Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ong-Bak, Buppha Ratree in AFI fest

The American Film Institute's Los Angeles International Film Festival provides a high-profile venue for a couple of Thai films - Buppha Rahtree (Flower of the Night) and Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior.

The fest is previewed in the San Bernardino Sun and LA City Beat.

In addition, there's Zhang Yimou's beautiful follow-up to Hero, House of the Flying Daggers, which is set for a wider US release by Sony Pictures Classics. It stars Zhang Ziyi, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro. Daggers also has been released on DVD in Asia, and I snapped it right up. Daggers contains such a tight web of betrayal, I thought it could be a prequel to the Infernal Affairs trilogy, which is also screening at AFI.

Back to the Thai films. LA City Beat provided a couple of capsule reviews. It wasn't very kind to Buppha Rahtree.

The festival includes two entries from the burgeoning Thai film industry. There’s not much to say about Rahtree: Flower of the Night. Yuthlert Sippapak’s ghost film careens wildly between horror and very broad comedy; by the end, the plot makes absolutely no sense. The entire thing would have been more effective at two-thirds the length.

The other Thai film, Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, has been a sensation all over the festival circuit, and there’s no reason L.A. should prove an exception. Director Prachya Pinkaew was clearly inspired by Jackie Chan: the plot is your basic “country boy comes to the big city and teams up with urban hustler to reclaim the religious relic that has been stolen from his village.” The filmmaking technique is generally slick, but what powers the movie are numerous brilliantly choreographed chase and fight sequences, and the sheer charisma and acrobatic skill of star Tony Jaa. If you have any taste for HK action, you don’t want to miss this. (It’s scheduled for general US release next year.)

IndieWire reports that Ong Bak was among many films that played to sold-out auditoriums at the fest. Overall, there was a 20 percent jump in attendance this year, based on preliminary box-office numbers.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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