Friday, September 28, 2012

Thai action back in action with Fighting Fish

Seems like it's taking forever for Tom Yum Goong 2 with Thailand's leading action stars Tony Jaa and company. Production has reportedly wrapped up, but it won't be until next year before we see the film.

In the meantime, there's Fighting Fish (ดุ ดวล ดิบ, Du Duan Dib), which was released in Thai cinemas this week.

The story is about a French expat ex-boxer who becomes friends with a Thai fighter ("JJ" Jakkris Kanokpojnanon). The pair then get mixed up in an underground boxing club.

The Frenchman is portrayed by Jawed El Berni, a stuntman who's made a name for himself as the double for Bollywood superstar Salman Khan.

In Fighting Fish, fans of Thai action films might recognize Suchao Pongvilai as the mob boss from his turn as the villain in Ong-Bak. French-Vietnamese stunt performer Kazu Patrick Tang from Raging Phoenix and BKO: Bangkok Knockout also turns up.

Produced by Saga Studios, Fighting Fish is helmed by a seemingly unlikely director – former pin-up model and sexy video star "Ying" Julaluck Kittiyarath (จุฬาลักษณ์ กฤติยารัตน์). A decade ago she starred in the controversial erotic mermaid fantasy Phra-Apai-Mani (พระอภัยมณี), based on the Suntorn Phu epic poem.

Since then, she's gotten married and had a baby with French martial artist and stunt performer David Ismalone – none other than Mad Dog from Ong-Bak.

Rechristened as Julaluck Isamalone, Ying recently relaunched her acting career playing a villain in Bangkok Revenge, starring Jon Foo, one of the bad guys who fought Tony Jaa in the first Tom Yum Goong.

And now, with all those connections to past Thai action films and experience of her own, she's making her directorial debut with Fighting Fish.

Check out the trailer (embedded below) as well as more clips on the Saga Studios channel.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thailand lines up Headshot for Oscars, U.S. release set

Headshot (Fon Tok Kuen Fah, ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), Pen-ek Ratanaruang's crime thriller about a hitman who sees the world upside down, has been chosen as Thailand's submission to the 85th Academy Awards, according to social-media reports today.

It's the fourth entry by Pen-ek in contention for the Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film following 6ixtynin9 in 2000, Monrak Transistor in 2002 and Last Life in the Universe in 2003.

News of the Thai film industry's Oscar pick appears to not come through any official or established media channels but through the social networks. According to Thai movie blogger Jediyuth, it was filmmaker Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, president of the Thai Directors' Association, who broke the news on Facebook, where it was noticed by Deknang and posted on Twitter.

Headshot follows the film-noir leanings of Pen-ek's previous efforts with a surreal story of spiritual redemption about a cop-turned-hitman (portrayed by "Peter" Nopachai Jayanama) who is shot in the head, falls into a coma and wakes up to see his world turned literally upside down. The Thai title Fon Tok Keun Fah means "rain falling up to the sky" and is adapted from the short "film-noir novel" by SEA Write and Silpathorn Award laureate author Win Lyovarin.

Produced by Local Color Films – Pen-ek's first feature not released by long-time Thai studio Five Star Production – Headshot premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and has been a regular fixture on the festival circuit since then with too many appearances to keep track of.

Headshot's selection for the Oscars comes after dominating the Thai movie awards earlier this year, including the industry's own "Thai Oscars", the Subhanahongsa "Golden Swan" Awards.

It was picked up for U.S. distribution by Kino Lorber and is beginning a run of limited theatrical releases in New York and Seattle on September 28.

The U.S. trailer from Kino Lorber's website is embedded below.

Update: Via Wildgrounds, the French release is set for late October. The tagline on the poster says "certaines vies n'ont pas de sens" – "some lives have no direction".

Update 2: It's official. "The Federation just sent all the documents through this morning," producer Pawas Sawatchaiyamet tells Film Business Asia.

(Via Veen_NT)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Carried You Home comes home again

Tongpong Chantararangkul's road-trip drama I Carried You Home (Padang Besar, ปาดังเบซา) is coming home again to Thailand, opening this week in a limited theatrical run in Bangkok.

The debut feature from Tongpong, I Carried You Home is the story of estranged sisters who are reunited by the bizarre circumstances of their mother's death. They are to escort their mom's body on an ambulance drive from Bangkok to their hometown of Pedang Besar on the Thai-Malaysian border.

During the langorous journey south, the tale ever-so-slowly dips in and out of the past as it reveals why the sisters grew apart. Along for the ride is the stoner ambulance driver, who offers a bit of comic relief.

Apinya Sakuljaroensuk stars as the spirited and angry younger sister with Akhamsiri Suwanasuk as the older sibling who mysteriously moved away to Singapore.

I Carried You Home premiered at last year's Busan International Film Festival, where it was in the New Currents competition. It had been supported by Busan's Asian Cinema Fund.

Other festival appearances have included Marrakech, Vancouver Rotterdam and Deauville.

It made its Thai premiere this past January at the 9th World Film Festival of Bangkok, which had been postponed from November because of the floods. It screened again in June as part of the Thai selection at the MovieMov Italian Film Festival in Bangkok.

Tongpong's feature will also be screened in the upcoming Toyko International Film Festival.

It was also recently shown in Washington, D.C., as part of the Royal Thai Embassy's film festival, which also included The Overture with live musical performance, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee's P-047 and Wichanon Sumumjarn's In April the Following Year, There Was a Fire.

I Carried You Home opens on Thursday at the Lido cinemas in Siam Square and at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Have a look at the trailer, embedded below.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Busan fest gets Distortion, Four Stations, Mekong Hotel and Oriole

The latest work of veteran filmmaker Nonzee Nimibutr as well as indie director Boonsong Nakphoo's compilation of rural short stories will have their international premieres at the Busan International Film Festival.

There's also the world premiere of a short film, Oriole, by Kaynipa Polnikorn.

Nonzee's thriller Distortion and Boonsong Nakphoo's Four Stations are part of the completed Busan line-up in addition to the previously announced 36 by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, which is in the New Currents competition.

Busan also has Apichatpong Weerasethakul's experimental romantic drama Mekong Hotel, which premiered earlier this year in Cannes and has been making its way around the festival circuit.

Distortion (คน-โลก-จิต, Kon-Loke-Jit) is a thriller in which a psychologist tries to unravel the cause of serial killings in Bangkok. It was developed out of the Thailand Script Project with support from Busan's Asian Project Market. It screened in a wide commercial release in Thailand in May.

Boonsong followed up his 2011 indie feature Poor People the Great with Four Stations (Sathanee See Phak, สถานี 4 ภาค), which screened in June in a limited release at Bangkok's Lido cinemas. It's a compilation of four short stories of poor rural folk by well-known Thai authors from Thailand's "four regions".

The Asian Short Film competition has the world premiere of Oriole by Kaynipa Polnikorn, an Australian-schooled filmmaker who previously worked as a script assistant on Ekachai Uekrongtham’s Pleasure Factory. Oriole is the 15-minute tale of an ageing mother caring for her 26-year-old Asperger's-afflicted son. Meanwhile, Kaynipa is at work on her feature debut Palung, which was pitched earlier this year at the Shanghai International Film Festival's project market.

Also of Thai interest is Poor Folk, a new feature by Taiwanese-Myanmarese director Midi Z, about an ethnic migrant worker’s ill-fated dash across the border to the “promised land” of Thailand.

The 17th Busan International Film Festival runs from October 4 to 13.

Review: Shambhala

  • Directed by Panjapong Kongkanoi
  • Starring Sunny Suwanmethanon, Ananda Everingham, Nalinthip Phermphatsakul, Ase Wang
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 23, 2012; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Imagine going on a trip with two people you can't stand. That's what Shambhala (ชัมบาลา) is like. The feature debut by Panjapong Kongkanoi, it's the story of estranged brothers, complete opposites, who are thrown together on a spiritual pilgrimage to Tibet. The film was actually completed three years ago, but for various reasons it was kept on ice at Sahamongkol Film International.

Sunny Suwanmethanon is the straitlaced, uptight half of the sibling pair, with Ananda Everingham as the feckless, womanizing drunk. Neither are particularly likable. Sunny is obsessively trying to recreate a journey his dying girlfriend took without him a year or so before. So he's always stopping at various scenic vantage points to have his picture taken. Ananda invites himself along on the trip with the excuse that his brother needs a photographer. Now how many movies is it that Ananda has played a photographer? I've lost track. Anyway, in Shambhala, he's not a particularly good shutterbug. He's more bent on a staying as lubricated as possible, all the time, and is constantly having to stop to pee or puke.

After awhile, Stockholm syndrome sets in and you actually start to care about these two jerks. They are powered on this spiritual journey by mutual self loathing. Both have dark secrets in their past that are ever so slowly revealed.

On the plus side, there's pretty scenery to look at as the boys are led around the hinterlands of Tibet, where they take in snow-capped mountains, tiny villages, Buddhist temples and flag-festooned shrines. Interestingly, their trip is off the beaten path, studiously avoiding the usual tourist haunts of the capital Lhasa and its main attraction Potala Palace.

Also noteworthy is the soundtrack of indie rock, mostly by Greasy Cafe, the band of musician-actor Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai.

Along for the ride is their guide, a Tibetan guide who conveniently speaks fluent Thai. He's actually a friend of the director, some guy named Jo. He's really the only cool guy on the road trip and he gets the most sympathy – an amazing feat, given how tortured the souls are of the fellows he's driving around in his Land Cruiser. He's the paragon of Buddhist calm until one point he sort of snaps asks Ananda why he's such an annoying drunk.

The women in the tale fare poorly. Sunny's girlfriend  (Nalinthip Phermphatsakul) is a young woman who's full of sass. But then she gets sick. She's losing her hair, so you know what that means.

Ananda had a girlfriend, too, a wife actually. She's played by Ase Wang, and has a few nice moments as she's trying cook tom yum goong. It must not have been very good, because the marriage quickly goes as sour as a soup with too many lemons. They get into an argument, which ends badly. And so Ananda becomes an even more chronic alcoholic.

Before it's all over, there's a spiritual transformation, Technicolor rays of light shoot from mountaintops and dead girlfriends are contacted on a cellphone where there was likely no service.

The overarching message is one of forgiveness, but in order to truly forgive, you first have to forgive yourself.

Related posts:

Monday, September 10, 2012

In memoriam: Pawana Chanachit, the 'Pearl of Asia'

Pawana at the Thai Film Archive on Mitr Chaibancha memorial day in 2009.

Thai leading lady Pawana Chanachit (ภาวนา ชนะจิต) has died. At the height of her career in the 1960s and '70s, she was known as the "Pearl of Asia", famed for her many roles in Hong Kong movies, among them Duel of Fists, the Shaw Brothers' Bangkok action drama starring David Chiang and Ti Lung and directed by Chang Cheh.

She began her acting career in 1960, starring in Saeng Soon (แสงสูรย์) with Mitr Chaibancha and Amara Assavanonda and winning a Golden Doll award for her role.

Born Aranyaporn Laosaengthong on December 20, 1943 to a Mandarin Chinese family, her nickname was Yin.

An action film heroine, Pawana remained a fan favorite long after she stopped acting. At the Mitr Chaibancha memorial day at the Thai Film Archive in 2009, the still-bubbly and bright actress attracted dozens of autograph seekers. Her hand and footprint impressions at the archive is signed "the Pearl of Asia".

According to the Bangkok Post and other news reports, she was found in a pond at her home in Nakhon Pathom. She was 69.

Update: The Nation has a story in which relatives cite "suspicious circumstances".

(Via Ninja Dixon)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Busan New Currents competition counts to 36

Nawapol Thamrattanrongrit's self-produced and self-released debut feature 36 is among the titles selected for this year's New Currents competition for first- or second-time feature directors at the Busan Internaional Film Festival.

Comprised of 36 scenes, each a single camera set-up, often from odd angles that obscure the faces of the actors, it's the story of a young woman who works as a location scout for an independent film company, and her relationship with an art director. A year later, the art director has moved on, but when her portable hard drive crashes, taking with all the photos she took with him, she struggles to resurrect those lost, fragmented memories.

Nawapol executive-produced the film with support from Aditya Assarat's Pop Pictures, the GTH studio, A Day magazine and others. In a first, the logos of Pop Pictures and GTH appear alongside each other on poster. Taking the experimentalism of the project to the extreme, Nawapol released the film himself, shepherding it around to various small venues around Bangkok and Chiang Mai, screening it in such places as the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, the Alliance Francais and lately at House cinema, and charging 100 baht a head to recoup his expenses. He promoted the screenings mostly through Facebook, and, notably, had sell-out houses.

Film Business Asia lists the nine other films in the New Currents line-up, which will be judged by a panel headed by Hungarian visionary Béla Tarr.

The Busan fest runs from October 4 to 13.

Mom Noi's 'story' of Jan Dara is now a mere 'chapter'

Director ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula's much anticipated and hyped remake of Jan Dara is now a two-parter with the title stated as Chapter of Jan Dara (จันดารา ปฐมบท, Jan Dara Pathommabot) and not the more-encompassing Story of Jan Dara, The Nation reports.

Part 1 opens in Thai cinemas this week, while Part 2 is still in the works, though a lot of footage for it has already been shot.

It's the third film version of the 1966 novel by Utsana Phleungtham – a tale about a 1930s Siamese hi-so family in which sexual abuse and incest were the rule of the household.

It was previously adapted in 1977, with Aranya Namwong among the cast, but is mostly known today for its 2001 version by Nonzee Nimibutr.

With his sense for the breathtakingly theatrical and sweeping melodrama, complete with elaborate art direction and stage-worthy performances, Mom Noi greatly expands on previously filmed versions of the story. What we'll see now covers Jan's tumultuous life from birth to age 17.

Mom Noi is on a remake roll since his return to filmmaking after a 13-year hiatus with 2008's Chua Fah Din Salai – another erotic-novel adaptation that had been filmed before – and Umong Pha Muang (The Outrage), last year's Lanna-flavored "adaptation" of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon.

But, he's testy when people criticize him for doing a remake, and he insists this will be a different Jan Dara.

He also dismisses critics who say he's only trying to titillate, as he tells The Nation:

"People would do a lot better to examine what is essentially a socially uplifting story than come down on it because they feel it's obscene. All the entertainment media seem capable of doing is to dwell on how naked the actors will be and what the iconic ice-cube seduction scenes will look like!

"I am almost 60! Do you really think someone of my age wants to do an erotic movie for pleasure?

"We are all born from the consequences of sex but Thai people are too hypocritical to talk about it or see it naturally. They feel awkward seeing erotic scenes at the cinema, but they are okay to watch them privately at home. That's why the writer states at the beginning of the book that this novel is not for hypocrites."

Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer stars, playing young Jan, whose abusive father is a sex-addicted womanizer. Much of the story will deal with Jan's first brushes with romance and his struggles to have a normal relationship with a girl his own age, in spite of the negative influences of his home life.

The women of Jan Dara include "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai as Aunt Waad, who is the nurturing maternal figure in Jan's life since his own mother died under mysterious circumstances, putting Jan's social-climbing father in control of the family finances. Ratha "Yaya Ying" Po-ngam takes on the role of Khun Bunluang – played in Nonzee's version by Hong Kong actress Christy Chung – the worldly seductress who moves into the household as Jan's father's minor wife. And, controversially, Japanese adult-video star Shou Nishino is cast as Khun Kaew, Jan's half-sister and major thorn in his side.

There's an English-subtitled trailer and it's embedded below.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Luang Prabang Film Festival 2012 announces line-up

The Luang Prabang Film Festival, running December 1 to 5, is ready with a line-up of movies from across Southeast Asia.

The titles are selected by the festival's Motion Picture Ambassadors (MPAs) with an aim to represent the best works produced in Southeast Asia within the past five years.

They will all be shown in nightly free open-air screenings in the central market plaza of the Unesco World Heritage city.

The festival will also feature curated collections of short films, as well as exhibitions, seminars, workshops, concerts and performances.

Led by the chairman of its board of Directors, actor Ananda Everingham, the festival will welcome many VIP guests and audiences from across the region and further abroad.

Here's the line-up so far:

CAMBODIA (MPA: Chhay Bora)

  • Duch, Master of Forges of Hell
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Enemies of the People
  • Shiiku
  • Who Killed Chea Vichea?

INDONESIA (MPA: Varadila Daood)

  • Garuda di Dadaku
  • Land Beneath the Fog
  • Postcards from the Zoo

LAOS (MPA: Michel Somsanouk)

  • Chanthaly
  • Big Heart
  • Hak Aum Lum
  • Red Scarf

MALAYSIA (MPA: Amir Muhammad)

  • Bunohan
  • Tolong! Awek Aku Pontianak

MYANMAR (MPA: Myint Thein Pe)

  • To be announced at a later date.

PHILIPPINES (MPA: Francis Joseph A. Cruz)

  • Boundary
  • Dance of Two Left Feet
  • 6 Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay
  • Teoriya

SINGAPORE (MPA: Wahyuni Hadi)

  • Already Famous
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • 24 Hours of Anger

THAILAND (MPA: Kong Rithdee)

  • Hak Na Sarakham
  • I Carried You Home
  • In April the Following Year, There Was a Fire
  • It Gets Better
  • Mindfulness and Murder
  • The Cheer Ambassadors

VIETNAM (MPA: Nguyen Trinh Thi)

  • Mother's Soul
  • With or Without Me

For more details, check the festival website or Facebook page.