Thursday, February 11, 2016

In Thai cinemas: Luk Thung Signature and the return of The Act of Killing

Star-studded stories unfold to the toe-tapping beat of Thai country songs in Luk Thung Signature (ลูกทุ่ง ซิกเนเจอร์, a.k.a. Love Beat), a sprawling musical drama by producer-director Prachya Pinkaew. Best known for directing the Tony Jaa martial-arts dramas Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong, Prachya has long wanted to make a luk thung musical.

Featuring 13 songs, the stories include a brooding business executive (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) who is searching for the cleaning lady he heard singing while he was in the toilet. She's played by Rungrat Mengphanit, a singer who is best known as "Khai Mook The Voice", thanks to her winning appearance on a Thai TV talent show.

Another story centers on a washed-up overweight pop singer (singer-actor Chalitit "Ben" Tantiwut) who finds new popularity when he puts on a glittering rhinestone suit and switches to luk thung.

Other stars include The Voice Thailand Season 1 winner Tanon Jamroen as well as Siraphan Wattanajinda, Chaiyathat Lampoon, Sombat Metanee and Pitsamai Wilaisak, Sumet Ong-art, Su Boonliang and luk thung songwriter Sala Khunawut.

Read more about it in a story in The Nation.

Also in cinemas is a revival run for the 2012 documentary The Act of Killing, which has the perpetrators of genocide in Indonesia in the 1960s re-enacting their gruesome deeds in often self-aggrandizing fashion, in scenes from their favorite types of movies – westerns, film-noir mysteries and lavishly staged musical numbers.

The Act of Killing rubbed me the wrong way when I saw it in a one-off special screening in Bangkok a few years ago. I felt it let those colorful politicians and military figures mostly off the hook for their wave of politically motivated killings in 1965-66. But it was part of a one-two punch by director Joshua Oppenheimer and his "anonymous" team of filmmakers, who followed up the The Act of Killing with the powerful and essential counter-punch, The Look of Silence, which focused on one gentle survivor's personal search for truth and justice.

Brought back by the Documentary Club, this is the 159-minute "director's cut" of The Act of Killing. It won many awards, including the European Film Award for Best Documentary and the Asia Pacific Screen Award. It was also a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The Act of Killing opens this week, and the must-see followup The Look of Silence is released next Thursday. There's a special screening of both films from 6pm on Saturday in an event put together by the Documentary Club and Film Kawan, an academic group that specializes in Southeast Asian films. It's at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Apart from that special screening, regular venues for The Act of Killing are SF World, SFX Central Rama 9, SFX Central Lad Phrao and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. For further details, check the Documentary Club Facebook page or SF Cinemas booking site

Departing first-run cinemas after of two-week run is Khon Muay Kab Rak Thee Taektaang (ฅนมวยกับรักที่แตกต่าง, a.k.a. Boxing in Love), in which former childhood sweethearts – traditional dancer Roong and boxer Yord – are reacquainted years later in Bangkok, where Yord gets mixed up with mobsters and is tasked with going undercover in a police sting. Roengsak Misiri and Kriangsak Phinthutrasi direct.

Other new movies this week include Deadpool and Carol. There's more details on the other blog.

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