Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review: 4 Romances (Fun Waan Aai Joop)

  • Directed by Rashane Limtrakul, Bandit Thongdee, Prachya Pinkaew and Chukiat Sakveerakul
  • Starring Mario Maurer, Kanya Rattanaphet, Pakorn Chadborirak, Shahrit Yamnarm, Suthida Kasemsan na Ayutthaya, Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, Jenjira Jamniansri
  • Released in Thai cinemas on December 25, 2008
  • Rating: 3/5

Melodrama, comedy, action, time-shifting psychological mystery and even cartoon fantasy all figure into 4 Romances (Fun Waan Aai Joop, ฝัน-หวาน-อาย-จูบ), an omnibus of four shorts by four filmmakers for Sahamongkol Film International: Prachya Pinkaew, Chukiat Sakveerakul, Bandit Thongdee and Rashane Limtrakul.

It comes out of the corner swinging with Joop (Kiss), a fast-paced comedy about a teen lothario who steals kisses. He's narrating the tale, saying that the sweetest kiss is from a friend's girlfriend, and he's set his eyes on Gaga ( Apisara Tatti), the girlfriend of his friend Beaver. Yeah, that's right, the guy's name is Beaver. He's played by Mario Maurer. Making a raunchy, double-entendre use of Beaver's name, Ped the bandit drives a wedge between Gaga and her sweet Beaver. Beaver can't leave it though. He confronts Ped at a boxing gym, where there's a big beatdown.

Kiss is directed by Rashane Limtrakul, who at RS Film produced a couple of Thailand's most colorful films in recent years, Bangkok Loco and Ahimsa: Stop to Run. Rashane also edited Chocolate with fellow 4 Romances director Prachya Pinkaew. So suffice to say that Kiss has a real kinetic flair. A soundtrack pretty well lifted from Guy Ritchie's Snatch adds even more pugilistic energy.

Kiss is most purely entertaining of the four shorts. It's also the shortest, making everything that comes after it feel dragged out.

The next segment, Aai (Shy), is still mercifully light. And it helps that there are two handsome young stars hiking around the stunning scenery of a remote tropical island. "Tan" Kanya Rattanaphet, glamor-shotted up from her rather plain girl-next-door role in Love of Siam, stars as rich girl Tong. She goes to a deserted island with an eye toward building a spa and resort there. Left stranded by a shyster boatman, she's surprised to find that her tour guide on the island is none other Durian ("Boy" Pakorn Chadborirak), her old boyfriend.

Immediately the two start bickering, revealing more of their past together. It's the typical soap opera of a girl from a wealthy family and a young man from a more modest upbringing falling in love. Durian, it turns out, broke off the relationship because he felt embarrassment about his background when in the presence of Tong's hi-so friends and family. Embarrassment (aai), not shyness, is the main theme, but I guess embarrassment would have been too much of a mouthful as the segment's title.

But after a night of drinking a deranged Moken fisherman's whisky, and some vomit in the hair, well, who's more embarrassed?

The next segment, Waan (Sweet), takes things to an entirely different time and place. Shahkrit Yamnarm and Suthida Kasemsan na Ayutthaya star as a middle-aged couple in 1980s or early '90s Bangkok, where Shahkrit's character Shane is a hard-working architect. He's about to go on an emergency business trip, which his wife Waan is vehemently opposed to, telling him he'd better not come back if he goes. Well, Shane goes anyway, leaving Waan alone. Gradually it becomes clear that all is not well with Waan. And when Shane returns home, he finds Waan just isn't the same anymore.

What the heck is going on? Time confusingly jumps around, leaping from decade to decade with Shahkrit and Suthida being put through the paces of rapid aging by the makeup artists. The Thai film industry's current darling young actress "Saipan" Apinya Sakuljaroensuk is featured as a sparkling Waan in her teenage years.

The short is directed by Prachya Pinkaew, who's better known for his action films like Ong-Bak and Chocolate. But he actually cut his teeth on romantic dramas back in the 1990s with Rashane at RS Film. He takes the psychological drama of Sweet to some mighty dark and mysterious times and places. It's so dark and mysterious in fact, that it's hard to tell what is happening. Nor is it certain just what state of mind Shane and Waan are actually in, or where and when they are existing, if at all.

The realm of fantasy goes even further afield in the final short, Chukiat Sakveerakul's Fun (Dream), a dizzying blend of Thai pop music and cartoon fantasy. The story involves a little girl, Ton Kheaw (Jenjira Jamniansri), who is so obsessed with the boyband August, that she becomes lost in a vivid dream world, where she takes part in a magical adventure with the band.

Now, August is a real band. It was formed for Chukiat's acclaimed teen romantic drama Love of Siam as the backing group for the character played by "Pitch" Witwisit Hiranyawongkul. August made promotional appearances for the movie and grew so popular that it took on a life of its own, playing shows, recording albums and making music videos. Singer Pitch is just one of the strong personalities in the band, and perhaps another movie could be made that explores them more fully.

In Dream, August has made a deal with the Devil Black Cat. Like Robert Johnson at the Crossroads, they sold their souls. In human form, the Black Cat is named "Mr. Bird", and, hilariously, the character is patterned after real-life superstar Bird Thongchai McIntyre, and the actor playing him even looks like Bird a bit.

August wants out of the deal, and somehow the lines between fantasy and reality start to fade away, and the girl Tong Khaew holds the key to survival. The band members transform into cartoon animal beings, and Tong Khaew becomes a wide-eyed anime little girl.

And though the animation is rather crude and unfinished looking, the candy-colored setting and the idea of August being a bunch of anime teddy bears and reindeer is still quite trippy. It reminded me a bit of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine animated feature.

But it goes on a bit too long, as Tong Khaew and the August animals fly from one narrow escape to another with the marauding Devil Black Cat hard on their tails. It became headache inducing, and I just wished the little girl would wake up already. But will she?


See also:


  1. It sounds disappointing, despite your 3/5 rating...but maybe I am being too harsh. The only part which would appeal to adults (ie me) sounds too hard to follow.

    Cartoons? No, thanks. Mario stealing kisses...that sounds slightly better, but not riveting.

    And the poor/rich divide...we've been there before, surely.

    PS: In the trailer, I like the bit where a little girl tells a young male friend that she's worried what her Mum will think if they go away together for the night. She's become an adult before her time.

  2. I like Madeaw's part the most, don't know why, and can't stand KISS (Mario's part) - really really hate it.

    I'll be back to read your entire review again, but I have the very interesting link to show you. (don't know you've seen it yet?)

    This one said JUMBO(Khan Kluey) is an Indian film !

  3. BD, I think Prachya might have been trying for a Benjamin Button thing with his short. You might like it.

    Nanoguy, thanks as always for your comments! And thanks for the link on Jumbo/Khan Kluay. It's time for a follow-up post on that.

  4. Just my curious, I wanna know when those friends of Beaver and Gaga always ask her 'Do you see Beaver?", how the subtitles say?

    FYI, (and sorry if you already know that) Mario's character's name isn't really translated as Beaver, but Bear (Mee, in Thai)

    And the question which sounds in Thai "Hen Mee Mai?" is a dirty joke which can use 'spoonerism' to "Hee Men Mai?", means "Do you have smelly pussy?" (just in case if you want to know why Thai people are laughing in that sequence.)

    I'm very regret on WAAN, the plot sounds good but the film is not good enough to make me believe in the characters (especially Shahkrit's). I like how the relationship goes, but hate the end, just like Happy Birthday.

    AAI survives because of Ganya's performance and the cinematography on the sea and island. The screenplay makes me disappoint because the relationship between Durian and Tong (while they're still dating) and dialogues are both heavily unnatural.

  5. They say: "Have you seen your Beaver."

    Oh, ha ha.

    Now I can see why they had Mee renamed Beaver in the English subtitles. I thought it was pretty odd, since there are no beavers in Thailand. Of course, I immediately thought of the TV show "Leave it to Beaver", but I can't think that show had so much influence on Thai culture that parents would nickname their boy Beaver.

    The joke is more clever in Thai, I think. In English, it's childish and gross.

    But still funny. It made me laugh.

  6. thanks for the review of the film =) sigh...i wish i am in bangkok to see it first hand

  7. we are looking forward to tony ja.s new film here in the uk sure to be a big hit i hope it goes on release to the cinema and not just blockbuster heres hopeing

  8. i watched this movie at central world on the day it came out, and a good proportion of the cinema got up and left during the bizarre cartoon section at the end. it was totally out of place for the rest of the movie.

  9. Hello.. I wanna watch this movie but I can't find one with English subtitles.. Can anyone tell me where I can get/download a copy with English subtitles.. Thanks much..

  10. I'd love to see this,but can't actually find it(i need english subtitles, obviously) anywhere : (

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