Thursday, November 29, 2007

Upcoming Thai film releases: The Life of Buddha, The Screen, Ponglang

December 5, His Majesty the King’s birthday, has become an auspicious day for film premieres in the Kingdom of Thailand. This year, the King’s 80th birthday, is more auspicious, and among the films celebrating the occasion is The Life of Buddha, an animated historical fantasy film tracing the life of the Lord Buddha.

The film has been a labor of love for producer Wallapa Pimthong, who has been working for four years to bring this project to fruition. Not only does the film concern history, it is historic, being only the second traditionally animated feature film to come out of Thailand, and the first since 1979’s The Adventure of Sudsakorn by Payut Ngaokrachang, which I would love to see sometime.

It’s also a rare, traditionally animated film in an era when most cartoons are 3D animation, such as last year’s Khan Kluay, the first Thai 3D-animated feature.

Ahead of the film's release, talk seems to teeter between excitement at the possibility of the story of Buddha being made accessible to the masses, to dismay, that the Lord Buddha's life is being trivialized in a cartoon that looks like it was made by Disney (indeed, many of the Thai animators on the film have actually worked for the Mouse).

Also set for release on December 5 is The Screen at Kamchanod, from Five Star Production, which was featured at the recent American Film Market.

Directed by former Pang Brothers’ assistant Songsak Mongkolthong, The Screen is based on an actual event that took place at an upcountry outdoor screening in 1987, when an audience of ghosts turned up to watch a movie.

In the film, a group of medical professionals try to solve the mystery, and in the process endanger their own lives.

I'm a big fan of Five Star Production, mostly their arthouse efforts by Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Wisit Sasanatieng. But Five Star has a good pedigree when it comes to scares, as witnessed by the success of its Art of the Devil franchise, which has won worldwide acclaim, and even some critical acclaim in Thailand. So even though ghost movies aren't my favorite thing in the world to watch, I will try to catch this out of curiousity.

Opening today is a new comedy from RS Film, Ponglang Amazing Theatre. It features Ponglang Sa-on, the colorful Thai musical country comedy trio getting up to some ghostly hijinks in what I believe to be their first big screen venture.

The director is Rergchai Paungpetch, who has been doing a string of critically derided, yet financially successful films, including last year's smash Noodle Boxer and 2005's Dumber Heroes.

Ponglang Sa-on is a musical-comedy group I've seen on Thai television that features a pair of similar-looking, always-screaming women. Are they twins? Are they sisters? What's their story? I can't tell for sure.

They are led by a young guy with a goatee, who's always wearing a kilt, though he is sans kilt in this movie, and is oddly sporting a Star of David pendant.

I have no clue what they are on about, yet I watch, transfixed. Truly amazing.

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