Thursday, July 9, 2015

In Thai cinemas: Y/our Music, F. Hilaire, The Scar International Version

Urban and city beats blend in the tuneful documentary Y/our Music, which finally comes to Bangkok cinemas this week after a spin on the festival circuit.

I've seen it twice, and it kept my toes tapping both times. Directed by David Reeve and Waraluck “Art” Hiransrettawat Every, Y/our Music is a bifurcated look at Thailand's social divide through the benignly harmonious prism of music.

In Bangkok, there's an esoteric blend of city folk, playing Western-influenced folk, jazz and rock, while in the countryside, there are National Artists, performing the traditional Isaan country-folk music of mor lam, on traditional instruments, such as the electric pin (Isaan banjo) and the khaen (Isaan reed pipe).

It's those Isaan sounds that mostly come through, thanks to ever-present transistor radios in market stalls, taxi-cab stereos, masked street performers and, eventually, the Northeastern legends themselves.

Here are the performers:

  • Wiboon Tangyernyong – A Khao San-area optician who developed a worldwide following as a maker of bamboo saxophones.
  • Sweet Nuj – Young musician and indie record label entrepreneur Bun Suwannochin formed a duo with his singer mother-in-law Worranuj Kanakakorn, and they sell their discs online.
  • Happy Band – Following the tradition of The Who, Velvet Underground and Talking Heads, some Bangkok artists thought it'd be a swell idea to create a rock band as an art project. Eventually, they learned to be musicians.
  • Captain Prasert Keawpukdee – A gentleman who sells used violins and Buddha amulets at Chatuchak market, he hosts old-timey fiddle jam sessions on weekends.
  • Nattapol Seangsukon – Otherwise known as DJ Maftsai, he is a DJ who collects old mor lam, luk thung, string and Thai funk, and is the glue that holds this all together.
  • Chaweewan Phanthu – National Artist singer and academic.
  • Chalardnoi Songserm – National Artist singer.
  • Thongsai Thabthanon – Phin master. "Borrowed" telephone wire from American GIs to string up his Isaan banjo and play with rock bands.
  • Sombat Simlhar – A blind virtuoso of the khaen, the Isaan bamboo reed pipe. He lost his sight in early childhood and turned to music, becoming a major recording artist and performer who is still much sought-after.

Critical reception is pretty great. Y/our Music screens at 6.45 nightly until July 22 at the Lido in Siam Square. Rated G

F. Hilaire (ฟ.ฮีแลร์) – The writer of the widely used "Darun Suksa" Thai-language textbook was not Thai at all: he was a French Roman Catholic missionary and schoolteacher. Brother Hilaire was one of the key educators behind Thailand's Assumption College and taught many of the statesmen who would lead the Kingdom into the modern era. His story is recalled with help from a present-day scholar (Pharunyoo "Tac" Rojanawuttitham) who is looking for a new angle as he tries to write a thesis. Jason Young portrays the bearded clergyman teacher. Rated 13+

The Scar International Version – Dramatist ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula's adaptation of the classic tragic romance Plae Kao (แผลเก่า) is back in Bangkok cinemas for one week as The Scar International Version. Adding 40 minutes of further exposition, the longer director's cut premiered at last month's Thai Film Festival in London. Adapted from a novel by Mai Muengderm, The Scar is set in the Bang Kapi countryside of the 1930s, where poor farm boy Kwan is hopelessly in love with Riam, the daughter of a wealthier farming family. The star-crossed romance has been adapted for film and TV many, many times before, including a beloved 1977 film version by Cherd Songsri. This new version stars Chaiyapol Julian Pupart from Mom Noi's Jan Dara remake as Kwan and Davika Hoorne from Pee Mak Phra Khanong as Riam. It's playing at House on RCA.

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