Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pen-ek, 'the Hitchcock of Thailand' and censorship of Headshot

Freaky Deaky director Charlie Matthau and Pen-ek Ratanaruang on the Tribeca Talks panel, "Based  on the Book". Photo via

The Tribeca Film Festival in New York wraps up today, and as a quick follow-up to an earlier posting, there's more press coverage of Pen-ek Ratanaruang and his upside-down hitman thriller Headshot.

The Wall Street Journal's Southeast Asia Realtime blog has an interview with Pen-ek, headlined "Hitchcock is alive and well in Thailand,".

In the article, Pen-ek reveals that censors objected to the opening scene when the hitman Tul is posing as a Buddhist monk on his morning alms rounds and he pulls a gun out of his alms bowl.

“It’s sensitive to Thai people,” Mr. Pen-ek says in an interview. “The food bowl of the monk is a sacred object.”

Thailand’s censors took notice and forced him to alter the scene when the film was released there in October.

“We [digitally] had to erase the gun from the bowl,” he says.

Pen-ek sat on a panel, "Tribeca Talks: Based on the Book", according to Headshot is adapted from the "film noir novel" of SEA Write and Silpathorn Award honoree Win Lyovarin, Fon Tok Kuen Fah (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), which means "rain falling up to the sky".

Here are links to several reviews of Headshot:

  • Film School Rejects takes Pen-ek to task for not using the upside down effect enough, a criticism Pen-ek responded to in an earlier video interview.
  • Epoch Times was more forgiving, issuing a glowing review, with high praise for the pacing and the performances by lead actor Nopachai Jayanama and actresses Cris Horwang and "Dream" Chanokporn Sayoungkul.
  • Slant Magazine is positive as well, giving Headshot 3 out of 4 stars.
  • And Wildgrounds offers a mixed view: "Too focused on being contemplative, confused, symbolic to depict the wandering of a lost soul."

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