Monday, July 21, 2008

Nobody likes Friendship

I haven't seen Friendship, the romantic drama starring Mario Maurer from The Love of Siam and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk from Ploy. Though I liked Hormones, I simply haven't been in the mood to watch another romance film. So I've been putting off seeing Friendship.

The first production effort from Right Beyond, which has been around for years as a distribution company, Friendship hasn't fared very well since it opened on July 2, the same day as Hancock. It doesn't even show up in the totals at Box Office Mojo. The reason for that, I've learned (thank you Thomat), is that studios and distributors are responsible for submitting their numbers to Box Office Mojo, and Right Beyond apparently wasn't clued in or simply elected not to provide their totals. Oh, why isn't there an unbiased central authority in Thailand for reporting of things like box-office figures, DVD rentals and music sales?

In Friendship, singer-actor Jay Jetrin Wattanasin portrays a guy who is obsessed with finding the whereabouts of his high-school crush. The action then flashes back to his schoolboy days, during which he's played by Mario. Saipan Apinya is his love object.

The posters and trailer make the film look gauzy and light, like a romantic comedy. The storyline, and casting of Chalermpon "Jack" Thikumpornteerawon, recalls Fan Chan. But this is not Fan Chan and it's not a comedy. In fact, it is a drama and is quite grim. Bangkok of the Mind has a spoiler-filled, blow-by-blow, graphic account of it. Read it if you dare.

Here's a bit of what Bkkdreamer has to say about it (spoiler free):

Friendship, which is Mario's second movie, appears to have bombed. The company which made it, Right Beyond Films, will say it clashed with big Hollywood titles such as Hancock, so did not have a chance to shine. The truth may be more prosaic: audiences just didn't like it.

The film met with lukewarm reviews. More importantly, it created almost no Internet buzz. I can find half a dozen posts at the popular Pantip board, written by Thais who have seen it. Compare that with the hundreds written in praise of Mario's first film, the gay coming-of-age drama, Love of Siam.

This is another case of a film not finding its audience because of misleading posters and marketing. And anyone who went to see the film expecting a comedy came away sorely disappointed. The same thing happened when the gay angle of Love of Siam was concealed, though fans quickly rallied around Love, once word of mouth spread about its fabulousness. A better example might be 2004's Ai-Fak, which was marketed as a sexy romantic comedy but was actually a tragic downer.

Knowing the full brutal nature of Friendship, I am actually kind of curious to see it. I'd better hurry, though. It's fast disappearing from Bangkok cinemas.


  1. This movie figures into the ongoing discussion of movie piracy and the domestic film industry.

    My thirteen-year-old niece came home the other day with a bootleg DVD containing four recent romantic drama/comedy films: Friendship, Rak Sam Sao, Hormones, and Love of Siam.

    As we've discussed, the local film industry and marketing machine does a lot to make piracy less enticing--quick theater-to-DVD turnaround, cheap prices, prominent placement in places like 7-Eleven, etc.

    But there are two things going on here as to how pirates are keeping their pirated product of domestic films relevant.

    First, of course, is the fact that Friendship (and I think also Rak Sam Sao) are not out on disc yet. Out of curiosity I loaded up the DVD to confirm my assumption that some of these were camcorded in the theater. Sure enough, two were, which surprised me a bit, since the turnaround time is typically so short for Thai films, and camcorded films are such terrible quality.

    But that's one reason why pirated discs of Thai films continue to sell: they can offer the movie on DVD in *some* form, even if it sucks, before it's actually released. Like I said, I was kind of surprised to still see camcorded bootlegs of Thai films, just like is done with major Hollywood films. To some extent they prey on unsuspecting consumers who think they're getting a DVD-quality ripoff (but some would say they get what they deserve by purchasing from bootleggers). Camcorded films are zoomed in, badly tilted, washed out color, muffled sound, heads and bodies blocking the screen at times, coughing from the guy in the next seat, you name it. I don't really consider them a threat to the film industry, since nearly anyone who knowingly buys a camcorded movie probably wants to see the film badly enough that they are guaranteed to buy the legitimate version as soon as it comes out, too. And those who don't know they're buying a camcorded bootleg will be pissed at the quality and I would argue are still equally likely to buy the legitimate DVD.

    But what this shows us is that no matter how quick the turnaround is, people still want to watch movies at their convenience from day one, not one month, not even one week after it opens in theaters. So artificially separating these two "phases" of a movie's life is hurting legitimate business and helping piracy.

    The second part of that, though, is the packaging of multiple titles onto one disc. This is a tactic that has some real legs, because 100 baht, or whatever they charge, for four movies (and I've seen tables along the major roads selling up to 6 Hollywood titles on one disc) is actually quite a bargain, even if they're VCD quality.

    So my point is simply to point out how piracy does continue to affect Thailand's domestic film industry, even though they are doing a lot to stem it through smart business tactics (whereas, I think things like harsh laws and on camcording in theaters are ineffective and misguided).

    Sure, this isn't new, but it's still out there.

    Oh, yeah, and it also shows that if the price is right, people will still pay to watch Friendship. But don't count me among them. :P

  2. Friendship is now available in 7-11stores, by the way.


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