Monday, March 9, 2009

Yongyoot in touch with his serious side

Yongyoot Thongkongtoon has been one of the consummate yuksters of the Thai film industry, directing such comedies as The Iron Ladies and M.A.I.D.. But even as he piles on the jokes and laughter, there's been a serious issue underneath -- of sexuality and anti-gay bias in his two Iron Ladies movies, of the toils of Thailand's working class of maids, gardeners and security guards in M.A.I.D. and more confusion about sexuality in Metrosexual.

With Happiness, his segment in 4Bia, Yongyoot showed his serious side, which he explores further in his latest film, the romantic drama Best of Times (Kwaam Jam San Dtae Rak Chan Yaao). He still brings on the funny to be sure, but he also shows there's more going on than just comedy.

I spoke to Yongyoot at the premiere of Best of Times, and I told him I thought it was his most mature work yet, and asked him where that came from. I wondered if there was something going on with his own life there, but Yongyoot, as always I think, credited "the team" at GTH studio, and said that because he's the veteran filmmaker of the bunch, and several youth-oriented romance comedies had already been done, it was time for him to try something different.

A Daily Xpress article today has a bit more from Yongyoot:

"I present serious issues as bitter pills coated with caramel," says the director, whose previous movies have included the gay-transgender volleyball comedy The Iron Ladies and the sexually perplexed romantic comedy Metrosexual.

So it comes as something of a surprise to discover that his latest film Kwaam Jam San Dtae Rak Chan Yaao is not a comedy but a straight romantic drama.

"The movie looks how you move on with your life after you've failed. This time, I've chosen not to dilute what I want to say with comedy."

The idea for making Best of Times was born while Yongyoot was working on last year's horror anthology See Phrang (4Bia). His segment was a taught Hitchcockian thriller about loneliness.

"I discovered while filming my segment of See Phrang that I am able to focus on a serious movie without feeling uncomfortable," he explains.

The article also has a bit of interesting background, that Best of Times is adapted from a student short called Wela Rak by Khanittha Khwanyoo. Yongyoot picked up the rights to the short and put the director to work as a third assistant on the feature. It's an example of how independent young filmmakers and their shorts are being absorbed into the industry.

Another note on the serious side: While making Best of Times Yongyoot was involved in a car wreck while driving back late at night from the location in Chanthaburi province. He and his first assistant director, Ake Panyasri, were seriously injured. Yongyoot was using a pair of canes at the premiere. He said he expected to make a full recovery after surgery. Ake was more seriously injured, and in January his fellow filmmakers held a benefit short-film screening to raise money for his hospital bills.

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