Thursday, March 30, 2006

Review: Tone

  • Directed by Piak Poster
  • Starring Chaiya Suriyan, Jaruwan Panyopas, Sayan Chantaraviboon, Aranya Namwong
  • From 1970; released on DVD in 2005 by Suwan Film as part of its Thai Memorable Film Project
  • Rating: 4/5

Tone is one of those groovy musical romances that came out of the Thai industry in the 1970s.

Right off, it starts out funky, with a theme song by The Impossibles, an incredibly talented and diverse band that played a wicked combination of garage rock, Stax soul and Beatlesesque pop (some of the members are still around and perform in an occasional Beatles tribute band).

It's a song about summer vacation, and it sets up the story about a slacker college guy going back to his upcountry village for the break. He invites his friend, Odd (Sayan Chantaraviboon), along.

Next, we're introduced to the title character, Tone (Chaiya Suriyan), a humble country guy who's a little pent-up.

It doesn't help that he has a funny-looking, toothless old guy named Song (Sangtong Seesai) hanging around singing songs about him.

It's the time for a monk's ordination in the village, so people are celebrating.

There's more singing, including a song by the most beautiful girl in the village, Kularb (Jaruwan Panyopas). She's the girl whom Tone holds a torch for. And he goes as far to just spell it out for her - he loves her. He tells her right to her face.

But she's young yet. Not sure what she's going to do, or where she's going to go. Maybe to Bangkok. Maybe to Chiang Mai. Anyway, she has no time to get into a relationship with Tone.

Odd is bumming around. One day, he's out walking and steps in front of Kularb as she's riding her bicycle. Remember that for later.

Odd and his slacker friend have run in with Tone. It's an accident, but it gets out of hand, with the food that Tone was taking a monk dumped on the ground and the slacker dude with his clothes ruined. Odd takes pity on Tone, and wants to pay for the spilled food. Tone refuses.

Later, Odd and the slacker dude go to pay respects to the monk. And there's Tone, dishing up lunch for the monk. The monk then tells Tone's whole story - how Tone was an orphan and the monk took him in and raised him - he'd like to do better for Tone, send him to school and stuff, but he knows no one in Bangkok, where all the good universities are.

So Odd, still looking to make up for his friend's ill treatment of Tone, says he has room for Tone at his house in Bangkok, where he and his brother and sister live. They were orphans, too.

But for orphans, they sure have a swinging pad. And it's here where Tone meets Dang (Aranya Namwong), who's go-go dancing to some cool vinyl tracks. Tone walks in and stares at her gap-mouthed, checking out what she's wearing, some kind of tight, striped pantsuit, with her midriff exposed. The top and bottom are connected by big rings. Yeah, baby.

She doesn't take kindly to Tone's staring, and mouths off some attitude at him, and in her parting shot, she nicknames him Corny, a name he's stuck with for the rest of the movie.

Okay. The action gets rolling. Back home, Kularb, still not sure what she's doing or where she's going, is knocked off her bicycle by a local rascal who attempts to rape her.

A gang of good guys from the village, including the funny looking guy Song, beat the rascal up. Song, who goes to work at the "rock bombers" (rock quarry), is picked off with a hunting rifle for his troubles.

Not much is done dramatically with Song's death. A waste.

Back in Bangkok, Dang is running around with fast guys in fast cars. One of them takes her to his pad and tries to have his way with her.

Tone, suspicious of the guy, has followed them. He sneaks in, punches a henchman and rescues Dang.

Now, it gets confusing. There are jumps in time - like a year or two going by with no real warning that time has passed.

Odd later spots Kularb walking on campus. She's in college. In Bangkok, I guess. Not really sure.

He reminds her of the day she ran into him with her bicycle. So they are now a couple.

For the longest time, Odd talks about his new girlfriend, not realizing that she's the girl that Tone loved.

Then Kularb shows up at a swinging birthday party for Odd, and the cat is out of the bag. Odd's slacker friend shows back up. He's refashioned himself a hipster, speaking English and making references to Apollo.

Tone descends back into his depressed brooding, but he finally snaps out of it, after a heart-to-heart talk with Odd.

And as "Scarbourough Fair" (by the Impossibles) plays, Tone and Dang finally figure out that they don't really hate each other after all.

And then the bad guys show up, including that rascal rapist from the village, and they kidnap both Dang and Kularb. So there's a big, action-packed rescue to end it all off.

All in all, Tone's a fun movie, though a bit confusing at times, but one of the better DVD offerings from Thailand in awhile.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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