Monday, June 30, 2008

Mario in mourning as his new movie Friendship opens

Sad news ahead of this week's opening of Love of Siam actor Mario Maurer's new movie Friendship: His father has died.

Roland Maurer, a 70-year-old German exporter, had been battling diabetes for some time. He died on Friday morning in a hospital in Nakhon Nayok Province. He is survived by Mario, 19, Mario's older brother Marco, 24, and Chinese-Thai wife Warunya.

Bangkok of the Mind and Lyn’s Lakorn Blog have more on this.

In Friendship Mario stars with "Saipan" Apinya Sakuljaroensuk from Ploy, 4bia and the upcoming Boonchu 9. The story is similar to Fan Chan: a guy, now in adulthood (played by "Jay" Jetrin Wattanasin), flashes back on his younger days and remembers his first love. A nod to Fan Chan is in the casting of Chalermpon Thikumpornteerawong, who played the bully Jack in that hit 2003 movie. Here, he plays Mario's best friend.

The movie is directed by Chatchai Naksuriya and is produced by Right Beyond, a film-distribution company that is branching into production.

Friendship opens in cinemas in Thailand on Thursday.

Queens of Langkasuka release postponed

Believing that Thailand's current political crisis is keeping audiences away from cinemas, director Nonzee Nimibutr has postponed the release of Queens of Langkasuka. The historical epic had been scheduled to open on August 12, Her Majesty the Queen's birthday.

The Daily Xpress reported on the postponed release in a brief on Page 15 of the print edition. Here's more:

Nonzee thinks people are too scared, worried or just plain ticked off at the moment to be interested in movies. He doesn’t want his studio, Sahamongkol Film International, to take a bath at the box office on what is, after all, his most expensive film – 200 million baht and five years in the making. Sahamongkol went along with his decision despite having already spent millions on promotion.

And that's all there is to that. Another release date is not given.

The government of Samak Sundaravej is under fire from at least two sides - on the streets from the People's Alliance for Democracy, and in Parliament, where the opposition Democrat Party staged a no-confidence debate. In postponing the release of his film, Nonzee thinks worse is yet to come, the worst being another military coup. The last one on September 19, 2006 was peaceful yet it did put enough of a dent in box-office takings that Nonzee doesn't want to take chances.

Earlier, the film's title was Queens of Pattani, but that was changed to distance the film from the violence in the three southernmost Thai provinces, one of which is Pattani.

Guess this means my planned Nonzee Nimibutr blog-a-thon is postponed as well. I'll keep an ear open for the next announced release date.

See also:
Related posts:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wonderful Town wins special mention at Taipei

Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town is in the New Talent Competition at the 10th Taipei Film Festival, where it won a special mention award.

The top prize in the 12-film competition went to The Fight by Canadian director Anais Barbeau-Lavalette. The runner-up Special Jury Prize when to 57,000 Kilometres Between Us by French director Delphine Kreuter.

The festival opened on June 20 and runs until July 6.

(Via Earth Times/DPA)

Complete Fantasia '08 lineup: 4bia, Alone, Art of the Devil 3, Muay Thai Chaiya, Handle Me With Care

Following up on the leak of some early titles at Montreal's Fantasia International Film Festival, the complete schedule is up, and in addition to the aforementioned 4bia, they also have Alone and Art of the Devil 3. For action, there's Muay Thai Chaiya. But the big surprise is the romantic comedy-drama Handle Me With Care, though when I think about it, a story involving a three-armed man isn't really much of a stretch at all for Fantasia.

More information:

(Via Twitch)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tartan UK shuttered, Tartan USA's catalog acquired

First reported as a rumor by Grady Hendrix on Variety's Kaiju Shakedown blog and then confirmed by a Variety article, Tartan Films in the U.K. has shut down.

Employees found out their company was out of business when they showed up for work yesterday morning and found their London office doors closed.

The company had been struggling financially for much of the past year, Variety says, and had been in takeover talks with Capco Group.

The news of the Tartan U.K.'s closing follows last month's closing of Tartan USA.

Since then, Tartan USA's catalog has been acquired by Palisades Media Corp.. According to a posting on, Palisades has formed Palisades Tartan Film Acquisitions, which will work to continue Tartan USA's boutique DVD line.

Thai titles issued on the Tartan Asia Extreme label by Tartan Video in the U.K. include the Pang Bros.' original Bangkok Dangerous (cited as the "uncut U.K. version", it's probably best edition to have), as well as Ab-Normal Beauty, The Eye Trilogy and One Take Only. Other titles include Bangkok Haunted and Ghost of Mae Nak as well as Three Extremes and Three Extremes II.

(Via Bloody Disgusting)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Two documentaries on southern Thailand

Innocence documentarians Areeya "Pop" Chumsai and Nisa Kongsri have turned their attention on southern Thailand for their new documentary, Our Southern Home (Oh Oh Pak Tai Baan Rao), which opened this week in a limited run at Bangkok's Lido cinemas.

They were looking for positive stories about the troubled South, and through the Haad Thip Co., distributor of Coca-Cola down there, they were put in touch with four people to focus on. Laudable as Pop's and Nisa's goal was, the documentary has been criticized by both the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee (cache) and in the Daily Xpress as an overly fawning exercise in corporate relations.

"And while the restive southernmost provinces are mentioned, Areeya and Nisa don't actually set foot in Yala, Pattani or Narathiwat," points out the Daily Xpress story, which in the print edition was bylined Parinyaporn Payee.

Then, in today's Bangkok Post Real Time (cache, cache), Kong submits a story about another documentary on the South, one that so far hasn't been screened.

Polamuang Juling (Citizen Juling) is "perhaps the most important documentary about our Deep South dysfunction to come out since the outbreak of violence in 2003," Kong writes.

The subject is Juling Pongkunmul, a Buddhist art teacher who was taken hostage by a Muslim mob and beaten in Narathiwat in May 2006. She fell into a coma and after eight months in the Prince of Songkhla Hospital's intensive care unit, she died at age 24 in January 2007, but not before she was adopted as a cause célèbre by activists and politicians, pointing to the problems in violence-wracked Muslim-majority southern Thailand.

Here's more on the film from Kong's story:

Travelling into what many believe to be the heart of darkness, the filmmakers - artists Ing K and Manit Sriwanichpoom, and Democrat party list MP Kraisak Choonhavan - use the Juling incident to hold up a mirror to the complexity of our southern malaise and the bankruptcy of the justice system that has betrayed the trust of the citizens. In an intertwining storyline, the doc stares back into the aftermath of the scandalous horrors of Tak Bai, Saba Yoi and Krue Sae mosque, before traversing the Siamese latitudes to a village in Chiang Rai, the hometown of Juling, to show us that the tragedy of being a Buddhist or a Muslim is sometimes not as bitter as the tragedy of merely being a citizen in this strange, deeply troubled land.

"I believe the moving picture can help to expose what's happening down there, because over the years, we've heard such an impossible amount of lies," says Kraisak, a former senator who's long worked on southern issues and was a staunch critic of the Thaksin administration. "We've been lied to to the point that it's not even possible for us to imagine what the truth actually is. Sometimes we need to hear blunt statements, otherwise we'll continue to take everything for granted.

"Every year I get to speak only once - in the parliamentary session," continues the MP, laughing. "Perhaps I can say something more in the film."

"Above all this is a movie that 'listens' to the southern people," adds Manit, a photographer whose pictures are known for their sardonic, anti-establishment wit. "Most people have not paid attention to what's happening, because we've grown impotent to all the bad news about the South. This is a complex issue that reflects the state of the entire nation, and I think that we need to take time to listen and to try to learn about all its aspects and implications."

At 220 minutes (3.6 hours), the documentary's length is one factor against its being programmed in film festivals or picked up for a limited run in cinemas. A serialized television run might be more workable. However, the political nature of the film may also work against it, says Kong, who believes it could run afoul of the government and its censorship bureaucrats.

See also:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Storm Riders sequel, now called Storm Warriors, about to wrap up shooting in Bangkok

Media day was held yesterday on the set of the Pang Bros.' Storm Warriors, which is about to wrap up shooting in Bangkok.

Originally under the working title of Storm Riders II and now called Storm Warriors, the martial arts fantasy stars Ekin Cheng as Wind and Aaron Kwok as Cloud, reprising their roles from 1998's Storm Riders, which was directed by Andrew Lau.

Mugging for the cameras with a little plush doll of the eyeball were Kwok and Cheng, as well Nicholas Tse, Charlene Choi, Tang Yan and Kenny Ho. Here's more from China Daily:

[The] Pang Brothers said this upcoming book-to-film action movie is shooting in a completely digitalized realm and ninety percent of the scenes have used computer-animated effects. The total budget is around 100 million yuan, about 146,000 US dollars.

The shooting for the film will be completed within a week. It will be shown on the big screens both in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong at the end of 2009.

Storm Warriors and its predecessor are based on a comic book series titled Fung Wan by artist and writer Ma Wing-shing.

The new live-action fantasy film is in addition to a new animated feature, Storm Rider: Clash of Evils. It's due to be released in cinemas next month. Twitch and Animation Magazine are among the sites that have more on that.

Related posts:
(Photos of Aaron Kwok and Tang Yan from

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Produire au Sud project returns to the World Film Festival of Bangkok

After taking a one-year hiatus, the Produire au Sud script-funding project returns to the World Film Festival of Bangkok. This will be the third time for the workshop, which was initiated at the 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2005. The aim of the project is to support the creation of more independent films by young Southeast Asian filmmakers.

Two projects are in the pipeline from past years, with the first, O Nathapon's A Moment in June, making its world premiere at this year's World Film Fest. The second film to come out of Produire au Sud Bangkok is In What City Does It Live? by Malaysian director Liew Seng Tat (Flower in the Pocket). It is still in development.

This year's Produire au Sud Bangkok workshop will be held from October 29 to November 1. The Daily Xpress had a story about it in today's paper.

The Producers of the South workshop's purpose is to encourage and support young producers and directors from Southeast Asia. It's open to anyone between the ages of 25 and 40.

The six best film scripts as selected by the Produire au Sud committee will get to attend the Bangkok workshop with European producers and scriptwriters and make their pitch to sales agents. Invited teams will get free travel and hotel accommodation in Bangkok - if needed.

The creators of the best project from the workshop will receive two roundtrip air tickets to attend the Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, France in November.

Produire au Sud Bangkok is sponsored by France’s Festival des 3 Continents, Produire au Sud – Nantes, the French Foreign Ministry and the French Embassy in Thailand.

The deadline for submissions for the Bangkok workshop is August 25. For details, call +66 2 338 3618-9 or e-mail pasbangkok [at] yahoo [dot] com.

The 6th World Film Festival of Bangkok will be held from October 24 to November 2 at Paragon Cineplex.

See also:

Somtum and 'the other 7-foot Aussie giant actor'

Buried beneath the Hollywood blockbuster onslaught of Prince Caspian, Sex and the City, The Incredible Hulk and Kung Fu Panda, the Thai action-comedy Somtum wasn't given much of a chance in Thai cinemas, despite the Herculean efforts of 7-foot-tall star Nathan Jones, the tenacious dimples of boxer Sasisa Jindamanee and a big promotional blitz.

Somtum opened in fourth place three weeks ago and is fading away. Audiences have leaned toward local romantic fare like Sabaidee Luang Prabang and Rak/Sam/Sao or any of the Hollywood offerings.

Among those frustrated over Somtum's lacklustre box-office performance is "the other 7-foot Aussie giant actor" in Somtum -- Conan Stevens. He plays one of a pair of foreigner villains. Phillippe Wanet plays his partner. Stevens grapples with Jones toward the end of the picture, in a ruckus that flattens a small corporate jet.

Over on his website, Stevens laments about being left out of the promotional materials. He's not in the trailer, and I checked the stills that were provided, and he's not there either, not even in any behind-the-scenes candids. Neither he nor Wanet were officially invited to the film's premiere. But then I wasn't either, and they love me over at Sahamongkol Film International, I'm sure.

But the movie turned out satisfying for Conan. Here's more from his website:

Watching the movie, I think Phil and I missed most of it as we were more interested in seeing which of our takes they chose for final editing and how it was edited and if we looked good or not. Both of us were thinking more about our future careers and the ability to use this footage in our showreels.

Happily we were shown right at the beginning of hte movie and made our appearances throughout the movie leading up to the final fight.

In all I was told I am onscreen 20 minutes of the film, which makes it a pretty major part ... nice.

Twenty minutes of film from 20 days I was on set shooting the movie, that makes it 1 minute of movie = 1 day of filming.

All in all Phil and I are happy with our performances, and happy with the footage we can use, also we were happy with the screen time we received.

Somtum is still lurking about in some cinemas, so it will probably be another two or three months before the DVD comes out. About half the dialogue is in English and half in Thai. But mainly, people will be watching it for the action, so the usual lack of English subs on the Thai-released DVD won't be a big deal.

The movie was promoted at the Cannes Film Market, though I don't recall reading anything about international sales. Surely, given the presence of Jones and the appetite for gritty, fun Thai action -- which Somtum has loads of -- someone will be picking it up.

Related posts:

(Via Cinematical; photo from the set of Somtum from

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Opapatika, The Screen, Love of Siam, Dream Team at Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival

The program for the 12th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival has gone live, and this year the fest will feature four Thai films, including Chukiat Sakweerakul's The Love of Siam. The commercial 158-minute version of the teen romance and family drama is screening in the Off the Fantastic section.

Puchon Choice has immortal karmic action with Thanakorn Pongsuwan's Opapatika. Songsak Mongkoltong's The Screen at Kamchanod is in the World Fantastic Cinema program. And the kid-friendly Dream Team by Kittikorn Liawsirikun is in the Family Fanta section.

Of interest from Southeast Asia are When the Full Moon Rises by Malaysian director Mohamad Mohd Khalid, Rule Number One by Kelvin Tong and Gone Shopping by Li Lin Wee from Singapore and Recycle by Mark Reyes and Casket for Rent by Neal Tan from the Philippines.

The opening film is the animated Waltz With Bashir and the closer is Cyborg She. There's also the festival favorites Tokyo Gore Police and Machine Girl. Hope I get to see those sometime.

PiFan also features the launch of the Network of Asian Fantastic Films, which seeks to promote new Asian genre film projects - and by that I mean genre films (fantasy, action, horror, sci-fi) that are Asian - not Asian films being a genre. There's also a film market, the Industry Showcase of Fantastic Cinema.

More information:
(Via Twitch)

Five Star Remastered ready to roll out more classics -- without subtitles

Following the positive reception for its Boonchu box set, Five Star Production will release more DVD box sets of its classic films on the Five Star Remastered label, starting with Piak Poster’s Klin See Lae Kao Pang package.

Coming soon will be box sets of feature films by Euthana Mukdasanit (Butterfly and Flowers and The Story of Nam Poo) and Vichit Kounavudhi (Look Isaan and Mountain People).

Unfortunately for film buffs who don't speak Thai, the discs will not include English subtitles. And it is uncertain whether Five Star is actively shopping their remasters to overseas boutique labels.

The films are pretty historic, though, and would fit the criteria for just about any world film collection. For example, Euthana's Story of Nam Poo (1984) was the first Thai film to be submitted for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. And his Butterfly and Flowers was one of the earliest Thai films to be screened at an overseas film festival. It was shown at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 1985. Vichet's 1982 family drama Look Isaan (Son of the Northeast) is an acclaimed look at life in northeast Thailand in the 1930s.

The Five Star Remastered series actually got under way two years ago with a soft launch. The first release was Bhandit Rittakol's rural drama Duay Klao (The Seed). It was released in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the accession of His Majesty the King.

For now, it's strictly the Thai market that these DVDs are being aimed at. Daily Xpress has a story about it in today's paper. Here's more:

[Five Star Remastered is] a groundbreaking project for Thai film, which has never received the attention accorded to Hollywood’s Hitchcock masterpieces or the Shaw Brothers’ Chinese martial arts movies, which have been lovingly restored and transferred to DVD.

“I’m relieved that the Boonchu box set is selling well,” says Five Star’s Kiatkamol Iamphungphorn, who initiated the project a few years ago after noticing the quality of the film in storage was deteriorating fast. “It’s valuable footage that shows our cities as they were in the past,” he says.

Kiatkamol keeps a careful eye on the costs. Each film takes a month to remaster and the process costs several hundred thousand baht. So far more than 30 films have been completed.

As Thai films are not as popular as foreign movies, combining the classics as a package is the only viable marketing option.

The next collection to hit the stores will be Piak Poster’s Klin See Lae Kao Pang package.

“We need to sell at least 5,000 copies to break even,” Kiatkamol explains.

More information:
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Yuthlert's Last Moment tops Thai box office

As predicted, Yuthlert Sippapak's weepy love-triangle romance Rak/Sam/Sao (The Last Moment) led the Thailand box office over the weekend, raking in a respectable US$665,623, according to Box Office Mojo.

Another newly released Thai comedy, Haakao from Sahamongkol Film International, was fourth, taking $217,655. The romantic comedy about a tomboy college girl in a sexuality crisis co-stars Mum Jokmok, a comedian who is typically a box-office draw.

The second and third spots on the box-office rankings were held by Kung Fu Panda and The Incredible Hulk, which are both in their second week at cinemas in Thailand. Get Smart, the newly released Hollywood comedy based on a 1960s American TV series, came in fifth.

Here is where I'd insert quotes from experts to explain why the anything-goes, low-brow cookie-cutter comedies like Haakao seem to have lost their allure with Thai audiences. Perhaps an economist would say that the fan base for those kinds of films -- not-so-well-off working-class people -- are being hit harder by high petrol prices and so they are cutting back on driving (or taking the bus) to places like cinemas.

But maybe not. Cinemas, being "cheap entertainment" still expect to draw crowds, despite belt-tightening moves by consumers, Anavach Ongvasith, chief cinema officer at Major Cineplex, was quoted as saying yesterday by The Nation. Consumers will stop buying clothes and travelling overseas before they stop seeing movies, Anavach said.

Big audience draws are expected to be Wanted, The Dark Knight, The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Ong Bak 2.

So maybe people are just generally sick of movies like Haakao?

As for this coming weekend, GTH's Rak/Sam/Sao will likely continue to be dominant Thai film, though it will more than likely be unseated from the No. 1 spot by the slick-as-hell Angelina Jolie shoot-em-up Wanted.

The only other Thai release this week is an independent documentary, Our Southern Home (Oh Oh Pak Tai Baan Rao), in limited release at the Lido cinemas. Another Thai teen romance, Friendship, starring Love of Siam's Mario Maurer and Ploy's Apinya Sakuljaroensuk had been scheduled for release this week, but has been delayed until July 3.

Tak's movie deal falls apart

Actress Bongkoj "Tak" Kongmalai's plans to become a producer and director have been derailed after her chief backer, Kamol "Sia Tong" Eowisikul, withdrew his offer.

The business partnership between the 23-year-old starlet and the 55-year-old businessman had Thailand's spiteful gossip press working overtime, linking the two romantically. Both denied being a couple, but the negative coverage is likely a factor in Sia Tong pulling out of the deal.

Conflicting stories have Tong married, while others said the playboy owner of Thai Penthouse magazine and a Bangkok hire-purchase business is single and was annoyed about being linked to Tak because he could no longer play the field.

Further vitriol is unloaded on the shapely young starlet, who the Thai tabloid press has unkindly nicknamed "volcano boobs", and Tak's mother, who has been criticized in the press for being an overly controlling stage mom.

Bangkok of the Mind has more on the collapse of the movie deal:

At first, she wanted to star. Then she wanted to direct, and leave the acting to someone else.

Originally, she wanted to make an erotic movie. That morphed into an action drama, which she thought would go down better with investors.

"I don't want people to think that I was using [Tong's] money, and that without it, I am incapable of making the movie myself. If I made the movie and it was a success, I don't want people saying that I used someone else's money, so it wasn't really my achievement at all."

Tak is now looking for a new "sponsor" to finance the production (a more conventional type?), though she admits she will probably have to scale down the project. So far, Tak has raised [8 million baht], mainly from friends - and all from outside the industry.

That last line is telling. No one inside the industry seems willing to help, and Tak has ruled out asking the head of her regular stable, Sahamongkol Films, or Five Star, another big production house, to back the movie.

Tak and her mother are among the would-be investors. Sahamongkol boss Sia Jiang (Somsak Techaratanaprasert), who acts as a mentor to young Tak, warned her that if she ventures out to make a movie on her own, she could end up losing everything.

Recently, according to today's Daily Xpress, Tak was modelling underwear for lingerie maker Triumph, with a bra as the centerpiece of a "sensuous" Passage to India-themed costume.

Related posts:
(Via Bangkok of the Mind)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Miss Thailand Universe's 'fighting spirit'

Miss Thailand Universe, Gawintra Phothijakra, enters the beauty pageant ring this year as a Muay Thai warrior queen. The traditional Thai boxing outfit is her national costume. It was designed by Khon Kaen University student Sathapat Mulma.

Called "Spirit of Fighting", the maroon costume was fashioned from a pair of Muay Thai boxer's shorts, decorated with a golden bow at the waist and trimmed with bracelets and anklets. It also features a hooded cape.

Here's more on the costume from an article in today's Daily Xpress:

Sathaphat says he was inspired by how foreigners have often told him that muay thai is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Thailand and how Thai women have become influential in the workforce.

"To reflect that strength, I wanted to show how Thais have the fighting spirit," he says.

Gawintra is pretty pleased with the outfit she'll wear in the Miss Universe pageant's national-costume competition.

"I like this one the most because it reflects my personality," she says, explaining that while femininity is important in beauty pageants, she's more the outgoing, playful type.

Gawintra is competing in the Miss Universe pageant, which this year is being held in Nha Trang, Vietnam. At 5' 10", the towering beauty from Chonburi Province -- daughter of a Royal Thai Navy officer -- is the tallest among the six contestants from Southeast Asia.

Presumably the midriff-baring Muay Thai costume has enough "Thainess" to pass muster with the Cultural Surveillance Center. Cultural watchdogs panned the outfit of 2007 Miss Thailand Universe Farung Yuthithum for being too ethnic. However, Thai journalists aren't too sure about some of Gawintra's other outfits. A Sunday Xpress article has more:

At a press conference in Bangkok, nervous reporters voiced concern that at least one of the evening gowns she'll be wearing in the competition is a little too revealing.

"The confidence is what comes first," she told them, displaying a good measure of hers. That's what wins the day, she said, not the costume.

The Miss Universe pageant will be broadcast on July 14.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Still time for The Truth Be Told

The scenes in Thailand today are eerily similar to those of two years ago when anti-government protests were calling for the prime minister to resign. Now, instead of "Thaksin! Get out!" the cries are "Samak! Get out!"

Absolutely Bangkok has done a bang-up job of live blogging today's demonstrations, as has Bangkok Pundit.

An opportune way to revisit the protests of 2006 would be to catch a screening of The Truth Be Told: The Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong. This documentary was shot by director Pimpaka Towira over three years from 2003 to 2006, following media activist Supinya in her legal battles against the Shin empire.

The movie has been screening at 7pm daily since May 29 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld in Bangkok, as part of the Extra Virgin Director's Screen series.

I had kind of hoped for some of Bangkok's political bloggers to give the film a look, and perhaps write their own thoughts about it. I didn't see that happen so much though, at least not in the English-language blogs I'm able to follow. Absolutely Bangkok reprinted my review from last year, and some kind comments were made there about the film, calling it "inspirational", though "quite noisy" was another comment. FACT also had a write-up about the film.

Pimpaka says around 10 or 12 people a day have filed in to see it, which doesn't sound impressive, given that Pimpaka herself has estimated there are between 5,000 and 10,000 indie film lovers in Bangkok. But really, it's something, considering the film is playing to multiplex mall crowds that normally wouldn't see a documentary, especially one as political as this one, even if it is being touted as a family drama. So by the time the film ends its run on Wednesday night, around 300 or so people will have seen it and perhaps make a difference, or see things a bit differently.

The Truth Be Told: The Cases Against Supinya Klangnarong screens at 7pm daily on June 25 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Tickets are 140 baht.

Extras-packed DVD of Syndromes and a Century set for release by BFI in UK

Praised everywhere in the world yet embattled in the filmmaker's home country, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century will receive the treatment it deserves in a DVD release by the British Film Institute.

Features include Worldly Desires, a 40-minute "experimental love story" that Apichatpong made for the Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers project at the 2005 Jeonju International Film Festival. Other features are an interview with the director, the trailer and a 28-page illustrated booklet with essays, director interview and more. Presumably on the BFI release, the English subtitles will be removable. Notably, it is the first film from Southeast Asia listed in the BFI catalog.

Syndromes and a Century received a quick-and-dirty DVD issue by Strand Releasing earlier this year in the U.S., and film-lovers have lamented the quality of the transfer. And the oversized, hard-burned English subtitles on the Strand edition are an annoyance.

But, given that the film was tied up in a battle with Thai censors for a year, it's a wonder the DVD came out at all.

Here is the synopsis from the BFI website:

Syndromes and a Century ... is a spellbinding Buddhist meditation on the mysteries of love and attraction, the workings of memory, and the ways in which happiness is triggered. Mesmerisingly beautiful to look at, it is also laced with wonderful absurd humour.

Commissioned by Vienna's New Crowned Hope festival in 2006 and released theatrically by the BFI in September last year, the film established Weerasethakul as one of the most exciting talents in world cinema today.

Dubbed 'a hospital comedy of a somewhat metaphysical bent', Syndromes and a Century is inspired by the Weerasethakul's memories of his parents, both doctors, and of growing up in a hospital environment. The two central characters interact with a bizarre array of professional colleagues and patients with their various strange maladies, including an elderly haematologist who hides her whisky supplies in a prosthetic limb, a Buddhist monk suffering from bad dreams about chickens, and a young monk who once dreamed of being a DJ and now forms an intense bond with a singing dentist whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his dead brother.

It is a film of two halves - the first set in a sunlit rural hospital amid lush, tropical vegetation, the second in a hi-tech urban clinic under fluorescent lighting. Certain scenes from the first half are replayed in the second - almost but not quite identically.

Apichatpong himself describes the film as 'random and mysterious', and, like the work of David Lynch, this film denies obvious interpretation.

The film is available for mail-order from BFI, though Amazon UK has it at a lower price. It'll be released on Monday.

Related posts:
(Thanks Logboy)

Special outdoor screening of Ratana Pestonji's Black Silk tonight

Black Silk , Ratana Pestonji's 1961 crime drama, will be shown in a special outdoor screening tonight (June 20) at the Museum of Siam in Phranakorn District, Bangkok.

Considered Thailand's first film noir, the story is about a crime boss' right-hand man (Tom Wisawachart) falling tragically in love with a black-clad widow (Ratanavadi Ratanabhand).

Black Silk (Phrae Dum) screened at the 1961 Berlin International Film Festival, making it one of the earliest Thai films to be shown overseas. It has been cited as a major influence by celebrated Thai New Wave directors Wisit Sasanatieng and Pen-ek Ratanaruang.

It's expected that the Thai Film Foundation will release Black Silk on DVD later this year as part of a box-set to celebrate 100th birth anniversary of Ratana Pestonji.

Tonight's screening will be pretty special, because it's outdoors, as films were shown in the olden days in Thailand, and still are in some places, and National Film Archive director Dome Sukwong will be on hand to give a talk about the film.

The screening starts at 7pm. Admission is free. Call (02) 622 2599 ext 517.

Related posts:
(Cross-published at The Nation Weblog)

Pang Bros' Eye 3, Re-Cycle getting U.S. releases

Seeking to capitalize on the release of the recent Hollywood remake of The Eye , the third entry in the Pang Bros.' Eye series is coming out on DVD in the U.S. from Lionsgate. And the twins' 2006 thriller Re-Cycle will get a limited theatrical release in the U.S.

Confusingly, the new Eye DVD is being released as The Eye 3. I say confusing because it has other names. The English title for its original 2005 release in Hong Kong and other Asian territories was The Eye 10, so named for the 10 ways of summoning ghosts. The film has been released in the U.K. as The Eye Infinity. And, director Tsui Hark has been said to be at work on another film called The Eye 3.

The 2005 pan-Asian production starred Wilson Chen, Kris Gu, Isabella Leong and Kate Yeung as well as Thai stars Ray MacDonald and Bongkot "Tak" Kongmalai. They're a bunch of meddling kids trying to communicate with ghosts. Can't they leave well enough alone?

Tying it in with The Eye series, they explore eight more ways to contact the spirit world. The first two means - having a corneal transplant as in 2002's The Eye and attempting to commit suicide while pregnant as seen with Shu Qui in 2004's The Eye 2 - have been tried already. In The Eye 3, or whatever it's called, one of the ways they try is to bend over and look behind you through your knees. Now, if you've seen Nang Nak, you know that's a bad idea.

There's a slick trailer making the rounds. I watched over at the Lionsgate page. Kaiju Shakedown's Grady Hendrix has seen the trailer too. He writes:

The press release brags it won "the Golden Trailer award." I sort of snickered at that and then I watched the trailer and they're right - it is pretty impressive. It actually makes Eye 3 look like a good, inventive horror film when it's actually a shoddy lowbrow horror/comedy flick.

The Eye 3 will be released on June 24. It's available for pre-order from Amazon, HK Flix and YesAsia.

Meanwhile, there's Re-Cycle, the Pangs' fantasy about a ghostly dimension of discarded items, which include aborted babies. Fangoria has more:

The new Luminous Velocity Releasing will give the Pang Brothers’ Re-Cycle theatrical play later this summer. Lee Sin-je from the Pangs’ breakout film The Eye stars as Ting-yin, a novelist suffering from writer’s block whose agent announces that her next book will deal with the supernatural. Investigating the subject, Ting-yin discovers a strange parallel reality and decides to write about it — only for this occult plane to start taking over her life. The film is set to open in Denver on August 8, with bookings for New York and LA (possibly as midnight shows) currently being worked out.

The theatrical releases will precede a reported Blu-ray and Region 1 DVD release of Re-Cycle in September.

(Via Kaiju Shakedown)

Ghost of Mae Nak due out on DVD in Hong Kong

Ghost of Mae Nak, 2005's contemporary update of the Mae Nak ghost legend, is coming out on DVD in Hong Kong on June 30. It's an oft-told story, most famously depicted in Nonzee Nimibutr's 1999 version. And recently, Nak has taken on a kid-friendly cartoon form, battling evil foreign ghosts.

Directed by British filmmaker Mark Duffield and produced by DeWarrenne Pictures, Ghost of Mae Nak is about Mak and Nak (Tangmo Pataratida Pacharawirapong and Siwat "C" Chotchaicharin), a young newlywedded Bangkok couple.

Their starter home, an old abandoned house, is on the very piece of land that the ghost Mae Nak of Phra Khanong occupied with her beloved husband Mak.

With a hole in her forehead, Mae Nak, played by Pornthip Papanai (the leggy maid in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy and the sexy female singer in Monrak Transistor), acts as a protector of the couple, scaring off an unscrupulous real estate agent as well as a pair of burglars, and it becomes apparent that she expects a favor in return.

At the center of her intentions is a mysterious brooch that literally is the key to setting Mae Nak's spirit free.

Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee's Peter Nellhaus reviewed Ghost of Mae Nak not too long ago. He says it makes a good complement to Nonzee Nimibutr's Nang Nak. Here's a bit more:

What makes The Ghost of Mae Nak better than the usual Thai film is that Duffield treats the material seriously. There are no characters inserted for comic relief, nor does this follow the frequent Thai pattern of punctuating the scares with laughs. There is a certain reverence towards the original legend that makes The Ghost of Mae Nak unexpectedly moving. There is also a twist ending that, while not totally unexpected, still manages to be quite unsettling.

Ghost of Mae Nak was among the Thai titles picked up for U.S. DVD release by the now-shuttered Tartan Video USA. It's available at Amazon and HK Flix.

The disc has also been released in Thailand, unbelievably with English subtitles, according to HK Flix, as well as Taiwan (no English subs, according to YesAsia).

The upcoming Hong Kong release, available for pre-order from DDD House, is on a region-free, NTSC DVD or VCD with English and Chinese subtitles. Depending on your shipping, it might work out to be a cheaper option to the Tartan disc, though you'll be forgoing Tartan's special features, which include a "making of" and director's commentary.

More information:

See also:

(Thanks Logboy)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thailand's musical revival

There was a time in the Thai film industry when most of the directors and actors came from the theater, rather than television.

And it's heartening to know that a few of those folks are still around, and are actually working.

Among them is Euthana Mukdasanit, director of such classic 1980s Thai films as The Story of Nam Poo and Butterfly and Flowers. He also worked in theater, and back in the day one of his big productions was a Thai-language adaptation of Man of La Mancha.

That acclaimed production has been revived, again with Euthana directing.

Chalee Intharawichit serves as musical director. Chalee was recently on hand at the Ratana Pestonji centennial celebration at the National Film Archive. From a solid background in theater, Chalee had the lead role in Ratana's Dark Heaven back in 1957. It was essentially a filmed version of a musical drama by celebrated playwright Suwat Woradilok.

For the past year or more, Bangkok has been in the midst of a musical theater revival, spearheaded by the opening of the Muang Thai Rachadalai Theatre at the Esplanade Cineplex on Ratchadaphisek Road. Among the acts that have passed through was the touring production of Cats, but there have been several Thai productions as well, mainly adaptations of TV series and variety shows.

Man of La Mancha opened at the theater last weekend. Daily Xpress drama critic Pawit Mahasarinand reviewed it. Here's an excerpt:

Euthana Mukdasanit's legendary film Nam Poo gave teens great memories that have lasted into their middle age, and his La Mancha belongs on the same page of history. It inspires us to stay true to what we believe in, to dream for the better and relentlessly fight for it, no matter what the outcome.

These messages are as relevant in Thailand today as they were 21 years ago when the musical was first presented at the National Theatre.

The thunderous applause on Wednesday night proved that theatregoers, after being spoon-fed visually extravagant but dramatically shallow soap operas and mindless comedies at this playhouse for more than a year, welcome quality musical theatre.

If your time and budget allow for only one grand-scale musical this year, Man of La Mancha is my highest recommendation.

James Roengsak Loyshusak and Ben Chalatid portray Don Quixote and Sancho. Always-watchable actress Patharawarin Timkul is Aldonza/Dulcinea. She's been seen burning up the screen in Jan Dara and Body #19. She was in the original Bangkok Dangerous too. And, she has a theatrical background, being the daughter of Patravadi Mejudhon.

Man of La Mancha is running until Sunday at the Rachadalai Theater.

Update: Two other upcoming musicals are Academy Fantasia the Musical: JoJoSang, adapted from Madame Butterfly, and the romantic drama Khang Lang Phap (ข้างหลังภาพ) -- Behind the Painting.

Adapted from the classic novel by Kulap Saipradit, Behind the Painting has been made as a film twice -- in the 1970s by Piak Poster, and in 2001 by Cherd Songsri. Cherd's version is probably the best known worldwide because it has been released on English-subtitled DVD.

(Via Bangkok of the Mind)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Incredible Tony Jaa

In the couple of days since it went live, probably thousands of rabid Tony Jaa fans have swarmed over to Twitch to watch the much-vaunted showreel of Ong Bak 2, which Todd Brown brought back from the Cannes Film Market.

It's everything people have said it is, and more. In a word: Wow!

My first reaction is that is looks totally different from any other Thai action film being produced today. It's grittier than all the others, yet has an unmatched slickness. There's blood!

Ong Bak 2 could be the best Thai action film of the year, that is if there is actually a good story to strap together all the cool moves that Tony is doing. Heck, even without a good script it might be the best action film. Running along the backs of a herd of elephants, and getting the pachyderms to bow before him is a nice touch.

Directed by Tony Jaa and having nothing to do with 2003's Ong Bak, the story is set in ancient times. A boy is about to be executed, but before the killing blow can be struck, a gang of martial-arts masters, each skilled in a different art, attacks the executioners and saves the boy. They train him in all their ways in a bid to create a new master martial art. He is "The One", uniting all the martial arts.

The stunts and techniques are all quite diverse, with hand-to-hand and the use of various weapons. Here's a list:
  • Tiger Taming Staff
  • Wolf Trumping Rope Dart (say that three times fast)
  • Giant-Felling Sweep
  • Turn Muay Thai Left Fist into Right Kung Fu Claw
  • Samurai Slasher
  • Flick of the Sabre
  • Single Cut with Sword
And there's the fight on the elephants' backs.

At least one commentator on the Twitch thread posits that Ong Bak 2 could be a prequel of sorts to 2003's Ong Bak -- an origin story.

No matter. The "real fight is back", as a text line in the showreel says.

It is generally thought that Ong Bak 2 will be released in Thailand later this year. The Weinstein Company long ago cut and recut a deal for this with Sahamongkol Film International, and it's expected the Weinsteins will be bringing the film to the US in some form.

See also:

Related posts:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Duelling romances: Haakao and Rak/Sam/Sao

A sexuality-conflicted young woman is at the center of Haakao (Puppy Love), a teen romantic comedy from Sahamongkol Film. In GTH's weepy melodrama Rak/Sam/Sao, three friends - a guy and two girls - are in a love triangle.

Both open on Thursday in Thai cinemas. Which one will audiences like better?

As is typical of Thai comedies that don't know when to stop, Haakao has a bit of everything. It has foul-mouthed Mum Jokmok and his crude, though sometimes brilliant slapstick. It has young actors in Afro wigs. It has a talking dog. It has a mincing gay/transvestite supporting character. And, it has a homosexual relationship. It even has ghosts. It's a pastiche, and possibly even a Zucker Brothers-like parody, though weak-looking, of everything commercial Thai cinema has to offer these days.

The protagonist in Haakao is "tom" girl Baimon (Wattaporn Aiumsinthorn) who is best friends with a guy named Boong (Pongpisut Piewoan). They hang out with their colorful chums in the Film Club at their university.

Baimon's artist uncle Asunee (Mum) wants to see his niece stop being a tomboy, and act like a more traditional Thai girl.

A new school year brings a pretty new girl, Tonkauw (Busarin Mahotan). Boong is smitten and asks his friend Baimon to help him get closer to Tonkauw.

Baimon, meanwhile, is heartbroken after being dumped by her "dee" girlfriend Numtam (Skaw Auewiwatsakul).

And then Baimon thinks she has deeper feelings than just friendship for Boong.

It will be interesting to see how the rather slapdash-looking comedy Haakao fares against the slicker, more serious Rak/Sam/Sao, which is directed by Yuthlert Sippapak and features some prettier stars - the angelic Slur guitarist and Body #19 star Arak Amornsupasiri and two girls, the short-haired stunner Ratchawin Wongviriya and the long-haired waif Patarasaya Krousuwansiri.

The major Hollywood opening this week is Get Smart, which I think Thai audiences could care less about. Steve Carell? Anne Hathaway? Don Adams? Barbara Feldon? Mel Brooks? Buck Henry? Who? And though the likes of The Incredible Hulk, Kung Fu Panda and The Happening, which all opened last weekend, will continue to draw numbers, I think the local box office might be dominated by the two Thai films. Which one comes out on top will be another story.

More information:

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The Coffin to open in South Korea

While The Coffin is not strictly a Thai film, I am surprised to see that the pan-Asian, English-language thriller's first commercial run will be in South Korea.

For some reason, South Korea is having trouble this summer filling its multiplexes with the locally made horror films that audiences love, so it has resorted to importing ghost movies from other Asian countries, most notably Thailand, as has been noted before. And, Variety has noted this trend as well, reporting that Body #19 has earned $460,000 and opened at No. 6 at the box office three weeks ago. It was No. 10 the weekend before last. Wisit Sasanatieng's The Unseeable opens this week.

Directed by Beautiful Boxer and Pleasure Factory helmer Ekachai Uekrongtham, The Coffin stars Karen Mok and Ananda Everingham, along with Andrew Li, Aki Shibuya and Napakpapha Nakprasitte. It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Market.

Here's the official synopsis:

Chris is an average Thai-Chinese guy living in Sydney. Following the Thai custom to cheat death and rid oneself of bad luck he agrees to a bizarre dare at a party, to lie in a coffin for a whole night. As the lid is nailed shut and claustrophobia strikes he soon feels short of breathe, But as the coffin suddenly shakes violently he soon realizes that claustrophobia is the least of the terrors awaiting him.

The Coffin opens in South Korea on July 10.

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(Via 24 Frames per Second)

Monday, June 16, 2008

4bia among early titles mentioned for Fantasia Festival

Montreal's Fantasia Festival is set for July 3 to 21, and though the festival's website doesn't go live until June 26, some titles have been leaked by Fangoria.

Among them is 4bia (See Phrang), the four-segment portmanteau horror film from GTH that is quite possibly one of the best Thai films of the year, so far.

It features solo segments by the Shutter/Alone team of Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, a gore-filled short by Body #19 helmer Paween Purijitpanya and an assured, pleasing little thriller by veteran director-producer Yongyoot Thongkontoon, who's better known for his comedies like Iron Ladies.

Related posts:
(Via Twitch)

Scaled-down Bangkok International Film Festival set for September 23-30

The Bangkok International Film Festival will be held from September 23 to 30 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Around 80 films are planned for a line-up that's significantly pared down from previous years that had more than 200 movies. The festival's budget has been slashed too, from around US$5 million in a glitter year like 2006 to US$2 million last year. This year, the festival will have around 25 million baht ($800,000) to run on, according to a story by Kong Rithdee for Variety.

Here's more from the Variety story:

The festival will partly overlap the Thailand Entertainment Expo, which begins on September 24 and combines markets for film, music, television and animation.

Federation of National Film Association of Thailand and Thai Directors' Association are taking over organization from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which will continue to partially finance the event.

"We will try to focus on Asian content," Yongyooth Thongkongtoon, president of the directors' association, said. "We don't have much time to work this year, but we want to keep the festival alive and next year we'll see some real development."

Meanwhile, another big film festival is planned: the World Film Festival of Bangkok will run from October 24 to November 2 at Paragon Cineplex.

Related posts:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

On DVD in Singapore: Body #19, Ghost Mother

A couple of Thai horror films from last year, Body #19 and Ghost Mother, have turned up on English-subtitled DVD in Singapore.

Body #19 is the directorial debut by Paween Purijitpanya, and involves a college student (Arak Amornsupasiri) who has horrifying dreams involving a gore-covered female hair ghost and visions of a man chopping up a woman. The film had some neat visuals, I thought, but was perhaps too slick for its own good.

It played in Singapore in January, when Stefan wrote a review for MovieXclusive, faulting the film for its overly long running time and sloppy storytelling, while finding most of the technical aspects praiseworthy.

And then it played at the Far East Film Festival at Udine in April, where it was given a mixed review by Twitch's Todd Brown.

Anyway, Body #19 is now out on English-subtitled DVD in Singapore, and MovieXclusive has it.

Also out in Singapore is Ghost Mother, a ghost thriller that Theeratorn Siriphunvaraporn directed for Phranakorn Film.

Patcharapa Chaichua stars as a young aunt to ends up taking care of her two nieces and a nephew, and then she ends up murdered due to some misunderstanding with some gangsters. However, the woman's spirit won't let go, and Aunt Nuntha's ghost continues to watch over the kids. Focus Jirakul also stars.

I missed this when it was shown in local cinemas last year, though Delirium Vault blogger Nekoneko took the trouble to order it from Singapore. Here's an excerpt from her review (warning, very detailed, possibly has spoilers):

Director Theeratorn Siriphunvaraporn really doesn’t break any new ground here with this one, but the story is good, and Patcharapa Chaichua is a sweet and appealing heroine that truly makes you feel sorry for her and the terrible situation Fate has led her to.

MovieXclusive has Ghost Mother and so does HK Flix.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bangkok Love Story Region 1 DVD available for pre-order

Bangkok Love Story, Poj Arnon's award-winning gay romantic crime thriller, is going to be out on English-subtitled Region 1 DVD on August 26.

It has been spotted at HK Flix and at Amazon.

TLA Releasing picked it up for distribution in a deal announced last year.

According to TLA Releasing's page about the film, Bangkok Love Story is slated for screenings at the 14th Philadelpha International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in July, the Vancouver Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in August and limited-run commercial screenings in New York, West Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, also in August.

The story is about an assassin hired to take out a young policeman, but the gunman has a change of heart at the last minute and the two join up to shoot their way out of a Buddha factory and then head to the gunman's rooftop hideaway. The gunman is wounded and the policeman lounges around in his boxers and gives the gunman sponge baths. Well, it starts raining and one thing leads to another.

The story was praised for its sensitive, sympathetic portrayal of a relationship between two straight-acting gay men, as opposed to the usual depiction of gays in commercial films as flaming, effeminate, exaggerated freaks. A subplot about the gunman's HIV-positive brother and childhood sexual abuse added weight to drama.

Bangkok Love Story (Thai title: เพื่อน...กูรักมึงว่ะ or Pêuan ... Goo Rák Meung Wâ, literally "Friend ... I love you") has had a run of film festivals already, including the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, the Brussels Independent International Film Festival (where it won the top prize, the Grand Award in all Categories) and the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Writer-director Poj Arnon won the Subhanahongsa Award for Best Script. It also won Best Cinematography for Tiwa Moeithaisong, who also edited the film -- a well deserved kudos, because the imagery of Bangkok was simply stunning. And it won for Best Sound.

Looks like TLA is giving it good treatment in the run-up to the DVD release in North America.

Now, if only The Love of Siam would get an English-friendly DVD release -- the Director's Cut, please -- I think maybe there would be some very happy people indeed.

More information:

(Thanks Logboy!)

English-subtitled trailer for Yuthlert Sippapak's weepy romance, The Last Moment

Yuthlert Sippapak's The Last Moment (Rak/Sam/Sao) will be released in Thai cinemas next Thursday, June 19.

It's the story of a triangle romance between college classmates -- a guy, Payu (Slur guitarist and Body #19 star Arak Amornsupasiri), and two girls, Fah (Patarasaya Krousuwansiri) and Nam (Ratchawin Wongviriya). Things come to a head when Fah becomes terminally ill.

So sad! I want to bawl my eyes out right now.

More information:

Previous posts:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Festival roundup: Sydney, Moscow, Munich, Neuchâtel

Wisit Sasanatieng's gothic horror The Unseeable is showing at the 55th Sydney Film Festival, which started on June 4 and runs until June 22.

The Sydney fest also screened Aditya Assarat's Wonderful Town earlier this month.

Wonderful Town is also showing at the 30th Moscow International Film Festival, which runs from June 19 to 28. It's out of competition in the Reflections program, where it screens alongside its frequent shadow on the festival circuit, Malaysian indie filmmaker Liew Seng Tat's Flower in the Pocket.

Filmfest München has Handle Me With Care, Kondej Jaturanrasamee's loopy romance about a three-armed man and the bosomy babe he meets on the road to Bangkok. It's in the "War, Love, God and Madness" international program, and somehow, I think Handle Me With Care (Kod) fits all those. Filmfest Munchen runs from June 20 to 28.

Heading into July, the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival program has been released. They have the "New Cinema from Asia" program, which features the wonderful 13 Beloved by Chukiat Sakveerakul and the sick Sick Nurses by Sirivivat Thospol and Piraphan Laoyont.

Neuchâtel also has Indonesian director Joko Anwar's noir thriller Kala: Dead Time, which I hope to see, someday, though I doubt very much I will be going to catch it in Switzerland or New York City, where it is also showing at the New York Asian Film Festival.

(Via, Twitch)