Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: Pai in Love

  • Directed by Prachya Pinkaew, Thanit Jitnukul, Sakchai Deenan, Dunyasit Niyomkul, Bandit Tongdee, Tittipong Chaisatìdee, Bongkot Kongmalai
  • Starring Leo Putt, Kanya Rattapetch, Ray MacDonald, Supaksorn Chaimongkol, Pakorn Chadborirak, Achiraya Peerapatkunchaya, Pawalit Mongkolpisit, Natthamonkarn Srinikornchot,Noppan Boonyai
  • Released in Thai cinemas on December 10, 2009; Rated 13+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

I have lost any interest I might have had in visiting Pai. And the tourism authorities can blame the movie Pai in Love (ปายอินเลิฟ) for putting me off wanting to check out the idyllic tiny northern Thailand village.

Nestled in a mountain-ringed valley, several hours over winding, hilly, vomit-inducing roads from Chiang Mai, there doesn't appear to be much to do once you reach Pai. Take a spin around town. Walk across the old iron-truss, wooden-floored bridge over the Pai River. Look moon-eyed at the person you're with -- if you're lucky enough to be with someone. Or maybe sit and have a coffee at one of the rustic-looking coffeehouses (actually it's a Black Canyon chain cafe, dolled up to look like it's run by hippies). Or go to one of the little bars and sit and get drunk. And then go back to your guesthouse and sleep it off. Buy a postcard to remind you of the lovely scenery, but it might remind you of how boring the town was.

A compilation of six short films, about half of them blend together more or less seamlessly and indistinguishably to form a meandering romantic comedy about a young film crew that comes to Pai and is searching for a story to film.

Two of the stories, directed by Thanit Jitnukul and Sakchai Deenan, involve postcards. One has a young woman living in a Bangkok apartment building who is snooping through the mail of a previous tenant. There are stacks of postcards from an old boyfriend who's gone to Pai and still pines for the woman. Up in Pai, the boyfriend is presumably Pawalit Mongkolpisit, who is running a bar/coffeeshop. He doesn't know what to write though. He gets help from a rather pushy postcard vendor, who hauls out a thick binder she's compiled that shows him how to compose a postcard.

The film crew, meanwhile, continues to search for its story. The big-ego director comically orders his poor father around like a slave while the leading man and the main actress try to figure out if they like each other. An orchestra plays a cloying score that swells at all the wrong moments and never lets up.

Some of the segments don't fit. They are explained away as the loud-mouth director says, "I heard this story ...," and there's a dissolve to white.

One of these stories that doesn't fit -- but not in a bad way -- is by actress "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai, making her directorial debut. 3 Wan Kong Ter 3 Wan Kong Kao Lae 3 Wan Kong Ray is what I take to be a typical Pai experience. Two lonely people, bored, drinking, meet at a late-night watering hole. The woman, played by "Kratae" Supaksorn Chaimongkol, is too drunk to remember where her guesthouse is. Lucky for her Ray MacDonald is a gentleman who lets her sleep in his bed and doesn't mess with her. The two strike up a friendship during their time in Pai. They hang out, drink some more and release a floating lantern to the heavens. And while Ray doesn't take advantage, Tak lets her camera spy on her friend Kratae, catching the actress lolling about in her underwear. It's different from all the rest, with Tak going for natural lighting while the other segments apparently had a budget and are thus brightly lit, even in the mist-filled meadows around the town.

Bandit Thongdee directs another cheesecake segment, Pee Sao Khrap, starring actor "Boy" Pakorn Chadborirak and "Noo Jaa" Achiraya Peerapatkunchaya. They also meet by chance, but they share a connection that isn't made apparent until they reach their destination. She breaks his arm and nurses him back to health. They then hit the road for Pai in Boy's old Volkswagen van, stopping along the way so Noo Jaa can twirl about in mountain streams in her flowing hippy wardrobe.

Another one that's different is Prachya Pinkaew's Rak Ter Tee Soon, starring Leo Putt as a mostly mute Chaplinesque character who's hanging out by the side of the road. Kanya Rattapetch is dumped out of car and she parks her carcass on the side of the road opposite to Leo. He tries to get her attention, but she takes no notice. She's too busy pouting and getting drunk on wine coolers. It's like he's not a real person. A CGI ladybug and butterflies also pay Leo no mind. The segment, involving a landmark zero mileage marker, is full of Prachya's playful sense of humor.

That was the highlight of Pai in Love for me. If I go, which is doubtful, I hope to find that mileage marker and snap a postcard photo of it.

A finishing flourish shows the young film crew actually making the film, finally. And another crew is filming them. And a crew is filming the crew that's filming the crew.

It's a circle jerk that seems to indicate there is no end to these short-film romance anthologies.

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  1. It's a shame you didn't like this. I'm starting to like these compedium films (so do studios it seems) and it would have been nice if this one was well made as Pai is a little further out of the way than Paris, or New York.

    Really I'm writing because I was confused by this quote "a landmark zero mileage marker" and was hoping you could explain it to me. What is a mileage marker? And why is it a landmark?


  2. I write what I feel. Your mileage may vary. The mileage marker I speak of is a concrete monument on the roadside, similar to this. The zero marker near Pai is apparently a landmark and people stop and pose for photos with it.


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