Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Another look at Soi Cowboy

One of my top 10 Thai films of 2008, British director Thomas Clay's Soi Cowboy, opens in Bangkok tomorrow.

Ahead of the movie's limited theatrical run, producers DeWarrenne Pictures have a trailer on their YouTube channel. It's embedded below.

The movie takes its name from a neon-splashed red-light district in Bangkok, which is presumably where the film's first two main characters met. The street doesn't really play an integral part in the film, though it is seen in passing during the daytime.

The first half of the film is in black and white, and follows a couple - a corpulent Dane (Nicholas Bro) and his tiny but pregnant Thai girlfriend (Pimwalee Thampanyasan) - as the two go through their humdrum daily routine, mainly consisting of the great Viagra-popping Dane looking forlornly at the little woman, hoping she'll have sex with him. The second half of the film switches to brilliant color and takes place in the countryside, where a young guy has come to collect his older brother's head.

The trailer makes use of the country-gospel song "Where We'll Never Grow Old", which is sung by Art Supawatt. In the film, the performance is during a dreamy, Blue Velvet-like sequence in a parlor. A scratchy-sounding 1920s version by Alfred Karnes is used over the opening credits, and the song really put the hook in me. It set up the whole film for my enjoyment, and afterward, I went home and found the song on eMusic and downloaded it.

Soi Cowboy debuted in the Un Certain Regard program at last year's Cannes Film Festival, and garnered critical acclaim. It was in competition at the STockholm International Film Festival in November, and it won Best Foreign Director and Best Foreign Female Actor awards at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival in October. The film has also been featured at the Sarajevo Film Festival, Rio International Film Festival, Warsaw International FilmFest, Vienna International Film Festival, Leeds International Film Festival, Oslo International Film Festival and Mar Del Plata Film Festival. It played once to a capacity crowd during last year's Bangkok International Film Festival.

I'm glad to get another chance to see it. It's playing at Paragon Cineplex.


  1. A great acting by the Danish actor - and that's about all positive I can say to this movie. It's simply too long and the two stories doesn't connect in any logic way.

    As with many other Thai movies there is an exciting climax build but no point in the end. Go see this movie if you feel sorry for the directors bad job - besides that I don't see any reason to spend money or time on a ticket.

  2. I have to say I really wanted to like this movie and for the first 10-15 minutes I did. I too enjoyed the music as an introduction and theme. The shot of Tobais' despondent face reflected in the window was great. I just felt the point had been made in the fist 15 minutes.

    They are together, yet almost alone in the apartment. Then I was waiting for something else the be said about this either visually or with more dialogue, instead I got a close up of a toaster. It was a long time to wait for the post coital tear which was moving.

    The first half briefly touched on then central tensions of their relationship, he is buying Viagra, but has to please himself. She is talking to her friends about a big wedding, and the first thing she says in response to her present is "how much is this, I could sell this" which he doesn't react to.

    Again the second half shows promise a man is charged with killing his own brother, what does he do in such a tough situation? Apparently just head up country and kill him then nip back.

    The spinning shaky cam scene is a good idea, faced with a tough life up country should woman go down to cowboy? Is it fair to do so if it is her choice ? Unfortunately only the woman with the Swiss boyfriend is convincing. The shakiness fits in with the to and fro of a conversation, used with the brother approaching a house it is jarring.

    I don't like being too negative about movies, but I found myself leaving the cinema thinking that it could have been great and said so much more.

    I do realise it's not easy to make a good movie as shown by dodgy attempts at



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