Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Distortion

  • Directed by Nonzee Nimibutr
  • Starring Sarunyu Prachakrit, Boonyisa Chantrarachai, Artit Wiboonpanitch, Arpa Pawilai, Suchao Pongwilai
  • Released in Thai cinemas on May 17, 2012; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

Is a thriller still a thriller if you expect there to be twists, and then the twists don't turn out to be all that surprising?

That's the problematic question that Nonzee Nimibutr's latest feature poses.

Distortion (คน-โลก-จิต, Kon-Loke-Jit) is billed as a "psychological thriller", but it doesn't really provide many thrills. Mainly, it's a showcase for Nonzee's hyper-stylized presentation.

It starts off memorably, with lots of blood and gore drenching everything while an jaunty little pop tune incongruously plays. A blood-soaked bed recalls Nonzee's 2001 version of Jan Dara, which featured a do-it-yourself abortion.

But after the opening credits it's all fairly tame until the end when there's twist after twist after twist after twist, all of which seem inevitable.

It aims to borrow a page from the Saw torture-porn franchise, but becomes a bit laughable because an actual saw in a sawmill is used, like some old-fashioned movie. All that's missing is a villain twirling his moustache. There's also a hammer, just like Oldboy.

And then there's existential musing while distorted images reflect off the rippling glass of Bangkok skyscrapers.

Chosen from a round in the Thailand Script Project and pitched at the Asian Project Market at last year's Busan fest, Nonzee co-wrote the screenplay with Putta Pitaksonakul.

The story involves four people who are somehow intertwined with a series of grisly murders taking place around Bangkok.

The main figure is a celebrity psychologist (Sarunyu Prachakrit) who's a self-help author and university lecturer. In his spare time, he turns up at crime scenes to offer his consultation services to his friend, the forensic pathologist (Boonyisa Chantrarachai).

Teaching class one day, a female student (Arpa Pawilai) comes in disruptively late. The celebrity psych is of course immediately drawn to the young woman with the dyed orange hair, oversized sunglasses and fashionably snug non-regulation university skirt-and-blouse uniform.

He thinks they shared a trauma in the past and becomes determined to sort things out.

Meanwhile, a sneering wealthy young businessman (Artit Wiboonpanitch) with a menacing pompadour and cigar is always turning up at social functions that the psychologist is attending, and Mr Sneer implies that he and the doctor shared some sort of past.

As the psychologist tries to figure out what all this means, his own psychological problems start to manifest themselves – obsessive-compulsive disorder, talking to himself, hallucinations, mirror punching, etc.

His investigation into the past involves a man (Suchao Ponvilai) he put in prison years before.

Meanwhile, the bloody serial killings are still going on around Bangkok.

What's distracting is that none of the characters are particularly likable.

The psychologist is a smug so-and-so who has the annoying habit of giving himself affirming pep talks as he starts his day. Miss Orange Hair could possibly draw the most sympathy of all the characters, but right from the moment she's introduced while swimming in a red bikini it seems like it's all an act. Sneery pompadour guy is a jerk, plain and simple. And the forensic-pathologist lady is just inert – there's not much reason for her to be in the movie.

The subject of childhood trauma and gay subtext in Distortion will likely draw comparison to the better-done and gorier Thai thriller Slice, which I'd rather I'd watched again than Distortion.

Related posts:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Here's the women in the new Jan Dara

Yaya Ying takes the coveted temptress role in the new Jan Dara.

When word first started circulating that veteran director and dramatist ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula wanted to remake Jan Dara, much of the speculation about the project had to do with who would take on the roles of the various women in the erotic drama.

Based on a novel by Utsana Phleungtham, Jan Dara (จัน ดารา) is a tale of family dysfunction and rivalry between a womanizing nobleman and his illegitimate son. It was previously adapted as a film by Nonzee Nimibutr in 2001. In the new version, the bastard son Jan will be portrayed by Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer.

Now, with news of the new Jan Dara's success at the Cannes Film Market, studio Sahamongkolfilm International has decided it's time to send out a press release to clear things up and put an end to the rumors about the female roles.

Starring as Boonleuang will be Ratha Pho-ngam (รฐา โพธิ์งาม). She's Jan's father's worldly live-in mistress, previously portrayed by Hong Kong's Christy Chung. Better known as Yayaying, Ratha is a 29-year-old pop singer who's the daughter of comedienne Noi Po-ngam, making her the niece of veteran comedian and actor Thep Po-ngam. If IMDb can be believed, Yaya or Ying or Yayaying made her feature-film debut in Only God Forgives, the crime drama starring Ryan Gosling that director Nicolas Winding Refn recently filmed in Bangkok.

Names previously rumored in connection to the role have been Marsha Wattanapanich and "Benz" Pornchita na Songkhla. But, sorry ladies, no dice.

It's been known for awhile that actress "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai had a role in Jan Dara, but now it's been confirmed that she'll portray Waad, the aunt/stepmother (it's complicated) of Jan. Waad was portrayed in Nonzee's version by Wipawee Jaroenpura. Tak's just 27, and already she's being shunted into the "mother" roles.

Another actress that's been mentioned is Japanese AV star Sho Nishino, and she's in the movie, somewhere, likely among the coterie of women that Jan's sex-crazed father keeps around.

P-047 in LA Film Festival

It's been awhile since I've heard anything about Kongej Jaturanrasamee's mind-blowing P-047  (Tae Peang Phu Deaw, แต่เพียงผู้เดียว), which premiered as a last-minute selection at last year's Venice fest and also played a few other places, including the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

P-047 is still on the festival circuit, and is set for the Los Angeles Film Festival. Here's the synopsis:

Lek and Kong work side by side at the shopping mall. Lek is a lonely locksmith, and Kong is an aspiring writer. When Kong comes up with a plan to put Lek’s lock picking skills to good use, the two start breaking into other people’s homes, not to steal anything but just to bask temporarily in the lives of others. One day, Kong pries too deeply into someone else’s life, and things grow rather complicated.

Recalling Christopher Nolan by way of Wong Kar-wai, P-047 beautifully weaves together flashbacks, fantasy sequences and fragmented memories into a film that is part meditation, part multilayered mystery and utterly fascinating.

Also of possible interest in the LAFF is the Malaysian crime drama Bunohan: Return to Murder by Dain Said. Set in the "badlands" along the Malaysian-Thai border, it involves three estranged brothers, one of whom is on the run from a hitman after a Muay Thai deathmatch. There's also Return to Burma, the documentary-style account of a migrant laborer's return to Myanmar after 10 years of working in Taiwan.

Hopefully P-047 will turn up again in Bangkok for a regular theatrical release, sometime this year. I'd like to see it again.

The Los Angeles Film Festival runs from June 14 to 24.

7th Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas conference, June 19-22, Singapore

The seventh Association of Southeast Asian Cinemas conference is set for June 19 to 22 in Singapore.

A semi-annual event, this year it is being held at the National Museum of Singapore, and is being sponsored by a grant from the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University.  As a result of the grant, Aseac is able to waive all registration fees.

This year's focus is "The Politics, Practices and Poetics of the Archive". The opening-night address is "Adventures in the Film Archives" by Thomas Doherty, Shaw Foundation professor at Nanyang Technological University.

There will be presentations of academic papers, panel discussions by film experts and filmmakers and, of course, screenings.

Among the films will be 1954's After the Curfew by "the father of Indonesian cinema", Usmar Ismail. Others are Rithy Panh's Bophana: A Cambodian Tragedy, Davy Chou's Golden Slumbers, and a selection from the sixth Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, which also focused on archives.

Deadlines for booking rooms for the conference has already passed, due to deals with the various hotels, but casual registrants have until June 4 to turn in their forms.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cannes buyers lust after Jan Dara remake

Bidding wars erupted at the Cannes Film Market, where Sahamongkolfilm International is pushing director ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula's remake of the erotic drama Jan Dara (จัน ดารา).

Touted as "Thailand’s first erotic drama intended for theatrical release" it's been sold to South Korea's Daisy and Cinergy, Hong Kong's Edko, Clover Films in Singapore, Taiwan's Applause and Pioneer in the Philippines.

“We also have a lot of interest from Japanese and European distributors,” Sahamongkol executive vice president Gilbert Lim is quoted as saying by Screen Daily.

According to the industry journal, Jan Dara is in production and aiming for a September release in Thailand.

It stars Mario Maurer as the bastard son of a nobleman who is caught up in the dysfunctional family relations and a sexual rivalry with his father. Mario will portray the character Jan from his teenage years through adulthood. Images on the Kapook website show what Mario might look like.

Screen says that others in the cast are Thai actress Rhatha "Yayaying" Pho-ngam, who is also featured in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bangkok crime drama Only God Forgives and Japanese adult video actress Sho Nishino.

Based on a novel by Utsana Phleungtham, Jan Dara was previously adapted in 2001 by Nonzee Nimibutr, who's said he supports Mom Noi's new version.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apichatpong-a-rama: Mekong Hotel reviewed at Cannes, Ashes

It's pretty unusual for a short film to be the object of widespread media attention, but then Mekong Hotel isn't the usual short film. Directed by 2010 Cannes Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who returns to the French Riviera film fest to premiere one of his latest works, the hour-long Mekong Hotel, which was shown in an out-of-competition "special screening".

Set in a hotel along the banks of the flooded Mekong, the experimental work weaves together the cast and crew workshopping an unproduced project called Ecstasy Garden, a young couple talking about their relationship, something about the gut-munching Phi Pob ghost (not the krasue as I mistakenly thought earlier) and some dude playing guitar.

There's plenty of reviews, and they are a mixed bag.

Nice things are said at IndieWire, Hammer to Nail, The L Magazine and the Toronto Star.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw calls it "interesting but indulgent" while The Observer's Jason Solomons notes:

It contains the literally immortal line: "I will be reborn as a horse and then several kinds of insect." It was screened after lunch in the hot Salle Bazin. On screen, the flies buzzed, the river flowed, the music played and the sun shone – I looked around and counted nine people blissfully asleep in my vicinity. Only for this Zen master director could one say that this reaction should be taken as some kind of compliment.

Maggie Lee, reviewing it for Variety, also picked up on Mekong Hotel's "sleepy rhythm".

But it's the film critic Neil Young, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, who's least enamoured by Mekong Hotel, calling it a "waterlogged squib" while referring to Apichatpong's 2007 short Luminous People, about the interment of funeral ashes in the Mekong, "which achieved much more in 15 minutes than Mekong Hotel manages at just under quadruple the length".

The big rumor that surrounded Mekong Hotel was whether Tilda Swinton was in the cast. Swinton was there at Cannes, but as part of the cast of the festival opener, Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. Nope, Mekong just has some of Joei's usual suspects, like actress Jenjira Pongpas and actor Sakda Kaewbuadee. So maybe there will be another collaboration with Tilda, beyond  the weird little Film on the Rocks Yao Noi festival.

There's a further round-up and lots more background on Mekong Hotel at Fandor. There's also another Apichatpong film premiered at Cannes, though not officially as part of the festival. It's Ashes, a 20-minute short shot with the Lomokino 35mm-film camera.

It's supposedly available for free streaming at Mubi.com, but I couldn't get it to play on my crappy Thai Internet connection. Maybe the local ISP is censoring it because of the politically sensitive subject matter or maybe Mubi isn't allowing it to stream in Thailand for some reason.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

See the movies the King saw in 'Seen by H.M.K.'

The Thai Film Archive will show nine classic films in the screening series "Seen by H.M.K." next week, featuring movies that were viewed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a public cinema.

Mostly from the 1960s, among them are such Hollywood classics as The Great Escape and Love Story as a well as a James Bond film, You Only Live Twice.

Thai films include the 1961 musical-romance-action-drama Ruen Pae, a.k.a. The Houseboat or The Boat House.

The series opens at 4pm on Tuesday, May 22 in the fifth-floor auditorium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, with an invitation-only screening of 1961's Mue Jorn, directed by Vichit Kounavudhi. A relic of the era when most Thai films were shot on 16mm, the archive has transferred its 16mm print to a hi-def digital file. The visual quality is still beautiful with some small scratches, assures programmer Sanchai Chotirosseranee. It will be accompanied by a team of live dubbers, just like when the film was shown back in the '60s.

"Seen by H.M.K." runs from May 23 to May 27 at the BACC and will be repeated afterward at the Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom.

Here's the line-up:

  • The Great Escape (1963, USA) Wed, 23 May at 6 p.m. at BACC and Sun 3 June at 1 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Amrapali (1966, India) Thu 24 May at 6 p.m. at BACC and Tue 5 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Ruen  Pae (The Houseboat) (1961, Thailand)  Fri 25 May at 6 p.m. at BACC, Monday 4th and Sat 9th June at 1 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Mue Jorn (1961, Thailand) Sat 26 May, 12 p.m. at BACC, and Fri 8 June, 5.30 p.m. at the Film Archive
  • Jade Goddess (1969, Taiwan) Sat 26 May at 3 p.m. at BACC
  • Lord Jim (1965, USA)  Sat 26 May at 6 p.m. at BACC and Sat 2 June at 1 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Love Story (1970, USA) Sun 27 May at 12 p.m. at BACC and Thu 7 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive
  • You Only Live Twice (1967, USA)  Sun 27 May at 3 p.m. at BACC and Wed 6 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive
  • Pan Din Khong Roa (Our Homeland) (1976, Thailand)  Sun 27 May at 6 p.m. and Fri 1 June at 5.30 p.m. at Film Archive

Of the non-English-language films, only Amrapali will be shown with English subtitles. There are no English subtitles on any of the Thai films. Admission is free.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Apichatpong-a-rama: Pob ghost in Mekong Hotel, jury in Locarno

In just a couple more days, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's latest film, the 61-minute Mekong Hotel will premiere out of competition in a "special screening" at the Cannes Film Festival.

Across the Web, much about the mid-length movie from the Uncle Boonmee maker remains a mystery, but here's a description from the festival website:

Mekong Hotel is a portrait of a hotel near the Mekong River in the northeast of Thailand. The river there marks the border between Thailand and Laos. In the bedrooms and terraces, Apichatpong held a rehearsal with his crew for a movie that he wrote years ago called Ecstasy Garden. The film shuffles different realms, fact and fiction, expressing the bonds between a vampire-like mother and her daughter, the young lovers and the river. Mekong Hotel – since it was shot at the time of the heavy flooding in Thailand – also weaves in layers of demolition, politics, and a drifting dream of the future.

The vampire-like mother, I believe, refers to Phi Pob, the infamous gut-munching female ghost that's been depicted in Thai films throughout history.

A poster turned up somewhere and there are images on the Cannes website as well as at IndieWire's the Playlist which links to more coverage from Chuck "Peter/Andre" Stephens at CinemaScope:

“I’m finishing one very romantic film of a hotel on the Mekong, in Nong Khai,” the helmer also previously explained to CinemaScope. “It’s a one-hour film called Mekong Hotel. My crew goes there, and my friend, who is a guitar teacher, improvises and plays guitar for an hour. My crew is trying to rehearse a movie about this ghost who goes around eating innards. It’s like a documentary but every scene is shot in a hotel room.”

I don't think Tilda Swinton is involved with this, as as been rumored, though she might be. But the cast list on the poster and at the Cannes site don't list her, just some of the usual suspects of Joei's movies, like actress Jenjira Pongpas and actor Sakda Kaewbuadee.

In related news, Apichatpong has been chosen to lead the main-competition at Switzerland'a Locarno fest.

The gushing of the festival organizer comes from Film Business Asia's coverage:

"Apichatpong Weerasethakul has been a major revelation in world cinema," said Locarno's artistic director Olivier Père. "The Thai filmmaker, whose poetic and dreamlike films blend his country's national legends, a sensual feel for the physical and natural world as well as new narrative and visual styles borrowed from contemporary art, has invented a mutant form of cinema that completely overturns our viewing habits and takes us into unexplored areas that verge on the sublime".

The Locarno Film Festival runs from August 1 to 11.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the ghost as the krasue. This was incorrect.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nonzee is back with Distortion

Veteran director Nonzee Nimibutr is an ever-present fixture at most film-industry functions in Thailand and around the region.

Fellow "Thai new wave" filmmaker Pen-ek Ratanaruang commented as much when Nonzee handed him his Best Director trophy for Headshot at the recent Subhanahongsa Awards. "Phi Oui is always at these events!" Pen-ek quipped, referring to Nonzee by his nickname.

Nonzee was even among the industry figures who were guests at the recent wedding of martial-arts star Tony Jaa.

But it's been awhile since Nonzee, director of such films as Daeng Bireley's and Young Gangster and Nang Nak, has had a feature in cinemas. In fact, it's been since 2008's swashbuckling fantasy epic Queens of Langkasuka, a.k.a. Legend of the Tsunami Warrior.

His latest release Distortion (คน-โลก-จิต, Kon-Loke-Jit) is in Thai cinemas this week. It's a psychological thriller in which four characters, a psychologist, a scientist, a businessman and a student, somehow become involved a serial-murder case.

There's longer versions of the synopsis around the Web, but my instinct is to stay away from those.

There's also an English-subtitled trailer, embedded below.

Sarunyu Prachakrit, Boonyisa “Poppy” Chantrarachai (first runner up Miss World Thailand 2012), Artit Wiboonpanitch, Arpa Pawilai and Suchao Pongwilai star.

In kind of a weird move, Nonzee himself appeared on early international teaser posters for the movie. It's being released by his Cinemasia production marque under Sahamongkol Film International and was pitched in the Asian Project Market at last year's Busan fest.

Meanwhile, Nonzee has thrown his support behind director ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula's planned remake of his 2001 erotic drama Jan Dara. It'll star Mario Maurer as the title character, marking a departure from Nonzee's version which had two actors playing Jan from boyhood to adulthood.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ban upheld on Shakespeare Must Die

Ing K. and Manit Sriwanichpoom's appeal against the banning of their movie Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย, Shakespeare Tong Tai) has been rejected.

The details are from the movie's blog:

12 May 2012

Dear cast and crew, family and friends,

You’ve probably seen yesterday’s bad news: our appeal was rejected. The ban on Shakespeare Must Die “permanently” remains.

Yesterday afternoon around 4pm, the National Board of Film and Video, chaired by General Yuthasak Sasiprapa, Deputy Prime Minister on political affairs and former Defense Minister, who presided on behalf of PM Yingluck Shinawatra, agreed with the Film Censorship Board’s ruling that Shakespeare Must Die is a threat to national unity, therefore its decision to ban the film from distribution in the Kingdom of Thailand is a correct decision that will not be revoked.

We do not accept the legitimacy of this senseless verdict. Our fight against the ban continues so that, by whatever means necessary, Shakespeare Must Die may be shown in Thailand. We fight on though it has now become quite clear that this entails taking on the dictatorial film law itself and superstructure, the climate of fear under the rule of PM Yingluck Shinawatra, the hidden special interest groups as well as unethical and fear-driven abuse of power.

As we waited for the verdict outside the meeting room where our fate was being decided at the Ministry of Culture, it was strange to observe that ministry and censorship office officials who should’ve been inside were all waiting there with us along with an army of reporters. They had been barred from the discussion, as if the Shakespeare Must Die decision were a ‘black-op’ order from above that had to be obeyed in secrecy. It was also notable that neither General Yuthasak, whose office at Government House had all but assured us just last week that the May 11th decision would be a “compromise”, nor Culture Minister Sukumol Khunpleum, and not even Permanent Cultural Secretary Somchai Sianglhai remained to face the press, so that it fell to Deputy Permanent Secretary Aphinan Poshyanonda to announce the indefensible bad news, which seemed to come as a shock to everyone there. He admitted to the press that he found the verdict a difficult and uncomfortable one, and in his opinion the banning law needs to be amended. (Some of his comments are published in detail in Thai Rath daily and online.)

Do not lose hope, people. We must fight on for the sake of every future Thai film as well as for our own. To give up would mean to resign ourselves to the chains that bind Thai cinema, the tyranny that refuses to allow it to bloom into a respected artistic medium with dignity and a free spirit.

With much love and respect for everyone and many thanks for your moral support,

Manit Sriwanichpoom


Ing K


The next legal step for Shakespeare Must Die would be to appeal to the Central Administrative Court.

There is coverage in the Thai press at Thai Rath, Matichon and Manager.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Industry to celebrate at Cannes Thai Night

Apichatpong's Mekong Hotel screens on May 18.

With the only Thai film in the Cannes Film Festival's official selection, Mekong Hotel by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, screening on May 18, the Thai film industry and government officials want to celebrate with their annual Thai Night, set for that Friday night in the Grand Salon at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes.

More about the function is explained in the press release that follows:

Presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, Thai Night 2012 will be the occasion to celebrate another banner year for Thai cinema.

Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul is back in the official selection with Mekong Hotel.  Also present in Cannes this year is an eclectic new wave of Thai filmmakers who will be showcasing their work at the International Film Market.

Meanwhile, Thailand is cementing its position as one of the most popular filming destinations in Asia. Over the past 15 months, a record 798 foreign productions were filmed in Thailand, including feature films such as Luc Besson's The Lady and Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives starring Ryan Gosling.

The country's beautiful sceneries and low production costs are not the only reasons for Thailand's growing appeal as a filming location. Thailand now offers among the most skilled and experienced film personnel and technical services available in Asia, from production crews to post-production services, animation and visual effects.

Taking note of the potential of Thailand's film sector, the Royal Thai Government has recently announced new incentives for foreign productions, including full income tax exemption for foreign actors.

All this and more will be at the centre of Thai Night 2012 – Where Films Come Alive, a reception organized by the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), Thai Ministry of Commerce.

Attended by Senior Thai Government officials, business leaders and members of the film and entertainment industry, the reception will offer international film professionals and the media an opportunity to meet and greet the Thai filmmakers and talent present in Cannes and forge new ties with the Thai film industry.

Attendance at this event is by invitation only.

To request an invitation, please contact ThaiNightCannes2012 [at] gmail.com.

Apichatpong is expected to be a guest that night.

Market screenings will include Yuthlert Sippapak's hitman drama Friday Killer, the lesbian romance She, the Five Star horror Dark Flight 3D, something called Spirits Wars and a couple of computer-animated features,  Echo Planet 3D and Sahamongkol's Yaak.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review: Venom (Asorapit)

  • Directed by Jarunee Thammayu
  • Starring Nonpichet Wongchanoksirikul, Preecha Ketkham, Chayutpol Bampen
  • Limited release from April 26-29, 2012 at the Lido cinemas, Bangkok.
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Cheesy special effects involving a giant cobra with red glowing eyes put the bite on an otherwise poignant social drama about religious and class conflict in Venom (อสรพิษ, Asorapit).

Supported by the Culture Ministry’s Thai Khem Khang (Strong Thailand) fund, the indie feature is based on a novella by Dan-aran Saengthong, a.k.a. Saneh Sangsuk, a famous Thai writer who was awarded the Ordre des Arts et Lettres medal by the French Ministry of Culture. Venom was translated into English by Marcel Barang and serialized in the Bangkok Post.

Set in a rural Thai village in the 1970s, the story centers on a young farmer whose mother was killed years before in an attack by a giant snake. Early scenes show the young man and his friends going around killing every snake they can find, and a clutch of cobra eggs is stolen from a swiftly pursuing serpaent and thrown in the mother's funeral fire.

As the years go by, the young man earns an honest living cultivating his small rice paddy. He holds to the traditional ways and is a devout Buddhist. He marries his sweetheart and they have a boy.

Meanwhile in the village there's a shaman who is attracting an increasing number of followers, though some of the men might just be there to look down the unbuttoned blouse of the shaman's large-breasted wife. With his wife helping, the white-clad shaman puts on a show that makes people believe he's possessed by a goddess who tells them they need to build her a temple. When public land is chosen for the temple's location, the farmer protests, making him an enemy of the shaman.

The shaman's influence grows, and more people flock to him instead of the old Buddhist temple.

Further causing trouble for the farmer is when his boy falls from a palm tree and is left with one arm paralyzed.

The shaman's young son becomes the school bully, riding his flashy motorcycle around and collecting a coterie of henchmen. He comes into conflict with the farmer's son.

Despite his disability, the farmer's boy wants to become a master shadow puppeteer. It's when he is putting on a puppet show for his friends that the giant cobra emerges and attacks the boy, coiling around him so that the snake and boy become one hideous creature.

Instead of rushing to help the boy, everyone runs away, and they eventually rally around the shaman, who says that helping the kid would displease the goddess.

It could be a powerful moment, showing the results of a conflict between blind materialism versus the a sufficiency lifestyle. But instead there's that darn snake-boy thing, and many in the audience simply laughed.

See also: