Friday, May 28, 2010

In memoriam: The Siam Theatre

CNNGo Bangkok today has a last look at the Siam Theatre, which was gutted in the May 19 arson attacks that spread during the military crackdown on the red-shirt political protests.

The article includes valuable remembrances and photos by The Projectionist of the Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, as well as a teary-eyed confession from taxicab-blogger Dale Konstanz of Still Life in Moving Vehicles.

And some other dude adds his thoughts as well.

The burning of the Siam is a great loss to the Bangkok cinema scene, but thankfully Siam Square's ornate Scala remains as the last first-run single-screen theater in the city.

The Nation had a piece in Thursday's paper. It's behind the website's experimental paywall now, but I was able to grab a choice nugget to share here:

The theatre nourished and reared the aesthetics of cinematic arts for audiences of several generations,” says movie critic Manotham Theamtheabrat.

“I was shocked to the point of tears when I realized that firefighters couldn’t go to Siam Square to extinguish the flames,” says GMM Tai Hub (GTH) president Visute Poolvoralaks.

Manotham’s first visit to the cinema was in 1976 to see the teen movie Wai Onlawon.

And Wai Onlawon was screened there again during the 2005 Bangkok International Film Festival.

At the time, I was unaware of the strong connection the Siam had to the Thai film industry. As The Nation article points out, back in the Siam's heyday in the 1970s, it was the place to premiere Thai films.

Today, most of the Thai movie premieres are at the glitzy Paragon Cineplex, which has reopened after being closed during the red-shirt protests, or at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, which was also burnt in the May 19 attacks. But unlike the Siam – slated to become a shopping mall anyway – developers can rebuild the CentralWorld mall and its multiplex.

Even during the 1980s, Visute premiered his first production with his first company, Tai Entertainment, Suem Noi Noi Kalon Mak Noi, at the Siam.

GTH producer-director Jira Maligool recalls growing up hoping he'd one day see his name in lights at the Siam – a dream that came true in 2005 when his Maha'lai Muang Rae (มหา’ลัย เหมืองแร่ , The Tin Mine) played there.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady also played at the Siam after their award-winning runs at the Cannes Film Festival. Though it should be noted that Blissfully was heavily censored.

In recent years, the Siam had mainly become the place to watch movies from Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, with the original soundtracks and English and Thai subtitles.

The Apex chain's surviving Lido multiplex and House cinema on RCA will carry on that welcome tradition, but it won't be the same as seeing them on the big screen of the Siam.

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