Thursday, August 6, 2015

In Thai cinemas: The Blue Hour, Joe Hua Tangmo

It's been a strong year for Thai queer films, and one of the major pillars has been The Blue Hour
(Onthakan, อนธการ), a coming-of-age romance and suspense thriller.

The story involves a teenager named Tam (Atthaphan Poonsawas) who is bullied at school and unloved at home. He arranges to meet a stranger named Phum (Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang) at a spooky, abandoned swimming pool. There, amid the moldering surroundings, the two young men have rough sex and then talk about ghosts. A friendship forms, and it leads to extremely dark places.

Directed by Anucha Boonyawatana, The Blue Hour had its world premiere at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, alongside another queer-themed Thai entry, director Josh Kim's How to Win at Checkers (Every Time), a.k.a. P'Chai My Hero, which was released in cinemas here last month. Then there's a third gay romance, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's Red Wine in the Dark Night, which was released a couple weeks ago.

In addition to Berlinale, The Blue Hour has been featured at other festivals, including Hong Kong, Seattle, Taipei, Toronto's Inside Out and Montreal's Fantasia fest. Critical reception has been very positive, and I've got my own review coming soon. Promise. In the meantime, here's a few words from the Fantasia Fest:

A stunning ghost story from Thai filmmaker Anucha Boonyawatana, The Blue Hour recalls the work of masters such as Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, while spinning its own fresh take on repressed queer sexuality, abuse and intolerance. Using the concept of haunting to tackle these issues, as well as the complex interplay between national identities and buried sexual desires, Boonywatana’s feature-length debut is nothing short of a masterpiece of tension, a revelation from this year’s Berlinale. Acutely observant, The Blue Hour’s ethereal and painterly cinematography is matched only by its terrifying set design and the stunning Thai countryside, which comes alive as the perfect mirror to the protagonists’ fragile psyches – and the traumatic and supernatural forces bubbling underneath their doomed romance.

It's only at some SF cinemas: SF World, SFX Central Rama 9, SFC The Mall Bang Kapi, SFC The Mall Ngamwongwan and SFX Maya Chiang Mai.

The Thai trailer is embedded below. For more details, check the film's Facebook page.

Industry veteran "Leo" Kittikorn Liasirikun returns to the scene with Joe Hua Tangmo (โจ หัวแตงโม นักสืบออนไลน์), an ambitious effort to blend live action with animation and address the freakish domination of social media in Thai society.

It's released by M-Thirtynine, the Major Cineplex -backed production shingle that Leo helped co-found in 2009 after RS Film's Avant studio was disbanded.

Popular young actor Jirayu La-ongmanee stars as Joe, a slouch-hatted computer hacker who creates an avatar that enables him to enter the online world to find out the real names of the people behind display names on social networks. Arikanta “Gypso” Mahaprukphong and Tanan Boonyatanapiwat also star, along with, notably, Nopachai Peter Jayanama, from the Naresuan franchise and Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Headshot and Nymph.

There's more about the film on a special website, and the subtitled trailer is embedded below.

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