Thursday, November 23, 2006

Jim Thompson returns to Bangkok

Jim Thompson was a former OSS agent who came to Thailand right at the end of the Second World War. His mission was to turn to the Thais against their Japanese occupiers, but just as he landed the Japanese surrendered. He stayed in Thailand anyway, though his activities in the Kingdom remain the source of much speculation. One thing he did for sure, though, was revitalize the art and industry of Thai silk, and to this day a brand of Thai silk bears his name.

In 1967, he vanished without a trace in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, and his disappearance has also been the source of much speculation, with writers and conspiracy theorists all weighing in. A TV movie about it was produced by The Nation some years ago. It was a disaster. Teleplay writer Prabda Yoon probably wishes it would be forgotten about, but I've got the VHS tapes to prove it happened.

A co-worker once asked me what I thought about the Thompson legend, and I said I figured he was still alive, probably hanging out in Bangkok. It turns out I wasn't too far off the mark. This year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth, and to celebrate it, Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul has put together a show called Lost in the City that celebrates the life and legend of Thompson. It's on until March 31 at Jim Thompson House, which is a collection of old Thai-style wooden houses on the banks of Klong Saen Saeb near National Stadium in Bangkok.

They have some pretty cool art to promote the exhibition, including an ad that looks like an old Thai movie poster, and a slick composite photo that makes it look like Thompson is riding the Bangkok Skytrain.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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