Monday, March 7, 2005

Review: Ruang Talok 69 (6ixtynin9)

  • Directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
  • Starring Lalita Panyopas
  • Released in 1999, Region 1 DVD released January 11, 2005 by Palm Pictures
  • Rating: 5/5

The title refers to the main character's apartment number. She lives in apartment six, but the number is missing a nail and often flips over making it look like she's in number nine.

Set in Bangkok, with the fallout from the Asian economic crash still coming, the main character, Tum, has just lost her job, determined by drawing straws with numbers on them. Ironically, number 9 was her number. In Chinese culture, 9 is a very strong, auspicious and lucky number.

But not for Tum. And like the number on her apartment door, her life is about to go topsy turvy.

She walks home, box of office supplies in hand. She is met by a neighbor, who reminds her she is lucky to have a job. She doesn't want to get into it. "Yeah, I'm lucky," she says simply.

Waiting for the elevator, a guy tells her she's going to have to wait for a few days. The elevator is out of order. He offers to carry her box. And he knows where she lives. She's weirded out by this, but eventually allows him to carry her box.

Finally alone, Tum contemplates what to do. Fantasy sequences show her drinking household chemicals, red fluid dripping down her cheeks as she downs a bottle of toilet cleaner. Or, maybe she could blow her head off with a gunshot. Splat goes the blood against the wall.

Then there's a knock at the door. She answers it but only finds a Mama instant noodles box. She opens it. It's filled with cash, about 1 million baht.

Later, a couple of guys come to collect the box. They end up dead. From there, the movie goes on an enjoyable enough crime-thriller ride with bits of comedy to lighten things up. Thai boxing, Mafia, bumbling cops, sentimental melodrama all find their way in.

Though neither the title nor the main character have anything to do with sex, people all around Tum are obsessed with it, particularly a nosey neighbor and her friends, who talk about cutting off a guy's penis, chopping it up and making it into a spicy minced-meat dish. Also, there's Tum's friend, Jin, who is obsessed with her long-haired boyfriend.

The actress Lalita is quite striking. She is at turns androgynous or feminine, sexy or scrawny, meek or a determined survivor.

Made in 1999, this was Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's second film. In style and themes, it is more similar to his meditative Last Life in the Universe than the racous musical Monrak Transistor.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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