Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review: A Moment in June

  • Written, directed and produced by O Nathapon
  • Starring Shakrit Yamnarm, Krissada Sukosol, Sinitta Boonyasak, Deuntem Salitul, Suchao Pongvilai, Napaskorn Mit-Aim, Hiro Sano
  • Reviewed as opening film of the 6th World Film Festival of Bangkok, October 24, 2008
  • Rating: 4/5

Thailand, in the world of A Moment in June, is timeless, it seems, whether it's 1999 or 1972. And in either time period, the immemorial concept of true love remains as idealistic and elusive as ever.

An astonishing debut feature by 28-year-old British-schooled director O Nathapon, this ensemble romantic drama looks and feels like it has come from a different time -- like it's been locked away in a vault for 10 or 30 years and finally sprung on the world.

The stories, which intertwine and embrace ever so tightly as the film progresses, involve a young man and woman in a play, the play's director and his boyfriend, and an older man and woman.

Starting in Bangkok of May 1999, Pakorn (Shakrit Yamnarm) is at the train station saying farewell to his lover Phung (Napaskorn Mit-Aim), who's heading north to Chiang Mai to take a break. Pakorn has been busy getting ready to stage a play -- so his concentration on his work has thrown a damper in his relationship with Phung. But Phung's leaving unsettles Pakorn, and it's hard for him to maintain his focus.

The play involves two couples -- a Japanese man (Hiro Sano) is marrying his longtime sweetheart (Sinitta Boonyasak) and he asks his good friend ("Noi" Krissada Sukosol Clapp) to be his best man. But something lingers between The Best Man and The Bride, even though the Best Man is already married.

Meanwhile, also in May 1999, an older woman, Arunya (Deuntem Salitul), has arrived in the northern city of Lampang, where she has looked up Krung (Suchao Pongvilai) after 30 years. He's not exactly overjoyed to see her, despite the fondness she has for him.

Earlier, on the train -- yes, they shot this film on an actual State Railways of Thailand train -- Arunya meets Phong when he sits with her by chance in the dining car. When the train breaks down and is halted for awhile, the two strike up a conversation. She senses what is going on in Phong's life, and urges him not to stay away from his true love for 30 years like she did.

The story then cuts back to 1972, and from that point, the lines between the play in 1999 and the "real" action taking place 27 years before become blurry, though with screen wipes that move under beds or through the stage floors, or having a backdrop that falls away into nothingness, the transitions are dreamily seamless.

The metaphors are thick. Is life the performance or a rehearsal? If the train stops, do we continue on our journey? Where does the river ferry really take us?

The whole picture is a slow-moving dream, especially the 1970s scenes, which are infused with genuine nostalgia, through period clothing and beehive hairstyles, and a color palette and lighting that evoke the Thai films of the period.

And then there's a song -- "Tha Charom" by Charoen Nathanakorn -- a popular song from the era, with a lilting melody that is similar to another movie soundtrack hit by Charoen -- the well-remembered title track from 1962's Ruen Pae (The Boathouse), one of Thai cinema's most beloved romances. "Tha Charom" and its lyrics of overpowering love is a major refrain throughout A Moment in June.

The original orchestral score by Robert Walker tugs at the heartstrings as well.

Further tips of the hat to classic Thai cinema is in one of the story's settings, at an old-time cinema, where posters from Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat films are displayed.

But it's the performances that really drive A Moment in June. A fantastic, all-star cast has been assembled for this indie drama, and all are in top form.

Especially strong is Shahkrit Yamnarm, who has to bear a lot of emotional weight as the heartbroken theatre director who is central to the story.

Noi Sukosol from 13 Beloved is note perfect as the conflicted Best Man. Sinitta Boonyasak (Last Life in the Universe) reminds us just how darn good she can be.

In a short appearance, scene-stealing specialist Panissara Phimpru adds a comic touch when she buttonholes Sinitta's character to babble on about boyfriends and the latest gossip of Petchara's eyesight.

But it's the older couple who really shines. Suchao Pongvilai is a wonder to behold as the elderly Krung, who despite running a carnival rides in Lampang has been visibly saddened by a decision he made years before. Veteran actress Deuntem Salitul is fearless and regal.

Usually the more senior thespians in Thailand are relegated to stock supporting roles as grandparents, parents or villains, so it's refreshing to see what they can do when they are given a chance to take on meaty, meaningful roles that that are rarely, if ever, offered to them.

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  1. It sounds wonderful. If they are making good use of senior, experienced actors in fully-fledged roles, even better.

  2. yes i really enjoyed this film last night
    very good review, i would have give 4 1/2 tho :) cheers

  3. When you review or mention Thai movies, could you slot in the Thai name of the film as well? I realize you don't read Thai but if you could just paste the name in, so that those of us who do read Thai could more easily find the films, that would be a great service.


  4. Anon, I've been doing as you suggest on recent reviews and other writeups. However, at the time I wrote this review, A Moment in June had not yet been given its Thai title, ณ ขณะ รัก (Nor Kana Rak).


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