted story of a depressed housewife and an eventful day for her after her husband leaves for a business trip. A third Thai entry was Kanin Ramasoot's The Last Shot, which was previously in competition at the 2010 Thai Short Film & Video Festival. Cliched but entertaining, it's a crime drama about an ageing, clumsy police sergeant (Vinai Taewattana) who tries to solve a murder-suicide on his last day before retirement. He gets help from a wheelchair-bound nerd (Torphong Kul-on from I Carried You Home).
Short Wave 3 – Passing Through the Night by Wattanapume Laisuwanchai competed in last year's Venice Film Festival. It's an experimental piece that's dominated by its sound design, ambient breath-like noise that support the scenes of an apartment building hallway, a vacant, ruined room and scary macro close-ups of an elderly person's skin and body parts. And you do get the sense of "passing". It provided a great lead-in to an excellent black-and-white short by Christelle Lheureux, La Maladie Blanche, which is set during a festival in a rural French mountain village. A wild pig emerges from the woods, turning the short into a fairy tale that recalls Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke and there's a journey into a cave like Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
Short Wave 5 – This is an all-Thai package of student films from Mahidol University. Some were weird, ambiguous thrillers, like Photoshop, which stars Penpak Sirikul as a mysterious woman who demands that a harried farang photo studio owner let her sit for a portrait. Another was Coax by Kevin Vivis-Visithsiri, about a young guy finding himself trapped in a room and hearing a voice on the other side of the wall. Never Say Goodbye by Sutthasin Tanmanasiri has a guilt-wracked single mother caring for her comatose daughter. Another strange one was Youth by Sutthinan Ampornchatchawan, in which a girl wakes up and finds her soul has been transferred to the body of a young woman, and there's an older man about. A cute one was Amaranth by Lakkana Palawatvichai, about a grandmother who's lost her dentures. Also cute was the animation Illumination by Panpilas Pitayanon, about a lonely light bulb that wants to pay tribute to His Majesty the King. Thawan Duchanee by Siripa Intavichein was a rather dry documentary on the well-known Thai artist.
Mango Filmmakers Project – Anocha Suwichakornpong's Electric Eel Films collaborated with the Nation Group's Mango TV, working with three teams of young filmmakers, each making their own project. The results were enjoyably quirky and put the spotlight on promising new talents. Thanks to the help from the Eels, the filmmakers had technical assistance from experienced indie filmmakers and even drew on the talents of experienced actors, such as Wonderful Town's Anchalee Saisoontorn, Hi-So's Sajee Apiwong and Insects in the Backyard director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit in a cameo role. Reminisce by Thai Pradithkesorn started out weird, with an elderly woman entering a tattoo shop. What's her business there? It then goes to another point in time, though that's not immediately clear. A daughter and her mother are chatting about boys, and then another daughter and another mother, and they have nearly the same conversation. Eventually the story of that tat is explained. Gun Kama by Nuttawat Attasawa is a black comedy in which a young man performing a "planking" stunt falls from the ledge of his apartment and into the lives of a young woman who's the mistress of a gangster. She's having an affair with another man in the building. The gangster returns to the apartment earlier than expected and all hell breaks loose. The best of the bunch was the Isaan comedy One Man Can Run by Nuntawut Poophasuk. It's about a young man who's given too much change by an ice-cream man, and to correct the mistake he spends the next 25 minutes or so going through increasingly hilarious and ridiculous motions as he tries to chase down the tricycle-riding vendor. There's even special effects, with the runner calling his nerd friend to hack the satellite grid to pinpoint the ice-cream man. An honest man to a fault, the running man is waylaid in his quest by various other people in distress, and he stops to help them. It'd be neat to see One Man Can Run expanded into a feature, as long as the energy could be sustained and the same exhuberant cast could be used.
The Unreasonable Man – The first part of this trilogy of shorts was made in 2009. Supharat Boonamayam directs, with well-known actor Somchai Klemglad (who also co-directed) as a brooding Luddite barber who is given a cellphone and is mystified about how to use it. The story is inspired by a wrong-number call received by the director, and I think most phone users in Thailand can relate – I've probably said more words on my phone to wrong-number callers than I have to colleagues and friends. The barber receives a call and dials back the mystery number and gets a woman's voice recording. He's then obsessed with the woman and listens to the recorded greeting repeatedly. It's never quite clear if his daydreams about her come true or if they just stay dreams. In later episodes, the barber takes an art class and serves as the artist's assistant. And a mysterious man (Pramote Sangsorn) starts hanging around, causing more confusion for the brooding barber. The barber also fantasizes about a woman who works in a coffee shop. The barbershop boss and a co-worker who is always licking an ice-cream treat provide welcome comic relief to Somchai's brooding and Pramote's looming mysteriousness.