Monday, October 30, 2006

Upcoming films for the end of 2006

As the end of the year approaches there is going to be flurry of Thai films being released that will take us into 2007. Here's a look a some of the ones I hope to watch.

The Legend of Sudsakorn (November 30)

Actually, I'm not really looking forward to this. What bugs me is that there's Payut Ngaokrachang's animated version of the Sudsakorn story - Thailand's only cel-animated feature - that has never been given its due.

The live-action Legend of Sudsakorn, starring Charlie Trairat from Fan Chan and Dorm, has been frequently posted about over at Twitch and other places.

Adapted from the epic poem, Phra Aphai Mani, by Sunthorn Phu, the story is essentially Thailand's Lord of the Rings if you need a Western equivalent to measure things by.

Mono Film, the makers of last year's martial-arts actioner, The Tiger Blade, and the jungle monster adventure Vengeance from earlier this year, has been working on The Legend of Sudsakorn in post-production for the past year. So hopefully it will not look too bad. I'm going to watch it because I want to support the upstart Mono Film.

The Possibles (December 5)

I've lost track of how many of the six directors of Fan Chan have branched out on their own, but now it's Withaya Thongyooyong's turn.

His solo debut is called The Possibles, about a band from the 1960s-'70s that appear to be based on an actual band from the era, The Impossibles. (Or check Bangkok Funk for some samples and visuals.) They are a favorite band of mine. Among their finest work was on the soundtrack to a 1970s film called Tone.

I'm not sure what the film is about, but stills from Deknang make it look like a lot of fun.

King Naresuan (December 21)

I'm not surprised that MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's latest historical epic has been pushed back a few weeks from the December 5 (HM the King's birthday) release date that was being reported earlier. He'll probably be working on it until the last minute. The trailers are most impressive, bringing out the big guns. I'm hoping this has the same magic as Suriyothai, in which I became immersed in the grandeur and pageantry of it all, forgetting that I was watching a three-hour film.

The Sperm

I don't know when this is being released or what it's about, except that the director is Taweewat Wantha, who directed the insane SARS Wars and it stars the actress from Sayew, Pimpaporn Leenutapong, who's decidely less butch looking than she was in that film. It could be about a band. I'm not sure.


I don't know the release date, but this is a cool-looking martial-arts film featuring Dan Chupong and Panna Rittikrai. Its name has reportedly been changed to Kon Fai Bin, but perhaps Tabunfire will be kept as the English-language name until it's sold to the Weinsteins and given the name of an old Jackie Chan movie.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Khan Kluay No. 1 at Thai box office in 2006

More news about the Thai animated feature, Khan Kluay, comes recently from Twitch, which has engaged a new writer named Toffy to post about Thai film. I welcome Toffy and congratulate Twitch for finding him and look forward to his postings. More information about and expressions of interest in Thai film is a good thing for everyone.

In two recent posts, Toffy covers the Top 10 Thai films of 2006, in two parts (part 2 is here). Head on over to Twitch to view the other films on the list.

What's interesting about Khan Kluay is that despite its estimated take of 110 million baht, it hasn't yet made back what was put into it, since it cost 150 million baht (about US$4 million) to make. So while it's taken the most at the box office - so far - it's not the most profitable. Running at a very close No. 2 is Noo Hin: The Movie, a live-action comedy that cost a fraction of its box-office takings to make.

Yet to come this year are a few big films, including King Naresuan, that could still take that top spot.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Review: Lucky Loser (Mak Tae)

  • Directed by Adisorn Tresirikasem
  • Starring Jakrit Panichpatikam, Noi Po-ngam
  • Released in Thai cinemas on October 19, 2006
  • Rating: 3/5
GMM-Tai-Hub would like you forget that its new football comedy, Lucky Loser (Mak Tae Loke Talueng), was pulled from release in May because Laotian diplomats thought the film about their national football team hiring a Thai coach might be offensive to Lao people.

Now, thanks to the magic of digital editing and ADR looping, Laos is no more. Thailand’s neighbor to the Northeast is called Arvee.

By a fluke, their national side is the lucky loser –- the wild-card draw in the World Cup regionals. The country is also home to the Miss Universe winner. It's even been given a stretch of coast on the South China Sea. It certainly has plenty to be proud of. Sharp-eyed viewers may notice, however, that any beachfront property shown in the film looks suspiciously like the Mekong.

In a message preceding the opening credits, GTH says it hopes the film will inspire all Southeast Asians to excel, and that one day, perhaps, a team from this part of the globe will play in the World Cup. And by the way, this film is entirely fictional.

Most of the laughs come in the scenes that feature an ambiguously effeminate (and Thai) team trainer, who flexes his muscles and flashes smiles at all the guys, making them feel just a little uncomfortable. Whenever one of the players has a cramp, the trainer is on top of things, bending legs backwards and massaging away. Is he gay? It doesn't matter. What matters is that he's the funniest thing in this movie, political correctness be damned.

Lucky Loser follows the formulaic pattern of any sports comedy. It could be from anywhere, about any sport.

The main protagonist is the coach, Pongnarin Ulice (Jakrit Panichpatikam), Thailand's greatest player and a star in England's Premier League. When there's an opening for a coach on the Thai side, he hangs up his cleats and comes home, hoping he'll be named. Instead, a Brazilian is chosen. (Teams hire foreign coaches all the time, right? So what if he’s from Brazil?)

This disappoints Pongnarin's fiesty, football-crazy, gambling-addicted Aunt Ming (Noi Po-ngam -- Thep Po-ngam's sister). She's just hit the lottery and was ready to donate millions to the Thai national side. But, since her nephew has been passed over for the coaching job, Ming decides she's going to support the Arvee team.

What follows are the typical scenes of the coach putting together a rag-tag team of losers and shaping them into a cohesive unit. He gets a guy who catches watermelons at the market to be the goalie. An aggressive dogcatcher becomes the attacking midfielder. Arvee's best player ever, banned for life because he can't control his temper, is coaxed out of his spiritual retreat in the jungle. And the hilltribesman who guided the coach on a trek is drafted as well, because he's got a kick that's out of this world. It's like something out of Shaolin Soccer.

The last guy to join is a star Thai player who's defected to the Arvee side because he says he believes they can win, but it's actually because he's a prima donna who thinks he can outshine the rest of the players. There's also the urban hipster, who plays basketball and says things like "yo" and "man". He convinces his teammates to dye their hair (including the armpits) blond. They train in a freezer to acclimatise.

In their first matches, they don't follow the game plan and, of course, they lose. Finally, they pay attention and start putting the coach's words into action, and they win. Yay!

Then, for their last game (against the Thais. Boo!), the Arveeians find their strategy isn't working, so they have to throw out the playbook and do whatever they can to win.

The comedy is, at least, coherent, something GTH seems to have a handle on, judging from this film and the earlier Metrosexual, though I didn't see their other comedy, See How They Run. Most of the time, Thai comedy films tend to not have much of a plot at all and mainly involve a bunch of gags strung together and a lot of running around and screaming. So, given all the hoo-hah this film caused earlier in the year with the Laotian government, it was refreshing to see that it had a story that could be followed.

Noi Po-ngam is fun to watch as the gambling crazed auntie and Michael "Iron Pussy" Shaowanasai pops up in the final scenes as the head referee. He plays it totally straight, though I think he was probably having a ball putting on the performance, showing the red card with a great flourish.

Some of the life is sucked out of the proceedings by moments of melodrama, with the coach wrestling with his feelings of loyalty to Thailand and his desire to win with his new team.

There's also a love triangle, with one of the Arvee star players falling for the new Miss Universe, who's from Arvee. This makes the team's pretty female chef (Praew Prapintip), who's a childhood sweetheart of the striker, jealous. It's a sappy subplot, but it produces one of the best lines, when the guy asks his sweetheart why she didn't answer her phone. "It's just a missed call," she says, "not Miss Universe."

Related posts:
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Bodyguard 2 a prequel has news about the Bodyguard 2 production, with pictures of Mum Jok Mok doing a song-and-dance number and big explosions.

The sequel to 2004's The Bodyguard is actually a prequel, Mum tells ThaiCinema, delving into his character's origins.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Yuthlert Sippapak's next film

Time for an update on Yuthlert Sippapak's upcoming new film, Ghost Station, because new information has emerged from comments by Sophon and from a item in Soopsip in The Nation today.

It seems these teaser posters that spoof Brokeback Mountain are apt (even if such things are soooo 2005) because the story is about a gay couple, played by Nakron "Ple" Silachai and Kiatisak "Sena Hoy" Udomnak, who are looking for a getaway from the city and they find the perfect lovenest -- an abandoned filling station along a road in the mountains.

But things take a crazy turn when when one of them gets drunk and has a one-night fling with a lesbian. She becomes pregnant and insists he assumes responsibility.

The lesbian duo will be played by Achita Sikhamana (the ghost from Shutter and Tong from 13 Beloved) and Suphasara "Sai" Ruangwong -– an actress who, according to Soopsip, claims she's the half sister of superstar Tata Young (and there's got to be some irony there, since Tata Young starred in Yuthlert's screenplay, O Negative, which was actually taken away from him by Grammy).

It's a change for Yuthlert who was last seen developing a snake movie, Mia Ngoo, as well as a flick about disabled martial-arts warriors, Kode Mahapigan.

(Via Deknang/Popcornmag; hat tip to Kaiju Shakedown; cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Khan Kluay wins at Animadrid

The Thai computer-animated feature, Khan Kluay won the Best Feature Film prize at Animadrid, which ran from September 29 to October 6 in Spain. I read about it first today in Soopsip in The Nation.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

13 Beloved sold to Weinsteins

Remake rights for 13 Beloved (also reviewed here), the Thai thriller that is likely the best Thai film of 2006, have been picked up by The Weinstein Company, reports Variety (another link here).

The biz-minded Variety is understandably gushing with details about the film, which is directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul and stars Krissada "Noi Pru" Sukosol Clapp. In it's clipped, jargon-laden style, Variety describes the film thusly:

Story involves a naive man dragged into a gruesome reality show with an audience he cannot see. Winning takes guts and questionable morals as one must perform acts straight out of Fear Factor or Abu Ghraib.

The studio behind it is Sahamongkol Film International, which made big money with the Weinsteins when it sold them Tom Yum Goong (which the Weinsteins cut and retitled The Protector). It made $11.7 million in its North American theatrical release, which likely makes it the biggest-earning Thai film ever.

13 Beloved will be at the American Film Market next month, and Sahamongkol has a new sales team that will be pushing it in territories outside North America.

Michelle Krumm, executive vice president of acquisitions for the Weinsteins, said the 13 storyline "has tremendous potential to be remade for audiences around the world."

Will the original Thai film ever be shown in the US? Who knows? There's still a few Asian films rolling around in the vaults at Miramax, where the Weinsteins purchased Tears of the Black Tiger, had it re-edited and then never did release it. The bastards. It's made at least one Thai studio wary of dealing with them again, but Sahamongkol seems happy.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wraps come off Bangkok Int'l fest

The World Film Festival of Bangkok has just wrapped up its low-key affair, and its sexier, star-studded (and more amply funded) competitor, the Bangkok International Film Festival, is ready to get under way from January 26 to February 5.

Princess Ubolratana presided over a launch party on October 12 at L'Orangerie in Los Angeles. Variety has the story about this "private do", which was given for about 100 diners.

Guests included Nicolas Cage, evidently back from Bangkok where he survived the coup while filming the Bangkok Dangerous remake, Time to Kill, and Oliver Stone, who has a home in somewhere in the Land of Smiles.

Ray Harryhausen also was on hand, celebrating the restored version of Merian C. Cooper's She, which Harryhausen meticulously supervised the colorization. I'm wondering what the Thai connection could be, and I don't have to think too hard to come up with just two degrees of separation. Harryhausen worked with Cooper on Mighty Joe Young and Cooper worked in Thailand to make Chang back in the 1920s. Also, Cooper was a mentor for MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, when that Thai filmmaker was working in the US while attending UCLA.

The LA party is likely a preview of things to come at BKKIFF '07.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Isabella from Hong Kong wins at World Film Fest

The 4th World Film Festival of Bangkok grinds to halt tonight with a screening of The Battleship Potemkin. (Sorry, no Pet Shop Boys score, but it is an original print from Mosfilm.)

Yesterday, they handed out the awards in the Harvest of Talents competition. Here are the winners:
  • Best Feature: Isabella (Hong Kong, 2006), directed by Pang Ho-Cheung
  • Best Cinematography: Climates (Turkey, 2006), directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • Best Script: Seeds of Doubt (Germany, 2005), directed by Samir Nasr
  • Jury’s Prize: 12:08 East of Bucharest (Romania, 2006), directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
  • People's Choice Award: The Banquet (China, 2006), directed by Feng Xiaogang
I didn't get to see as many of the films this year as I would have liked, due to the vagaries of trying to hold down a full-time job. Thankfully, however, there is yet another Asian film blog to take up the slack on film watching. It's by a traveller named Brian who's a co-conspirator of Grady Hendrix. He has a review of the indie Thai film, Sugarless, and many of the competition films.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lucky Losers return

Lucky Losers, the soccer comedy that featured players from Laos taking on regional titans Thailand in a bid to enter the World Cup playoffs, but was pulled from release after Laotian officials objected to its depiction of Laotians, is back in cinemas. It's been edited, with any traces the Lao flag removed, and the dialog has been looped so that the team comes from a tiny, fictional Southeast Asian nation known as Awee.


Remaining prints of the old version have been burned, according to Soopsip in The Nation on Wednesday.

"Last Friday, 57 copies of the film Mak Tae Loke Talueng (Lucky Loser), costing more than 2 million baht, were destroyed by GTH Company at an event witnessed by co-producer BBTV Production Company and Kantana Film Labs," Soop Sip reports. "The spools held the version of the movie responsible for the protests earlier this year from the Lao PDR Embassy in Bangkok, which led to the studio withdrawing the flick from release."

"We have been asked what we would do if the problem version were ever leaked and released. We decided the only way we could ensure that would never happen was to destroy every copy," GTH President Visute Poolvoralaks was quoted as saying.

"As the director, it's sad to see it destroyed. But it's not a big deal," Adisorn Trisirikasem told Soopsip. "Anyway, the new version is more entertaining. We've changed the country's name and we are free to say whatever we want."

More than 3 million baht was spent editing the film, which initially cost 60 million baht, and without re-editing, probably would have been shelved permanently.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tabunfire gets a name change

One of the things I've been seeing when I check out Deknang is a poster image for something called Tabunfire, featuring a couple of water buffalo on a collision course. It's a pretty cool image, but there's no link to tell me anything about it (of course, Twitch had something about this months ago, but it's news to me).

But on Wednesday in The Nation's Soopsip column, there was the news about Chalerm Wongpim's upcoming action comedy, Taban Fai Talai Pherng -- Tabunfire.

Chalerm is the director of the action comedy's, 7 Prajan Baan (Heaven’s Seven) and its sequel, (Seven Street Fighters).

According to Soopsip, the new movie is set about 100 years ago in northeast Thailand and has a "Wild West" flavor.

The movie stars Dan Choopong as a buffalo-rustling masked bandit, with former boxer Samart Phayakarun and Panna Ritthikrai taking a rare role in front of the camera.

Now, confusingly, the name might not actually be Tabunfire. According to Soopsip, the name's been changed to Kon Fai Bin, literally, "flying man of fire", which is similar to the Thai title of Chen Kaige's The Promise - Kon Ma Bin ("flying horseman").

"With such an obvious marketing ploy, it comes as no surprise to learn who is behind the name change," Soopsip says. "Sahamongkol Film Company’s head honcho, Somsak 'Sia Jiang' Techaratanaprasert gave the flick its new title while he was still in hospital."

Huh? Sia Jiang has been in hospital? Where can I send flowers? Seriously.

Kon Fai Bin will be released in Thai cinemas on December 12.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes | (public)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Battle of the film festivals in Bangkok

Agence France-Presse transmitted a story yesterday in which their reporter, Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, covered the gala opening night on Wednesday of the World Film Festival of Bangkok, which started off with The Banquet.

But I come today to write not about the movie, but about the festival.

"Why do we need two festivals? I think it eats into their own programming," Gilbert Lim, executive vice president of Sahamongkol Film International, is quoted as saying by AFP. "I think the resources could be developed together to make one very very good film festival instead of two mediocre ones."

At one time, there was just one film festival, simply named the Bangkok Film Festival, which started sometime in the 1990s. After a dispute between organizers of that festival, the Bangkok International Film Festival was born in 2003. After heavy-handed tactics by the main sponsor of the festival, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the organizer of the BKKIFF and Nation Multimedia, split from the TAT and formed their own festival, which started later in 2003.

The Bangkok International fest is loaded with red-carpet ceremonies and takes pains to fly in big-name stars. Funded by the taxpayers, it is promoted as a tourism event and hopes to attract high-flying, glamorous people who come to the Kingdom and spend money that makes other high-flying, glamorous people even richer.

The World Film Fest has been a lower-key affair, but still has its share of celebrities. Last year, the organizers flew in Roman Polanski, but this year there are no big names. The festival this year is offering itself as an alternative festival, with an emphasis on independent films.

"We want to give the city a serious film culture event," said festival director Victor Silakong. "Of course, we cannot afford all the big stars but we want to promote serious cinema."

Interestingly, the festival's sponsors include the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways, so there's still some dipping in the public trough going on, but not nearly to the degree that the BKKIFF does. It has a rumored budget of up to US$10 million, the AFP story says. In the past, the TAT has paid a Los Angeles-based firm, Film Festival Management, to actually organize the festival.

"Our budget is not more than 10 million baht ($266,500), the International Film Festival is 10 times more," Victor is quoted as saying. The World Film Festival of Bangkok's full-time staff amounts to three people: Victor, his brother, Dusit, and a secretary who must have a heck of time keeping the Silakong brothers from imploding.

The AFP story turns to Surasak Sunpituksaree, secretary-general of the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand. The story characterizes the FNFAT as a "sponsor" of the BKKIFF, but fails to mention that last year the FNFAT boycotted the festival after the TAT cut them out of the loop.

The dispute was ugly, and led to the resignation of the FNFAT's president, Somsak Techaratanaprasert, but Surasak still has no praise for the upstart World Film Festival, saying the event has just a "few" films and can not hope to be the flagship festival for the kingdom.

"We don't count the World Film Festival because it is only organized by one person and a newspaper," he says, referring to The Nation. "The World Film Festival of Bangkok does not get to the standard of the Bangkok International Film Festival."

Victor, feeling cornered, lashed out at the BKKIFF's "commercial streak", as the AFP termed it: "We would say we really focus on films rather than anything," Victor was quoted as saying. "When tourism organize[s] it, they have the purpose to promote Thailand and to make a big noise."

A more detached view comes from Sahamongkol's Gilbert Lim, who said he thinks that both festivals have their pros and cons and he offered praise to the World Film Festival for concentrating on film alone and questioned the Bangkok International Film Festival's focus on tourism.

"I think that the tourism aspect should come as a secondary thing, that will automatically come but you don't shove the idea of it down people's throats," Lim was quoted as saying.

The factions should just put their differences aside and create one festival that would truly represent Thai film, Lim says.

Surasak, undaunted, insists that the Bangkok International Film Festival is well on its way to becoming the top regional festival.

"After five years we will be bigger than Busan," he said.

Silakong, hinting at a niche the World Film Festival could mine, says he is devoted to nurturing Thai cinema, with this year's festival featuring four world premieres by independent Thai directors.

"We are a small festival and we make sure to promote independent film in Thailand," he says.

After reading all this, for my part, I think as long as the BKKIFF continues to operate the way it's operated - as a slick, commercial, tourist-friendly, taxpayer-funded party, then there is room for two film festivals, the other being a smaller, less glitzy, alternative festival that promotes independent films.

And for film buffs, having two festivals is a win-win situation. Simply, there are more films to choose from.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Review: 13 Beloved (13 Game Sayong)

  • Directed by Chukiat Sakweerakul
  • Written by Ekasith Thairath and Chukiat Sakweerakul
  • Starring Krissada Sukosol Clapp
  • Released in Thailand cinemas on October 5, 2006

Society’s vanity and the self-centredness of individuals is laid bare in 13 Beloved (13 Game Sayong), in which a salesman (Krissada Sukosol Clapp) is thrust into a game where he must complete a degradingly sinister series of tasks in a bid to win 100 million baht.

This not to say that the film is preachy. While it does have a message, 13 Beloved is the most intelligently entertaining film to be produced by the Thai film industry in a long while. It has all the stuff that makes me love Thai films: debilitating heartbreak, ethereal glee and bone-jarring violence - all in one movie.

For the actor, best known as Noi of the rock band Pru, 13 Beloved completes a trifecta of wacky movies, which he started with The Adventure of Iron Pussy and continued with the insane Bangkok Loco.

And, for the director, Chukiat Sakweerakul, who adapted this film from a Thai manga, 13 Beloved makes him a name to watch for. Previously, he did a loopy, low-budget ghost movie called Pisaj (Evil).

In 13 Beloved, Noi portrays Chit, a failing salesman of band instruments. After losing a big account to a rival in his firm ("You were too slow," the guy tells Chit), he wakes up the next day and finds that his car is being repossessed. Things can’t get much worse, it seems, but then he's actually fired from his job. And, it turns out that Chit is facing a pile of bills from his creditors.

Luckily, the credit on his cell phone is still good and while he's sitting in the stairwell, pondering his next move, he gets a call from a mysterious person who knows every detail about his life – where he's from, that he's lost his job, how much he owes down to the last satang. The guy on the line also knows that there’s a fly buzzing around Chit's head at that exact moment.

The voice explains that Chit can win Bt10,000. All he has to do is pick up the folded newspaper that happens to be lying nearby and swat that fly. Chit completes the task, and the phone rings again.

To win more money, he is told, he has to eat the dead fly.

Chit goes back to his desk with the fly in his hand and debates following through with the task. Then, to the shock of a co-worker and friend, Tong (Achita Wuthinounsurasit), Chit pops the fly into his mouth.

The phone rings again and Chit is informed that there's Bt100 million on offer if he completes 11 more tasks, each growing progressively more degrading and deadly. There's something far worse than a dead fly to consume, and some of the stunts take him to dark places in his memory, cleverly revealing details about his past - his upbringing and old relationships.

Chit must play the game for the entertainment of an audience he can't see, following the rules or else forfeiting all the winnings he has accumulated.

But who's behind this game, how they are monitoring Chit and where the audience watching is, remain a mystery, despite the efforts of Tong, who unbeknownst to Chit is using her computer skills to hack into the game, and unwittingly, she becomes a pawn used by the dark forces behind it.

As Chit is put through his paces, there are elements reminiscent of Michael Douglas' breakdown in Falling Down, the claustrophobic horror of Shinya Tsukamoto's Haze and the gross-out thriller Saw.

If you're one of the millions who rides a Bangkok city bus every day, you won't be too surprised by a scene where Chit gets in to a fight with a group of school-aged thugs while riding one of those rolling death traps. For me, it was like watching a something out of a dream. I like riding the bus.

And Chit's solution for dealing with those brainless punks who race their little motorcycles is intriguing. (Though it is not, it has to be said, a solution that anyone would want to see.)

In the end, there is a moral to this tale. When things finally get out of hand, and someone is killed, we're informed that it wasn't an individual who did the killing, it was all of us – we all failed the victim.

In a materialistic society, where the goal is a sleek car, an expensive watch (Chit's wearing a Tag! Why didn't he pawn it? Or, maybe it's a fake?), a hi-tech mobile phone and the instant, no-brainer thrills of reality-television and video games, it's hard to keep our focus on the real prize: simply surviving and living within our means.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Bangkok Asshole

Finally, a decent Thai movie. 13 Beloved (13 Game Sayong) is the first Thai film in what seems like forever that I felt like I could really connect with.

Krissada "Noi" Sukosol Clapp stars as a salesman who must undertake a series of increasingly degrading and sinister stunts in order to win 100 million baht.

I have more to say, but the full review will have to wait until later. Like I said, 13 Beloved is great, and is likely the best Thai film of the year.

But I did want to add a nugget: Noi gave a short interview to BK magazine and talked a bit about his film career so far, which has included two movies: The Adventure of Iron Pussy and Bangkok Loco. Seems Bangkok Loco was originally to be called Bangkok Asshole, he says. "Some people think I'm a porn star," Noi said.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Thai films at the 4th World Film Festival of Bangkok

Well, it's time once again for the World Film Festival of Bangkok, this year being the fourth, making it the 4th World Film Festival.

As far as Thai films this year, the festival's directors, the Silakong brothers, have some obscure choices. They are all independent films, and are spread out throughout the festival's program, a couple in the Asian Contemporary, a documentary and some short films.

Similar to last year, the festival is offering a short-film package focused on a certain subject. Last year it was the Tsunami Digital Short Films. This year it's the Reconciliation Short Films, put together by the Office of Contemporary Arts and Culture in a bid to shed positive light on Buddhist-Muslim relations.

One of the documentaries is Weirdrosopher, the Thai answer to Dogtown and Z Boys. The skateboarding documentary is directed by Nontawat Numbenchapol and Rthit Phannikul, who received backing from director Jira Maligool.

Feature films are Silence Will Speak by Punlop Horharin, which depicts the daily life of one Bangkokian; Sanctuary Rhapsody by Supucksarun Suwonnapra-prad, about a young woman who’s trying to understand men; and Patana Jirawong's Sugarless about a man and a woman with very different personalities who are both looking for love.

"I wouldn't say the films selected for this year’s festival are the best we could find,” festival deputy director Dusit Silakong was quoted as saying in The Nation. "Thai independent movie productions still lack character and profoundness in dialogue. Most filmmakers in Thailand are too heavily influenced by European films, and their products are not the best items to show a Thai way of storytelling. Also, the subject matter in the films are of a pretty dull aspect of Thai society. They typically depict sex, drugs or relationships between humans, unlike in Europe or America where there are more social aspects to explore. This festival only serves as a platform for them to broadcast their works, which we hope would encourage more creativity and out-of-the-box thinking."

Other films in the festival, running from October 11 to 23, is The Banquet. It's the opening film. The closer is The Battleship Potemkin, with the Pet Shop Boys score.

An interesting film is Tsai Ming-Liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, which was among the films produced for the New Crowned Hope Project celebrating Mozart's 250th. Another film made for the same project, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and Century, is not screening at the World Film Festival, with the speculation being that maybe the Bangkok International Film Festival might actually be wanting to show it.

The festival is organized by The Nation and is the ugly stepchild of the bigger, nastier Bangkok International Film Festival. Nonetheless, the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee had some nice things to say about it in today's Real Time section. (Full disclosure: a short film written by Kong is screening in the Reconciliation Short Films program.)

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Thailand's Oscar pick: Ahimsa ... Stop to Run

An interesting choice for this year's Best Foreign Language Film submission to the Academy Awards from Thailand.

Evidently feeling that none of this year's films - not even Dorm - are strong enough for the Oscars, the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand has reached back to October 2005 to pull out Ahimsa: Stop to Run, the karmic action comedy by Leo Kittikorn that memorably features a red-headed dude smacking the protagonist around with a hunk of lumber. It also has anal sex and the use of hallucinogenic drugs -- just the right stuff for the Academy.

However, according to Soopsip in today's Nation, Ahimsa wasn't the FNFAT's first choice. That was Invisible Waves by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang.

Invisible Waves is a stronger film, and it would've been the fourth possible trip to the Oscars for the director, but it has one problem -- while the languages are foreign, hardly any of them are Thai. Speculation is that film company Five Star Production, likely not wanting its film to run into controversy later on (possibly similar to last year, when Singapore's entry, Be With Me, was rejected for having too much English), asked that the film be withdrawn from consideration.

Or, the withdrawal could simply be the continuing beef between Five Star and the FNFAT, according to Kong Rithdee, writing for Variety.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

A look at The Unseeable

Deknang has some stills from Wisit Sasanatieng's upcoming new film, The Unseeable, which is due for release on November 2. It stars Siraphan Wattanajinda from Dear Dakanda, among others. I'll have more about this film as I hear it, but from what I can see, it's simply gorgeous, though I would expect no less.

Update: Kaiju Shakedown has links to an English-subtitled trailer.

In good related Wisit news, Twitch reports that Citizen Dog is finally getting an English-subtitled DVD release.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)