Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review: Forever Yours

[Note: This is another in a series about Ratana Pestonji, in commemoration of the centennial of the pioneering Thai filmmaker's birth.]

  • Directed by Tawee na Bangchang (a.k.a. Khru Marut)
  • Screenplay Tawee na Bangchang and Vichit Kounavudhi
  • Produced by and cinematography by Ratana Pestonji
  • Starring Ngamta Suphaphong, Chana Sri-Ubon, Hem Sukasem, Prajuab Reuk-yamdee
  • 1955; available on DVD from the Thai Film Foundation
  • Rating: 5/5

One of Thailand's most iconic films, for its image of lovers handcuffed together, Forever Yours (Chuafah Dinsalai), is a totally captivating experience. Though it is actually a small, simple story, it feels like an epic, as it starts out as a mirthful, music-filled romantic comedy and ends as a Shakespearian tragedy.

Set in a remote logging camp, the male protagonist is Sangmong (played by Pestonji's go-to leading man Chana Sri-Ubon), the young, educated nephew of the company's owner. Uncle Papo is a stumpy old man with a white, walrusy moustache. Later in the film, when things really get going, the uncle strokes that lip ferret, smoothing the bristles out and twirling them, like the best of the old-time movie villains. Even so, he remains a sympathetic, sad character.

A long-time widower, Papo has finally remarried, to a much younger woman, Yupadee (Ngamta Suphaphong), a cheeky, smiling bundle of personality with a kind and playful heart. The logging camp turns out with a brass band to greet Papo and his new bride at the river dock as they step off the boat, and as soon as Sangmong's eyes fall on Yupadee, he wishes he'd never seen her. She can't take her eyes off him either.

It's not a matter of if these two will get together but when.

Papo even encourages his nephew and his "aunt-in-law" to spend time together, hanging out in the uncle's house, tinkering away at the piano and singing. It's when they are out riding horses that the mischievous Yupadee fakes falling off so Sangmong can "rescue" her, which he does by clumsily trying to pick up her up. She screeches in pain and he nearly drops her back down again. It's this absurd scene that turns up on TV in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in the Universe -- Yupadee wearing a bright red blouse and white riding breaches, and Sangmong struggling to pick up her up.

The young couple's courtship grows, with Sangmong holding out the longest before giving in to his feelings. Like water spilling over the falls, he can't hold back. Naturally, people around the camp begin to notice. Everyone sees what is going on. And of course, the old man is not blind.

Eventually, the old man catches the couple in the act and out come the handcuffs. At first it's taken for a joke, with Papo's right-hand man Tip going so far as actually laughing. But as the months go by, with days being ticked off on the calendar. Locked together, Sangmong and Yupadee are getting on each other's nerves. The ridiculousness of the situation is compounded by Sangmong's not being able to button up his shirt, because he can't get his handcuffed arm through one sleeve. So his shirt is half draped over him. Yupadee favors a shoulderless or strapless dress, so it's easier for her to manage. But it's not funny. The novelty has worn off. Sympathies start to swing the other way and everyone wonders if the old man has the key.

Not only is Forever Yours a great story, it is filmed beautifully. One dissolve in particular, with a scene fading into the light of an oil lamp, is particularly poetic. The first half of the film is set in the outdoors, with shots of a lumber train pulling a string of gigantic logs, and a waterfall. The second half stays inside the house where Sangmong and Yupadee are confined. They can stay together, living and loving, but must remain in the house, made prisoners of their love.

See also


  1. Just that brief snippet in Last Life in the Universe had me curious about this one, so it's great to finally have it identified. Thanks! The reviews of vintage Thai cinema are always appreciated.

  2. One week ago I've sent an email to thai film foundation for some informations about the items in the shop. I want to buy all the dvds but I'm afraid that ship them to Italy is impossible. Can someone help me? Thanks in advance.

  3. Send an e-mail to the contact address on my page, Lea, and I'll try to help.

  4. Lea, TFF is a very small operation, but very worth supporting.

    I for one have ordered their full set of DVDs via email (albeit for local delivery, paid for via bank transfer). They were very swift with shipping.

    So as long as they can work out the logistics with you, I imagine they'd be happy to make it work. Just be patient, because there are only a handful of folks doing all the work. Good luck!


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