Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy rides acclaim into Thai cinemas

Messages from a teenage girl's Twitter stream – 410 consecutive tweets – are adapted for Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy, a fancifully weird comedy by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit.

It's getting a limited release in Thai cinemas this week, going head-to-head with a couple of mainstream Thai studio efforts, the horror comedy Oh! My Ghost Khun Phee Chuay (โอ้! มายโกสต์ คุณผีช่วย, a.k.a. OMG!) and the musical comedy Ruam Phol Khon Luk Thung Ngern Laan (รวมพลคนลูกทุ่งเงินล้าน).

And while it might not command as many screens as those two major-studio efforts, Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy has something neither of them have – positive critical acclaim and at least one major award from the festival circuit.

This week, Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy was named Asian Film of the Year by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. The Nation had more on that.

It's a win that adds to the personal triumphs of Mary producer Aditya Assarat, whose wife Yuni Hadi was behind the Golden Horse Awards best feature, Ilo Ilo from Singapore, which scooped three other trophies, including Best New Director for Anthony Chen.

For Nawapol, the acclaim for Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy adds to the accolades he won last year for his experimental feature debut 36, which won the New Currents prize in Busan. And 36 is still winning awards on the festival circuit, most recently the Best Feature Film Screenplay at L'Alternativa A 20 Festival de Cinema Independent in Barcelona. It also took part in the competition at the Three Continents Film Festival, which wrapped up on Tuesday in Nantes, France.

Mary is the quirky story of a mopey, accident-prone high-school student (Patcha Poonpiriya) and her level-headed friend Suri (Chonnikan Netjui) as they work on the school’s yearbook. The film is peppered with all sorts of strange characters, mainly the teachers at the girls' boarding school. Among them is Krissada Sukosol Clapp, whose the awkwardly intense manner is played for laughs. Seriously, the dude is kind of scary.

Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy was developed out of the Venice Biennale College – Cinema, which picked Nawapol to direct one of three micro-budget films that premiered at this year's Venice Film Festival. It's since screened at several other festivals, including Busan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei and Torino, earning glowing reviews.

In some Thai cinemas, it's playing alongside Oh! My Ghost, a comedy starring sweet cherub "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom. She's an ordinary young woman haunted by the ghost of a tall, gorgeous lady – hey, it's Cris Horwang! It's directed by Puttipong Promsakha Na Sakon Nakhon, one of the guys behind the hit teenybopper romance Crazy Little Thing Called Love or First Love and last year's 30+ Singles on Sale. It's produced by Workpoint Entertainment and released by Sahamongkol. The other major Thai release this week is Ruam Phol Khon Luk Thung Ngern Laan, a comedy featuring a cavalcade of luk thung singers. It's directed by Pornchai "Gun" Hongrattaporn (Bangkok Loco, Second Sight) and is released by M Pictures.

But it's Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy that I'm already saying is one best Thai films of the year. Catch it at Apex Siam Square's Lido, House on RCA and Esplanade Ratchada, as well as at Major Cineplex Chiang Mai Airport Plaza and EGV Lotus Khon Kaen. I'll have more to say about it in a day or so.

Meanwhile, check out the trailer, embedded below.

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