Friday, June 18, 2004

The Sin

If bad movies are to be reviewed, the reviews should ideally be kept short, leaving more room to talk about good movies. But that doesn't stop the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee from going off about one of the recent offerings in local cinemas now.

Here is what he had to say about The Sin (Choo), which stars Sorapong Chatree, Helen Nima and Watchara Tangkaprasert, and is directed by Ong-art Singhlampong:

A soft-core bore that pretends to have elements of drama, The Sin is a mediocre remake of Piak Poster's classic of the 1970s. Instead of focusing on the tension between the three main protagonists -- the husband, his wife, and her lover -- from the outset, the movie is wired to explode into an erotic fantasy piece that takes place, supposedly, in a fishing village in [south Thailand] -- although the setting we actually see on screen looks more like a generic Polynesian doll's house.

Helen Nima plays the suffocatingly sexy wife of a fishing-boat skipper (Sorapong Chatree) who is seduced by her virile stepson (played, with maddening stiffness by Watchara Tangkapreasert). To its credit, the film has an old-fashioned, high-trash seductiveness that makes it easier to sit through its 105 minutes. It would've been much better, though, if the director had simply gone ahead and served up some soft-core porn without making any pretence at seriousness; instead, we get sex that's far from steamy and drama that's even more off the boil.

Actually, Kong wrote two reviews. What preceded was from his weekly Quick Takes reviews. He also wrote a story about The Sin. Here's part of it:

This is an erotic fantasy in the guise of an Oedipal drama. The film prides itself on its arty pretense, and in a move that baffles many, its marketing people decides to use the palm-frond brackets normally stamped on movies that are invited to screen at major international film festivals. In the poster of Choo, however, the text inside the palm brackets ambiguously reads: "a film that was brought to screen at Cannes Film Festival". Ho ho, the film wasn't invited to Cannes: It was "brought" there by its studio (a few hundred studios bring a few thousand movies to screen at Cannes' marketplace every year). Movies that can incorporate the palm brackets on its promo materials are those who're selected -- or honoured -- by the festival's committee, which number around 50 each year.

What Choo does on its poster is either an honest misunderstanding or an act aimed at misleading. That same ambiguity stuck to me like a stinker after savouring the movie. [It] is a mad jumble of bygone style and new-age cheesiness; I don't really know if the film wants to borrow nostalgic sensibilities of old Thai movies, or if it tries to position their characters (no pun intended) in an unreal futuristic waterworld, or if the filmmaker has any intention to pursue any of those ideas.

The wife is dressed up in the most provocative belly-baring, cleavage-clinging fashion, as if she has a personal stylist from Sports Illustrated working on her wardrobe. Any wife who clads herself up like this would cause a war far more epochal than the Trojan. That said, the film flaunts an ethnic ambivalence: from the look of their culture and costume, are these characters Thai, Sea Gypsies, Muslim or some obscure Polynesian tribe?

Then there's the disparity in the modes of performance. While veteran Sorapong Chatree anchors the story with his intensity of a realism actor, the two lovers, Helen and Watchara, are maddeningly insipid, Watchara especially regressing into a cold, lifeless acting of old-time movie stars. The lines he's forced to read seem lifted from the pages of forgotten melodramas of the 1960s. And the sex scenes themselves, which are supposed to be the reason this film was made, are a poorly-edited series of awkward fondling and unrhythmic fornication (the uncut version is reportedly steamier, though we won't get a chance to verify it).

To be fair, Choo has a kind of old-fashioned seductiveness; this is a movie whose idea of eroticism includes a lovemaking on the beach with the man sifting sand on the woman's naked body. But that's a small consolation in a film that has neither the tension of a real drama nor the inhibition of a porn fantasy. Well it just ends up stiff -- no pun intended.

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