Monday, May 30, 2005

The ghost film

The lone Thai entry in the New York Asian Film Festival is P, a hybrid film that remains unreleased in Thailand. But it's been in Brussels Fantastic Film Festival, where it caused a "minor controversy", according to the Subway Cinema site. Here's more:

The movie tells the story of Dua (Suangporn Jaturaphut), a young girl from the country who becomes a bar girl in Bangkok. When her bar girl career doesn't take off she turns to the black magic taught to her by her grandmother in order to lure in customers. This is not a good idea. What makes this movie unique is that it's directed by Paul Spurrier, a Brit (and former child star – he appeared in Max Headroom and The Wild Geese) who moved to Thailand and spent four years learning the language before making this movie. Fully aware of how uneasy this makes viewers, Spurrier even casts himself in one scene as a sleazy white guy cruising for nubile young Thai flesh.

But the film is never exploitative, no matter how down market its subject matter. Its characters are given three-dimensions, and they all comport themselves with as much dignity as it's possible to have while pole dancing. The same for its actors. Its star, Suangporn Jaturaphut, comes from the slums of Bangkok and had never appeared in a movie before – her entire salary was given to her mother who required a major operation at the time. Her best friend in the movie, Pookie, is played by Opal, an adult film actress who will never be able to cross over into “legit” Thai films because of her background in porn. Several real bargirls were recruited to be in the movie, and they were all eager first-time actors, psyched to have a job that they could be proud of.

Constantly straddling the line between empowerment and exploitation, the production of the film mirrors the movie's narrative. But let's not get too caught up in the girl power: this movie is first and foremost a horror movie and it's a juicy, bloody, character-driven one. That's why we picked it.

So cool. Hope it eventually comes here, or at least gets a DVD release.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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