Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Harlem Shake Pee Mak Phra Khanong style

"Harlem Shake" has quickly (and thankfully) eclipsed "Gangnam Style" as the viral dance craze of the moment. In fact, I think it's probably already worn out its welcome.

Nonetheless, here's the cast of the upcoming Pee Mak Phra Khanong (พี่มาก..พระโขนง doing "Harlem Shake". Don't worry, it's just 49 seconds long.

If you prefer, there's also a teaser trailer. Starring Mario Maurer, Banjong Pisanthanakun's comedy-horror take on the famous "Mak Nak Phra Khanong" ghost story is due in Thai cinemas on March 28.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tang Wong headed for Hong Kong

After making its world premiere in Berlin, Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's Tang Wong will make its Asian premiere at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Here's the synopsis from the HKIFF website:

A champion Korean pop dancer, a school ping-pong player and two participating in a science competition all decide to pray at a sacred shrine to make their wishes come thrue. But there's a catch – if granted, they must perform the traditional tang wong dance. Their half-hearted promise becomes a liability once they realize they have no clue how to do the dance, nor do they want to embarrass themselves in public. The conflict between modern-day values and traditional culture is amusingly empathized in the P-047 (36th HKIFF) director's latest.

It's the sole Thai entry in this year's fest, though several Thai filmmakers are taking part in the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum. Tang Wong took part in last year's HAF.

The 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival runs from March 17 to April 2.

Pen-ek, Suvanee receive French honors

Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Suvanee Chinchiewchan, French Counsellor for Culture, Science and Development Jeremy Opritesco and Prachya Pinkaew at the launch event for the Clap! French Film Festival in Bangkok.

Two more Thai film figures have been inducted into the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres – filmmaker Pen-ek Rattanaruang and SF Cinemas executive Suvanee Chinchiewchan.

They now hold the rank of chevalier, making them knights of the order, which honors people for their contributions to French culture.

Pen-ek's cultural ties to France include his films appearances at the Cannes Film Festival, where Monrak Transistor, Ploy and Nymph have all unspooled.

Suvanee, a familiar face to anyone who attends major film industry shindigs in Thailand, was honored for her contributions in bringing French films to Thai audiences. The SF theater chain has long hosted the annual French Film Festival, among other special fests.

Other Thai film folk in the order include World Film Festival of Bangkok director Victor Silakong, who was inducted with a chevalier ranking in January. And Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who won the Cannes Palme d'Or in 2010, holds the rank of "officier".

(Via Soopsip, The Nation)

CAAMFest brings Thai cheer to San Francisco

The Cheer Ambassadors, a rousing documentary about Thai cheerleaders that shows what sheer determination and teamwork can accomplish, will have its North American premiere the Center for Asian American Media's CAAMFest, formerly the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival.

It’ll join another Thai film at the festival – Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mekong Hotel.

The Cheer Ambassadors follows the plucky underdogs of the Thai national cheerleading squad as they surprise everyone by beating the powerhouse U.S. team to bring home medals from the World Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida.

Since debuting at the ninth World Film Festival of Bangkok in January 2012, it’s been shown in nine countries, winning Best Documentary at the 60°N Os festival in Norway and the Audience Award at the ChopShots documentary Edge Festival in Jakarta.

The film struck a chord with CAAMFest’s Masashi Niwano.

“This is a film with heart and soul, it speaks to people of all ages and races, regardless of if they have heard of cheerleading, Thailand or not. It has tremendous breakout potential, I have high hopes that its inspirational message will reach beyond the festival circuit and touch people across the world,” Niwano said in a press release. “The fact that it’s a debut film from a group of self-taught filmmakers is amazing. We look forward to working with them in the future.”

Luke Cassady-Dorion, the film’s director, says he does indeed have more projects in the works about Thailand – “a country that has taken me on as an adopted son”.

Plans are to release The Cheer Ambassadors in Thai cinemas at the end of this year, a prospect cheered on by filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, president of the Thai Film Directors Association.

“It’s exciting to see the quality of work that comes from the right collaboration. The Cheer Ambassadors was made by Americans and Thais working together, and represents a new wave for Thai documentary cinema. This film doesn’t just chronicle the greatest victory for a Thai sports team ever, it also gives a unique lesson on Thai culture.”

CAAMFest runs from March 14 to 24 in various venues around San Francisco.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

36, P-047 take top film prizes at Kom Chad Luek Awards

Best actress winner Penpak Sirikul and best actor winner Noi Sukosol at the 10th Kom Chad Luek Awards, February 20, 2013, Bangkok. Nation photo by Thanis Sudto.

While independent films have been largely shut out of the Thai film industry's big award show this year, the 10th Kom Chad Luek Awards on Wednesday night give its top film prizes to the indie features 36 and P-047.

Writer-director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, who directed and produced 36 with support from some of his various employers, including film studio GTH and Aditya Assarat's Pop Pictures, won Best Picture as well as Best Screenplay. His experimental effort is comprised of 36 static camera setups that explore the fragmented memories of a film company location scout's relationship with an art director. Self-released by Nawapol in a limited theatrical run around Thailand last year, playing many sold-out shows, 36 won the New Currents Award at last year's Busan film festival, the New Talent Award in Hong Kong, best director and Cinemanila and also recently screened in Rotterdam.

Kongdej Jaturanrasmee won best director for P-047 (Tae Peang Phu Deaw, แต่เพียงผู้เดียว), an offbeat comedy-drama about a locksmith who is recruited by a subversive writer to break into apartments and "borrow" the lives of others. The veteran writer-director's first indie feature, P-047 premiered as a last-minute selection at the 2011 Venice film festival and screened at several other festivals. It was released last year in a limited run in Bangkok, where it had sold-out shows thanks to the cult status of lead actor, rock musician Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai, who was a Kom Chad Luek nominee for best actor.

The Kom Chad Luek Awards, put on by the mass-media daily newspaper of Nation Multimedia, also honor TV and music. Apichai won Song of the Year and best male vocal artist while his co-star in P-047, Parinya Kwamwongwan, was named best supporting actor.

Best actor went to Krissada "Noi" Sukosol Clapp for his lead role in the 1960s gangster drama Antapal (อันธพาล), while best actress went to Penpak Sirikul for her portrayal of an aging post-op transgender woman in It Gets Better (ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั, Mai Dai Kor Hai Ma Rak).

Both Noi and Penpak are also best-acting nominees for the industry's Subhanahongsa Awards, though Penpak is nominated for her role in the sentimental three-segment drama Home Khwam Rak Khwam Sook Khwam Songjam (Home ความรัก ความสุข ความทรงจำ).

Another Subhanahongsa nominee, Piyathida Worramusik, won Best Supporting Actress for the family drama Together Wan Tee Rak (Together วันที่รัก).

Other nominees for the Kom Chad Luek Awards included another indie fixture from the festival circuit that was ignored by the Subhanahongsas, Wichanon Sumumjarn's In April the Following Year, There was a Fire (สิ้นเมษาฝนตกมาปรอยปรอย, Sin Maysar Fon Tok Ma Proi Proi). It was up for best picture and best director.

Other best picture and best director nominees were P-047, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's It Gets Better and Chookiat Sakveerakul's Home.

Hi-So gets U.K. release

Hi-So (ไฮโซ), Aditya Assarat's partly autobiographical existential look at a man caught between Eastern and Western cultures, is getting a theatrical release in the U.K.

Starring Ananda Everingham, Aditya's sophomore followup to Wonderful Town, follows a melancholy U.S.-schooled Thai actor on a film location where he's visited by his American girlfriend (Cerise Leang). He then drifts toward a young Thai woman (Sajee Apiwong) who works for the film company, and the cycle of doomed relationship repeats itself.

Set to premiere on March 1, it's the first release by a new company, Day for Night.

Aditya himself will attend the premiere at the Curzon Renoir, supported by Chang beer. He'll also be on hand for a March 2 screening at the Hackney Picturehouse.

(Via Film Business Asia)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Rocket achieves liftoff in Berlin

Director Kim Mordaunt, center, at a Berlin film festival photo call for The Rocket with actor Thep Pho-ngam, actress Loungnam Kaosainam, actor Sitthiphon Disamoe and Generation program director Maryanne Redpath.

While two Thai features – Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's Tang Wong and Nontawat Numbenchapol's Boundary – took part in the Berlin International Film Festival, it was an Australian movie with a Lao and Thai cast that was a big winner.

The Rocket, an family drama filmed in Thailand and Laos, was awarded Best First Feature as well as the youth-focused Crystal Bear Award.

Directed by Australian Kim Mordaunt, the story is about a little Laotian boy (Sitthiphon Disamoe) who is cursed with bad luck. With his family, he is forced to leave his village to make way for dam. At a resettlement camp, he becomes friends with a little girl (Loungnam Kaosainam) and her eccentric James Brown-obsessed drunken uncle Muang (Purple) – played by veteran Thai comedian and actor Thep Pho-ngam.

Here's the synopsis from the Berlinale website:

Good-natured Ahlo has no idea of the tragic circumstances which surrounded his birth. His childhood seems to be ill-fated: when his family has to leave their village to make way for a dam, a terrible accident follows. Together with his father and grandmother, he is sent to a camp where he incurs the wrath of the other camp-dwellers. They soon make up their mind that Ahlo is cursed and brings bad luck. His only friend is Kia, who lives with her uncle Purple and knows all too well what it’s like to be an outcast. The group’s search for a new home leads them through the Laotian outback. Here, they come across a rocket festival that holds an entire village on tenterhooks. At last, Ahlo sees a chance to prove he is lucky rather than cursed and he takes part in the dangerous competition. The Rocket combines this boy’s moving story with a fascinating insight into living conditions in a country shaped by poverty and superstition. Kim Mordaunt had to shoot parts of his film in Thailand, to escape censure from the authoritarian Laotian government.

Character actress Bunsri Yindi, who's perhaps best known for playing Tony Jaa's mother in Ong Bak, is also featured in The Rocket, playing Ahlo's grandmother.

It got a good review from Screen Daily. And the English-subtitled trailer is embedded below.

(Via Film Business Asia, The Nation, Pantip.com)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

It Gets Better leads Subhanahongsa nominees

Transgender writer-director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's multi-generational story of transgender issues and romance It Gets Better is the leading nominee for the Thai film industry's top prize, the Subhanahongsa Awards (รางวัลภาพยนตร์แห่งชาติ สุพรรณหงส์). It received nods in nine out of 16 categories, including best picture, best director and best screenplay.

Chookiat Sakveerakul's sentimental three-segment drama Home, the animated fantasy Yak: The Giant King (ยักษ์) and the New Year's Eve psychological thriller Countdown (เคาท์ดาวน์) each have seven, including best picture and best director.

And another Best Picture nominee, Oriental Eyes' family drama Together Wan Tee Rak (Together วันที่รัก), has five nominations, including best director for Saranyu Jiraluk.

Although independent films have done well at the Subhanahongsas in recent years – two indie successes from the festival circuit, P-047 and the Busan New Currents winner 36, which both had well-attended limited theatrical runs in Bangkok – were shut out entirely. However, 36 director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit scored a nod for sharing screenwriting credit on Home, and P-047 helmer Kongdej Jaturanrasamee got a nomination for best original song on Kantana Animation's Echo Planet.

Also, another independent movie, Tongpong Chantarangkul's I Carried You Home (Padang Besar, ปาดังเบซา), received three nominations, including best screenplay.

A surprise was the indie horror omnibus 9-9-81 (บอก-เล่า-9-ศพ, Bok Lao 9 Sop), which scored five nominations, including best screenplay and best cinematography for its many cameramen. The comic-book-like tale about a suicidal bride was divided into nine segments by different directors, each offering different viewpoints from the bride's lover, her friends, family and neighbors.

Also with five nominations was the ratings-testing period erotic melodrama Jan Dara: The Beginning, including supporting actor and actress nods – Chaiyapol Julien Poupart as a Muay Thai-fighting servant boy and Jan's loyal friend and Bongkot Kongmalai in her revealing turn as Jan's doting aunt/stepmother Waad.

In the best actor category, Jessadaporn Pholdee picked up a nomination for his portrayal of the guilt-ridden widower surgeon in M-Thirtynine's horror thriller I Miss U (รักฉันอย่าคิดถึงฉัน, Rak Chan Yaa Khid Tueng Chang. He also starred in Super Salaryman, but that only got nods for supporting players.

In a controversial choice, David Asavanond is nominated as best actor for his sadistic drug dealer named Jesus in Countdown, a role he played in director Nattawut Poonpiriya's original short film. However, the top-billed actor in the feature was Pachara Chirathivat.

The Shambhala siblings Sunny Suwanmethanon and Ananda Everingham both earned nominations for the Tibet spiritual road-trip drama, with Sunny up for best actor as the more-straitlaced brother and Ananda, playing his drunken, irresponsible bro, as supporting actor. Shambhala (ชัมบาลา) also earned a cinematography nod.

Also with three nominations is the 1960s crime drama Antapal (อันธพาล), with Krissada Sukosol Clapp up for best actor for his intense portrayal of an old-school gangster. It was also nominated for costumes and art direction.

The supporting actor nominations include Parama Imanothai for his role as a boy toy to an aging transsexual in It Gets Better and Ruangsak Loychusak as the wealthy southerner husband of a northern bride in Home.

Young actor Setthapong Piangpor is up for his supporting role as a trainee from upcountry in the office comedy Super Salaryman (ยอดมนุษย์เงินเดือน, Yod Manut Nguen Duen), as are actresses Sakuntala Tienpairoj as a mid-level manager and Jirapa Wongkosawan as a suffering secretary.

Anther workplace comedy, ATM Er Rak Err (ATM เออรัก เออเร่อ), also scored an acting nomination, best actress for Preechaya Pongthananikorn, who portrayed a banking executive in a secret romance, racing to recover lost cash from a malfunctioning automated-teller machine.

Veteran actress Penpak Sirikul, who starred in three features last year, was recognized for her lead performance in a segment of Home (Home ความรัก ความสุข ความทรงจำ, Home Khwam Rak Khwam Sook Khwam Songjam), in which she portrays a grieving widow trying to put her life back together. She also starred in It Gets Better (ไม่ได้ขอให้มารั,Mai Dai Kor Hai Ma Rak), portraying the aging transsexual.

Suquan Bulakul, a veteran newscaster and first-time film actress, was nominated for her role in GTH's three-segment drama Seven Something   (รัก 7 ปี ดี 7 หน, Rak Jet Pee Dee Jet Hon). Like Penpak in Home, she also portrayed a grieving widow. She takes up marathon running with a much-younger man to cope.

Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, who was also featured in the horror thrillers I Miss U and 3 A.M., got a best actress nod for I Carried You Home, in which she plays the younger of two estranged sisters who renew their bond during a strained cross-country ambulance journey with their mother's corpse.

And Jarinporn Joonkiat was nominated for Countdown for her role as a young Thai woman living in New York who along with her two roommates is terrorized by David Asavanond's drug dealer Jesus.

Known in English as the Thailand National Film Association Awards or the Golden Swan Awards, the 22nd edition of the "Thai Oscars" are under the auspices of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, which this year has a new president, GTH executive Visute Poolvoralaks. The award ceremony will be held on March 1 at the National Theatre under the theme of "The Masterpiece". It will be broadcast on Channel 7 that night at 11pm.

Also to be honored with the lifetime achievement award will be Pong Asvinikul, founder of the Ram Indra sound recording studios, which has a hand in the technical side of just about every Thai film that hits the screen.

Here are the nominees:

Best Picture

  • It Gets Better, M Pictures
  • Home, Sahamongkol Film International
  • Together Wan Tee Rak, Oriental Eyes
  • Countdown, GTH
  • Yak: The Giant King, Sahamongkol Film International

Best Director

  • Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, It Gets Better
  • Chookiat Sakveerakul, Home
  • Saranyu Jiraluk, Together
  • Nattawut Poonpiriya, Countdown
  • Prapas Cholsalanon and Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, Yak: The Giant King

Best Screenplay

  • Rapeepimon Chaiyasena, Dulyasit Niyomkul, 9-9-81
  • Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, It Gets Better
  • Chookiat Sakveerakul and Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Home
  • Nattawut Poonpiriya, Countdown
  • Pramett Chankrasae, Piyakarn Bootprasert and Tongpong Chantarangkul, I Carried You Home

Best Actor

  • Jessadaporn Pholdee, I Miss U
  • David Asavanond, Countdown
  • Sunny Suwanmethanon, Shambhala
  • Komen Raungkijratanakul, Rak: An Ordinary Love Story
  • Krissada Sukosol Clapp, Antapal

Best Actress

  • Preechaya Pongthananikorn, ATM Er Rak Error
  • Penpak Sirikul, Home
  • Suquan Bulakul, Seven Something
  • Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, I Carried You Home
  • Jarinporn Joonkiat, Countdown

Best Supporting Actor

  • Parama Imanothai, It Gets Better
  • Ruangsak Loychusak, Home
  • Chaiyapol Julien Poupart, Jan Dara: The Beginning
  • Ananda Everingham, Shambhala
  • Setthapong Piangpor, Super Salaryman

Best Supporting Actress

  • Piyathida Worramusik, Together
  • Apittha Klaiudom, Yes Or No 2
  • Bongkot Kongmalai, Jan Dara: The Beginning
  • Sakuntala Tienpairoj, Super Salaryman
  • Jirapa Wongkosawan, Super Salaryman

Best Cinematography

  • Saran Srisingchia, Prayook Sreethongkoon, Thamjaroen Prompan, Sitthipong Kongthong, Nikorn Sreepongworrakul, Khanathip Chayiawan, Pongchaiphat Setthanan, Phoomin Chinaradee and Peerawat Sangklang, 9-9-81
  • Pramett Chankrasae, Together
  • Nattawut Kittikun, Shambhala
  • Sueng Daungmanee, Dek Sao
  • Pramett Chankrasae, I Carried You Home

Best Film Editing

  • Surasak Panklin, Watthanachai Dulyakovit, 9-9-81
  • Manuss Worrasing and Suchat Saengchoo, It Gets Better
  • Sasikarn Suwannasut, Together
  • Panayu Khunwallee, Countdown
  • Prapas Cholsalanon, Smith Timsawas and Panlop Sinjaroen, Yak: The Giant King

Best Recording and Sound Mixing

  • Ram Indra Sound Mixing Studio, 9-9-81
  • Ekkarat Assawajamikorn, Wachira Wongsarote and Kantana Laboratories, I Miss U
  • Nakorn Khositpaisan and Korrakote Kraisamut, It Gets Better
  • Richard Hocks and Technicolor Thailand, Yak: The Giant King
  • Trithep Wongpaiboon, Noppawat Likhitwong, Wattanadet Samanchat and Kantana Laboratories, Echo Planet

Best Original Song

  • “Mai Dai Khor Hai Ma Ruk”, Hoksai Laidok and Khanakhum Apiradee, It Gets Better
  • “Pleng Rak Thee Mai Me Khum Wa Rak", Worrawech Danuwong, The Melody
  • “Phan Loei Pai”, Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, Home
  • "Kerd Ma Pen Phuen Ther”, Apiwat Eurthavornsuk, Yak: The Giant King
  • “Fang Si Fang Si Fang”, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Echo Planet

Best Original Score

  • Krisanasak Kantathammawong, The Melody
  • Kitti Kuremanee, Home
  • Chatchai Pongprapapan, Jan Dara: The Beginning
  • Jakkrapat Iamnoon, Yak: The Giant King
  • Chatchai Pongprapapan, Echo Planet

Best Art Direction

  • Withaya Chaimongkol, I Miss U
  • Achira Nokthet and Narongsak Pawapootanon, It Gets Better
  • Patrick Meesaiyati, Jan Dara: The Beginning
  • Chaiporn Panichrutiwong, Yak: The Giant King
  • Thana Mekha Amput, Antapal

Best Costume Design

  • Panchalee Pinthong and Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, It Gets Better
  • Ekasit Meprasertkul, Khun Nai Ho
  • Athit Thrakittiwat, Jan Dara: The Beginning
  • Thanasan Aiyaresakorn, Panya Raenu 2
  • Chatchai Chaiyon, Antapal

Best Make Up Effects

  • Amarit Chokprecha, Dark Flight 407
  • Disney Sinchairungchat and Suphitchaya Janprakob, 9-9-81
  • Phookit Yiamchawee, I Miss U
  • Thanawut Boosamsai, Countdown
  • Phatthara Puttisuraseth and Thatlee Jarujutharate, 3AM

(Via The Nation, Thai Rath)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: Thongsuk 13 (Long Weekend)

  • Directed by Taweewat Wantha
  • Starring Chinnawut Intarakusin, Cheeranat Yusanon, Acharanat Ariyaritwikol, Busarin Yokpraipan, Gitlapat Garasutraiwan, Sean Jindachot
  • Released in Thai cinemas on January 31, 2013; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

They're back. And by they, I mean that wild bunch that used to run the now-shuttered Film Bangkok studio, which produced such claw-your-eyes-out they're-so-good spectacles as the candy-coloured western Tears of the Black Tiger and the zombie comedy SARS Wars.

Resurrected as Wave Pictures by BEC-Tero's Maleenont family, one of the brains behind the new studio is former Film Bangkok honcho Adirek "Uncle" Watleelak, who co-produces the first release, Thongsuk 13 (ทองสุก 13, a.k.a. Long Weekend). In addition to sharing producing and editing credit, Uncle co-wrote the movie with SARS Wars director Taweewat Wantha and screenwriters Sommai Lertulan and Eakasit Thairatana.

Taweewat's trademark outrageousness is toned down only a bit for this teen slasher-thriller, and it has nearly that same unstoppable energy as his SARS Wars or the sci-fi farce The Sperm. Just when you think things can't get any crazier, they do. Only instead of humor, Taweewat taps into that energy for breathless, non-stop scares. During the last half of the movie, there is no let up, save for a humorous moment in which one of the characters is dispatched with a long-tail boat propeller. He's dead already and doesn't want to die again. "I'm dead enough," he laments as the blades hack into his head.

The story involves six teenagers who head to mysterious isolated island for a weekend of partying. Trouble is, the island has a dark and ancient history, of a sacrificial rite held during the so-called "blood moon" that is meant to keep the "devouring ghost" at bay. And of course, these kids are visiting the island during that very time.

But let's back up a bit, to the boyhood of the title character Thongsuk. He was always not quite right and a bit sickly. It's in the school infirmary where he's resting and his best friend Nam comes with a headache. Thongsuk, wanting to impress the girl, has her take off his amulet necklace, which is supposed to ward off ghosts. She does so and Thongsuk immediately lapses into a ghost-caused seizure and bangs his head on the bedframe. From then on, because of his head injury, Thongsuk is even more off and is consequently bullied by the other kids. Only Nam defends him.

So when Nam (Cheeranat Yusanon), the guys Jack (Acharanat Ariyaritwikol) and Boi (Sean Jindachot) and the lipstick lesbian girlfriends Beam (Busarin Yokpraipan) and Pui (Gitlapat Garasutraiwan) make plans to go to the island without Thongsuk (Chinnawut Intarakusin), Thongsuk schemes to somehow surprise them.

Instead, everyone is surprised, thanks to the evil spirits on the island and Thongsuk being a conduit for them.

What follows is the usual setup of these types of teen-slasher movies in which the hedonistic characters get what's coming to them as they are possessed, picked off or devoured one by one by a mysterious force. Blood and gore fly as grey, smoky CGI baddies haunt the kids. It's like Cabin in the Woods, though less tongue-in-cheek. Backwards-bending characters bring to mind the current Hollywood hit horror Mama.

Nam emerges as the heroine, who must at all costs keep a candle burning to ward off the bad spirits and survive the night.

Of course there's a red herring or two to put you and Nam off the scent. Let's just say if you're in a horror movie and Wonderful Town's Anchalee Saisoontorn turns up as your mother, you might not want to trust her.

This first release from Wave Pictures could possibly mark a return to the crazy old energy Thai films had in the late 1990s and early 2000s, back when I got interested in Thai films. Thongsuk 13 opened at No 1 at the Thai box office but with only middling takings of 12.7 million baht. Hopefully that won't deter Wave Pictures from pressing on.

See also:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Live at the Scala remakes Bangkok Traffic Love Story

Bangkok's most unique cinema, the historic Scala Theater, hosted what was likely the most unique event in its history this past week.

Held from Thursday to Saturday, Live at the Scala was a "micro-festival" put on by the British Council and curated by the UK's Forest Fringe, which brought in a half dozen or so acts. The event featured performance art, installations and video. The performances aimed to make use of all of the Scala's space, chiefly the spacious lobby, with its art-deco frieze, sweeping stairway and chandelier.

A "bar" serving inexpensive beer was set up with a smattering of squat tables and stools for the audience to gather around.

Starting at around 7pm (the Scala is a working cinema showing first-run movies and had a matinee screening of Mama earlier in the day), the Live at the Scala proceedings kicked off with Action Hero, a work by James Stenhouse and Gemma Paintin in which they act out a movie western, with members of the audience standing in for various villains, such as opposing gunslingers or card cheats. A pointed finger is a gun and when you shoot it, you make a "phiew" sound. The duo, playing the hero and the whore, are dressed in white, and before it's all over, they are covered in "blood" – ketchup, actually.

Movies were the interlinking theme of the performances and art.

Throughout the whole show, another performer, Brian Lobel, set up a bedroom at the base of the Scala's stairs with television sets and a collection of dance-movie videos (actual VHS tapes) and invited the audience come dance with him. They would put on headphones and hoof along, trying to match the steps from such movies as Sister Act, Newsies and The Breakfast Club.

All around the lobby there were posters for movies by a fictional actress Natalie Gorgeous. The posters were just the black text on white backgrounds for such movies as Gorgeous in the Rain (Fox), Gorgeous with a Gun (Warner Bros) and Fists of Gorgeous (Golden Harvest). Even the side of the Scala marquee had a Gorgeous movie, Brave New Gorgeous. An accompanying booklet for Tim Etchell's Gorgeous at 25 Frames per Second explained everything.

Did you know the Scala has dressing rooms? Well, it does, and after Action Hero, the audience was invited to move around and check out the other stuff going on. One of the dressing rooms was made into a black box hosting the video installation, Cinema and Space, Extracting the Unrecognized, curated by Messy Project Space and Mary Pansanga. Projectors screened videos on opposite walls. On one side was Kornkrit Jianpinidnan's The Vehicle is Onward ..., capturing various scenes of Bangkok at night, mainly along the Skytrain line. Recognizable places that seem ok on first glance look pretty trashy on closer inspection. On the opposite wall Bjorn Kammerer's Gyre played. This is a loop of a rotating cabin (a cabin in the woods, perhaps?) and it provided a flickering counterpoint to the urban scenes of the Thai director's short film.

In the main auditorium, they actually showed a movie – a short film detailing the efforts of the Gob Squad, a group of UK and German artists who recreated death scenes from such famous movies as Midnight Cowboy and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan Using split screens, the short film Live Long and Prosper showed the Gob Squad scene alongside the original. They are all done in public places, such as train stations, shopping malls, a laundramat or public transport. So instead of the engine room of the Enterprise, the Gob Squad's Kirk and Spock say their farewells through the front window of a department store, while stand-ins for Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight re-enact Rizzo's passing on a canal boat instead of a Florida-bound bus.

Queer performance artist Dickie Beau performed the finale. With clown white pantomime face make-up,  tight black outfit and long hair pulled back by a hair band, Dickie lip-synched a telephone conversation by a horny housewife to her husband. It was likely the most explicit language uttered in the auditorium of the Scala.

Then there was a special treat, an encore by filmmaker Richard DeDomenici, who set up a production office in one of the dressing rooms and in just three days managed to make a shot-for-shot remake of six minutes of GTH's 2009 hit romantic comedy Bangkok Traffic Love Story (รถไฟฟ้า มาหานะเธ), with the director himself taking the role of the winsome leading lady Cris Horwang. It was projected in a split screen, with original above DeDomenici's version, and the attention to detail was amazing, with the bearded filmmaker coming as close as he could to replicate Cris' wardrobe. Exact locations were used, as Cris' character tracks her crush-object along the Skytrain route. Only one scene from the sequence was missing, when Cris was moping over bubble tea in some tea shop. They couldn't find the tea shop or maybe it's no longer there, and rather than use another tea shop, they just left that scene blank while the real scene played in the frame above.

I'd imagine studio GTH would take a dim view of the project, fair use or not, but probably Cris and other participants in Bangkok Traffic Love Story would be amused by the heartfelt tribute paid to them by the "world's most unconvincing ladyboy."

Action Hero

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Banjong on ABCs of Death, Pee Mak Phra Khanong

Banjong on the set of Pee Mak Phra Khanong. Nation photo by Thanis Sudto.

Banjong Pisunthanakun, half of the directorial duo that brought Thai horror to the world stage in the 2000s with Shutter and Alone, is back doing horror after his foray into romantic comedy with the 2010 hit Hello Stranger.

He took part in the omnibus project The ABCs of Death, produced by Drafthouse Films and Magnet Pictures, which premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and was released last week in video-on-demand form in the U.S. A limited theatrical release in the U.S. is also planned for next month. Banjong talks a bit about his "wicked and fun" segment, N is for Nuptials, in an interview at Strange Kids Club.

At this point, there's no hint that The ABCs be released in Thai cinemas, so perhaps Banjong's local fans will want to keep an eye out for a DVD release.

But set for big screens in Thailand on March 28 is a new feature, Pee Mak Phra Khanong (พี่มาก..พระโขนง), a new spin on the old Mae Nak Phra Khanong story of the ghost wife, which has been filmed dozens of times but is largely known for the 1999 version, Nang Nak by Nonzee Nimibutr and writer Wisit Sasanatieng.

It continues in the horror-comedy direction Banjong took with his segments of the GTH horror anthologies Phobia and Phobia 2, and he brings along the hilarious quartet of actors from those shorts, Nattapong Chartpong, Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk, Pongsatorn Jongwilak and Wiwat Kongrasri, who are in supporting roles.

With the characters blacking up their teeth, the costume period piece is set around 100 years ago when the totally fictional Mae Nak "lived", Pee Mak is from the point of view of the husband, Mak, played by Mario Maurer. He goes away to war, leaving behind his pregnant wife Nak who then dies giving birth. When he returns, he has no clue that his wife and baby are ghosts. Nak is portrayed by Davika Horne.

He talks about it today in The Nation, which got to visit the set:

“Usually Mak doesn’t know that his wife is a ghost and he’s shocked when he discovers the truth. I’ve attempted to revamp the story in such a way that it will surprise the audience yet not deal a blow to a tale that they love,” says the director.

It took almost 18 months to complete the script and while Banjong says his film is a comedy, he also makes it clear it is not a parody along the lines of Scary Movie.

“It is definitely my style of comedy though, the kind you can see in Hello Stranger or in my segments of Phobia and Phobia 2 … you know the drollness in the dialogue and the satire,” he says.

The Nation also has a video of the visit.