Thursday, September 29, 2005

Tokyo Filmex lineup out

No Thai films at Tokyo Filmex, but it's still got a great lineup of Asian films.

The opening is Sha Po Lang. I don't suppose there's a chance that what appears to be the best martial-arts film of the year will play in Bangok theatres soon?

What caught my eye was Rithy Panh's The Burnt Theatre.

There's also a full-length version of Il-gon Song's Magician(s).

And there's some Japanese horror films from the 1950s, including The Mansion of the Ghost Cat, The Lady Vampire and Ghost Story of Yotsuya. There's also some Wakayama Tomasboro (Lone Wolf and Cub) films, Okatsu the Avenger and Dandy Sashichi Detective Story - Six Famous Beauties.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Another Fan Chan director making it 'Possible'

Withaya Thongyooyong, one of the six directors of Fan Chan (My Girl), is at work on a movie about a band, The Nation's print-only Soopsip column reports.

"It's a movie set between 1966 and 1970," says Withaya who is still working on the script. "At that time, the most famous band in Thailand was the Impossibles. That’s why it’s temporarily called The Possible, though my movie is not actually about the band at all."

The Possible may well end up being like a Thai version of Almost Famous or That Thing That You Do.

Meanwhile, his former co-directors’ works are advancing. Komkrit Treewimol is has Puean Sanit (Dear Dakanda) ready for release and Songyos Sukmakanan has a horror film called Dek Hor (Dorm) scheduled for release on December 29.

So Withaya is getting pretty tired of people hassling him about when his movie's going to be done, Soopsip says.

Producer-director Jira Maligool is backing Withaya. He says Jira calls it The Possible for another reason.

"He hopes that I'll finally finish my work, like the others," Withaya was quoted as saying.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Iron Ladies director eyes Japanese novel

Producer-director Yongyooth Thongkongtoon, the man behind the transgendered-gay volleyball movies Satree Lex and the sequel and last year’s housemaids' adventure, Jaew (M.A.I.D.), is negotiating to buy the copyright to Colourful, a novel by Eto Mori that has already been made into a film by Shun Nakahara.

As he's explained it to Soopsip, a print-only column in The Nation, it's a "heartwarming comedy about a spirit who wins a lucky draw in heaven enabling him to come back to earth again in a new body."

Yongyooth says it's a story that deserves to be told again.

"The story is universal, and I think it can relate to what we see in Thai society. There's some connection to the economic downturn of 1997 and also the teenage problem," he was quoted as saying.

Flitting about from film festival to film festival (his Jaew is in Vancouver), Yongyuth intends to attend the Tokyo Film Festival and meet author Eto there.

"I hope she’ll let me do it!"

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Citizen Dog in Tokyo, London

Citizen Dog is moving on from the Toronto and Vancouver film festivals to Tokyo and London

Kaiju Shakedown has more on the Tokyo fest, which is also showing Midnight My Love.

(Thanks to Sebu! Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Midnight My Love added to 3rd World Film Festival

Good news from the 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok, Midnight My Love, featuring a dramatic turn by Mum Jokmok, has been added to the schedule. Mum stars as a loner taxi driver who gets into a relationship with a beautiful massage parlor girl.

Dusit Silakong, deputy director of the festival, said he hoped the festival would give the film some more exposure to local audiences. When it played commercially earlier this year, it didn't do all that well. Seems mainstream audiences didn't care for their favorite comedian playing it straight, no matter how fantastic a job he did or how much fun the film actually was.

Anyway, after giving the fest some grief and some more grief for not programming enough Thai films, I feel a little better about the lineup.

Midnight My Love also is getting some exposure in Pusan and Tokyo. It's out on DVD in Thailand, too, but there's no English subtitles, so I hope to catch it again at 3rd World.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, September 26, 2005

DVD news on Bullet Wives, Tom Yum Goong, Tin Mine

I was browsing in my local Mangpong branch and noticed Bullet Wives is out with English subtitles. So if you're into chicks with guns, there you go.

Twitch was more news about other Thai film DVD releases.

The big one of course, is Tom Yum Goong. It'll be a two-disc set with all kinds of special features, everything you could ever want, except English subtitles. But, not to fear, Twitch says a Hong Kong version will be out soon and it'll have the English subs with the original Thai cut of the film.

Then there's the Tin Mine DVD, which is extensive as well. It has two discs and comes packaged with a treasure trove of stills from the production. There's all kinds of stuff, but the info is in Thai, so help is needed to translate all this. It's nice to see the film company is going all out on this DVD release. It did poorly at the box office, but it's also Thailand's Oscar pick and was actually a good movie.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

After Fan Chan

The Bangkok Post's Real Time section catches up with Komkrit Treewimol, who was one of six directors behind the 2003 surprise hit, Fan Chan (My Girl).

The first of the six to break out on his own, Komkrit's first project after the nostalgic tale of childhood friends in the 1980s is Puen Sanit (literally "closest friend"), which is adapted from a romantic travel story by Apichat Petchleela and centers on an art student who secretly falls for his best friend at Chiang Mai University. But when the guy travels down to Pha-ngan island in the South, he forms a friendship with a local nurse, who in turn secretly falls for him.

"I feel like I have to prove myself with this film, but I know, as does everybody in our group of six, that it's unlikely that we can pull off another 100-million-baht hit," Komkrit says. "The thing is, we don't know what we have to do exactly to make a 100-million-baht movie. So for me, I started from doing what I felt like doing, something that really got me worked up all right."

Other Fan Chan directors at work include Nitiwat Tarathorn, who is shooting Seasons Change, a love story set in a music college, while Adisorn Treesirikasem is shooting a football comedy called Mak Tae.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Joe's shorts in New York

The New York Film Festival starts tomorrow and runs until October 9. It is playing two short films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul in an avant garde showcase.

The films are his 1995 short, Like the Relentless Fury of the Pounding Waves and Windows from 1999.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yam Yasothon still raking it in

Comedies and action films do the best at the Thai box office, so it's no surprise that the cornpone musical comedy, Yam Yasothon, has become the third Thai film this year to bring in 100 million baht in local box-office receipts.

The others are the comedy, Holy Man, and the actioner, Tom Yum Goong, which is nearing the 300-million-baht mark. This news comes from The Nation's print-only Soopsip column -- now required daily reading.

Yam Yasothon is also the second movie from Sahamongkol Film Co to hit it big this year after Tom Yum Goong.

The film company and its stars, Mum Jokmok and singer-actress Janet Keaw, were to celebrate with a party tonight at the five-star Dusit Thani. I missed out on the fun because I'm sitting here doing this, which, really, is my own kind of fun.

Besides displaying great comedic talent in her first film role, Janet is well known for her impressions of some of the world’s most popular singers. Both she and Mum were to perform at the party, The Nation said.

Meanwhile, there are some in Thailand (mainly central Thai urbanites, I suspect) who are less than enamored by the film, including, which calls the "slapping the head, kicking in the butts and foul cussing" comedy, "adequately entertaining" and "predictable".

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Beautiful Boxer director nails The Coffin

Beautiful Boxer director Ekachai Uekrongtham is to start filming his next project, The Coffin, in December. So says The Nation's Soopsip column (print only).

The film is backed the Hong Kong-Asian Financial Film Forum and Rotterdam's Hubert Bals Fund, which has chipped in 10,000 euros (Bt500,000).

That, says producer Pantham Thongsang (director of Ai-Fak), will nicely offset an expected budget of 100 million baht, and further co-investment is coming from South Korea and Hollywood, though he’s tight-lipped about those details.

Based on (what else?) Thai superstition, the story centers on a young man who faces a series of terrifying incidents after spending a night in a coffin in the hopes it would end his bad luck.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Ai-Fak director goes to the dogs

Pantham Thongsang is keeping busy as a managing director of TIFA Film Co. His next producing project is Beautiful Boxer director Ekachai Uekrongtham’s The Coffin.

But Pantham, who was hailed critically for this debut film, Ai-Fak (The Judgement), has his own film in the works, reports The Nation's Soopsip column (print only).

He's been training dozens of dogs for Mah Khang Thanon (Street Dog), which he’ll co-direct with Ai-Fak screenwriter Somkiat Murathathit.

Somkiat had planned a solo session in the director’s chair, but coming to terms with herds of dogs turned out to be something other than a piece of cake.

Pantham is no stranger to working with dogs, as anyone who's seen Ai-Fak can attest. A "mad" dog plays a crucial role in the film, when the central character, Fak, must beat the unfortunate canine to death. But no animals were harmed. The "mad" dog (named James Bond) had a stunt double -- a paraplegic dog that dragged its hind legs around as if it had been beaten.

"The project is tough and I decided to help him," Pantham was quoted as saying. "We're going to start filming as soon as possible."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pen-Ek down on his films

Well, I can't resist a chance to re-run this picture of Pen-Ek Ratanaruang wearing a feather boa.

Stumbled across this at KFC Cinema, which picked it up from Asia News Network and the Straits Times.

Pen-Ek is down on his movies and the Thai industry in general. He talks a bit about the delayed Invisible Waves and his being reunited with cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

Pen-Ek Ratanaruang does not have good things to say about the many Thai movies flooding the market, including the ones he makes. All four of his movies, in his opinion, are flawed. Even his most highly acclaimed film, Last Life In The Universe (2003), which picked up several awards including Bangkok International Film Festival's Fipresci prize, is not spared.

"In certain parts, I thought it may be boring so I added some gangsters. Those are some of the things to fool the audience."

The soft-spoken filmmaker, who is dating someone but declines to reveal more, was in [Singapore] for the 5th Asian Film Symposium and Forum on Asian Cinema.

As for the growing Thai film industry, which churned out about 60 movies last year, he says it is becoming more a business enterprise than a creative avenue. A healthy industry should grow so that you have a variety of films.

"In the entire Thai industry, we have enough talent to make only 10 good films, not 60, he notes. If a stupid comedy does well, I'll be seeing 25 more comedies that are completely unfunny."

Time should be taken to develop an idea, he says, which may explain the delay in his latest movie, Invisible Waves, which had its release pushed back from the end of this year to early next year.

"I'm not the type to finish one film and push myself to have another."

It reunites him with Last Life's key people, Tadanobu Asano and Australian
lensman Christopher Doyle. In it, Asano plays a chef who has an affair with his boss' wife, whom he is later forced to kill.

The film is a highly personal one, he says, and doubles as an expression of his own guilt, for the times he has disappointed the people in his life, like his mother, but does not elaborate. That, he points out, is also another form of killing someone.

Thankfully, he has not let anyone down on this project, especially not Doyle, from whom he says he has learnt a lot.

"There is more trust and less pain than the last time. We still have some fighting, but I think Chris trusts me more."

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai films at World Film Festival of Bangkok

The 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok is organized by The Nation. Which is where I am employed. So you'll excuse me for not getting into the reasons why the Thai Night program at the festival has been dropped this year.

Anyway, there are some Thai films at this festival.

Among them are a collection of shorts made in memory of the December 26, 2004 tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean. One of them is made by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who's also showing his tsunami segment at the Vancouver film festival.

There will also be two Thai short film packages.

Former Miss Thailand Universe (13th place, 1994), Areeya Chumsai, will show her film, Innocence. It'll be the Thailand premiere. The film, about some Northern Thailand hilltribe children who are taken to see the ocean, is scheduled at Pusan.

There's the documentary, Sua Rong Hai.

And there's Remaker, directed by Mona Nahm and produced by Oxide Pang. I'm not too excited about this film's inclusion in the festival. It opens commercially in Thailand this week, so having it in the festival isn't a very big deal.

I have to say I'm bummed. Not enough Thai films. Nothing exclusive or making a premiere. No Thai Night. No restored Thai film from the archives as in past years. There are reasons for it, but getting into it would probably get me in trouble.

Anyway, KFC Cinema has more about Remaker.

It's the story of Tom (Andrew Gregson) an antiques dealer on his way to deliver a Buddha statue when his car plunges off a bridge and into the river. bridge and plunges into a river. He is rescued by a girl named Pim (Phiyada Akkraseranee), who happens to be passing by the scene of the accident. He is rushed to hospital and recovers quickly. His savior, however, inexplicably falls into a coma. And then more freaky stuff happens.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Citizen Dog at TIFF

Twitch has its review of Citizen Dog, from the Toronto International Film Festival. As I expected, they say it's awesome. But what I really like about their review is this:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Wisit Sasanatieng is an absolute visual genius. He has a gift for color, design, and sheet unadulterated whimsy that few - if any - can match anywhere in the world. Why is this man not famous, then? Well, you can thank the brothers Weinstein and their years of acquiring and burying Asian titles for that as Sasanatieng's fantastic debut film - Tears of the Black Tiger - is still sitting in the Miramax vaults ...

Yeah! What he said!

Twitch also has an interview with Wisit!

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

P in Norfolk

Paul Spurrier's P, the story of a young woman trained in the black arts who gets involved in Bangkok's sex industry, will be shown at the Yarmouth Film Festival in Norfolk, England, October 1 to 9.

The film, made with many first-time actors, has been attracting a pretty good buzz. I wonder if it'll ever be shown in Thailand?

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Another Ghost Nak movie

Thailand's most famous ghost story, the legend of Mae Nak, has been told on film and television dozens of times, with the most prominent iteration being Nonzee Nimibutr's 1999 film, Nang Nak.

Indeed, it was Nonzee's film that inspired British cinematographer Mark Duffield to pen a screenplay that brings the legend to present day Bangkok. Written in English and then translated into Thai, the result is his directoral debut, Ghost of Mae Nak, which opened today in Thailand.

The film stars Thai television pretties Pataratida Pacharawirapong and Siwat Chotchaicharin as a newlywed couple named Nak and Mak (same names as the couple in the old ghost tale) who come across an antique brooch and an old house that brings them into contact with Mae Nak Phrakhanong -- the ghost wife of the legend. At first she is protective of the young couple, scaring off an unscrupulous real estate agent and a pair of burglars. But it becomes apparent that she wants something from the couple.

Pornthip Papanai portrays Mae Nak, the ghost with a hole in her head (watch Nonzee's film and you'll learn about this). She is best remembered as the slutty female singer in Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Monrak Transistor. I wonder what she's been up to since then? Jaran Ngam Dee, from historical action epics Bang Rajan and Kun Suk (he also played an Indian rajah in Alexander), is Mae Nak's husband, Mak.

Ghost of Mae Nak is the latest from producer Tom Waller and his company, De Warrenne Pictures, which specializes in hybrid Anglo-Thai films. Before this, Waller produced Butterfly Man (with Duffield doing the lenswork). Next up is The Kingdom of Silence, with Siam Renaissance star Florence Vanida Faivre, due for release in 2006.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Yam Yasothon rakes it in

Yam Yasothon, the colorful musical romantic comedy directed by Petchtai Wongkamlao is a certified hit, earning 53 million baht in its first four days of release, The Nation reported today.

The Nation also had a report yesterday that Mum intends to make a sequel to Yam Yasothon once he gets the okay from Sahamongkol honcho, Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert.

It's doubtful Sia Jiang will argue, as long as he's making money.

"Whatever I say, he always agrees with me!" the comedian, actor, director and screenwriter was quoted as saying.

That will come after Petchtai, better known as Mum Jokmok, completes Bodyguard 2, the sequel to his directorial debut.

Made for around 100 million baht (about $250,000), Yam Yasothon looks set to recoup its costs and provide more profit for Sahamongkol Films, the company that also produced Tom Yum Goong (co-starring Mum), which has made more than 200 million baht, on top of sales of rights that have netted at least 300 million baht (the cost of the film).

Bodyguard 2 is sure to be a hit as well. The first film earned 75 million baht and has quite an international following now thanks to overseas DVD releases. (Thanks to Sebu for spotting this news.)

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tsunami short in Vancouver

Vancouver's getting ready for its International Film Festival, September 29 to October 14, and has a great lineup of Thai films, including Citizen Dog, the 2005 documentary, Crying Tigers, and two shorts by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (including his tsunami short!). Kaiju Shakedown has more on the line-up, which includes lots Asian films.

Here's a look at the Thai films:
  • Citizen Dog - The long-awaited second feature from Wisit Sasanatieng, director of Dragons & Tigers Award-winner Tears of the Black Tiger (Fah Talai Jone). Village boy comes to Bangkok and gets a crush on a young career woman, but she becomes an eco-warrior determined to rid the world of plastic. Thanks to its amazing visuals and CGI effects, some see this as a Thai answer to Amélie--but it’s darker, funnier and altogether edgier than Jeunet’s film.
  • Crying Tigers - Drought-plagued Isaan is Thailand’s poorest province; many born there migrate to other parts of the country. Santi Taepanich’s vibrant documentary looks at the successes and failures of three men and one woman from Isaan who try to make it in Bangkok - from a pop star whose best days are past to a guy who dresses up as a fish to promote a seafood restaurant. A remarkably entertaining movie which broke new ground in Thai cinema.
  • Ghost of Asia - Made in support by Apichatpong Weerasethakul in support of Thailand’s tsunami relief appeal, Sakda (the country boy/tiger in Tropical Malady) has to perform all the actions called out by a group of three kids. He may or may not be a ghost. I think this is the first time this has been screened anywhere, though it's supposed to be at the 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok.
  • M.A.I.D. - Yongyoot Thongkongtoon follows up his global hit Iron Ladies with another riotous comedy (also called Jaew): when various highly trained secret agents are eliminated while trying to expose corruption in high places, four naive but feisty country girls are recruited to pose as maids and flush out the dirty secrets. If you have qualms about laughing at stereotypes, forget them here.
  • Worldly Desires - Apichatpong focuses on his own predilection for and memories of ­ filming in the Thai rainforest jungle. By day, a young couple search the jungle for a sacred tree; by night, a film crew headed by woman director Pimpaka Towira shoots two incongruous song-and-dance routines. Apichatpong describes the film as "a small simulation of manners." He effortlessly puts the mystery back into camp. This is part of a trio of Digital Short Films that also comprise films by Shinya Tsukamoto from Japan (I'm still having nightmares about that one) and Il-gon Song from Korea.
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai film in Seoul

It's not Pusan by any stretch, but it does offer a chance to see a great lineup of Thai films.

It's a screening of six recent hit Thai films, with English subtitles, at the Korea Foundation. Joong Ang Ilbo has more.

The films are:
  • Ong Bak - Starring Tony Ja, which rose to cult status for its incredible kickboxing footage and death-defying stunts, all executed without wires, special effects or safety nets.
  • Beautiful Boxer - Tells the true story of the transgender boxer Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan), who enters the sport to support his family while earning money for a sex change. It won best film awards at several international gay and lesbian film festivals last year.
  • The Judgement - Also called Ai Fak, the drama is about a young man named Fak living with his retarded, widowed stepmother, who happens to be a beautiful, young woman (Bongkote 'Tak' Kongmalai). The film opened to good reviews in New York this June.
  • Mekhong Full Moon Party - Part documentary, part drama, Jira Milagool's 2002 film explores the phenonmenon of mysterious fireballs that annually fly out of the river at Nong Kai, across from Laos.
  • The Overture - "A lyrical film about Thailand's modernization at the turn of the 20th century seen through the eyes of a famous traditional Thai musician."
  • The Adventure of Iron Pussy - Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady) co-directs this musical comedy about a transvestite secret agent (the irrepressible Michael Shaowanasai).
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thailand digs up The Tin Mine for Oscars

Thailand has chosen The Tin Mine as its Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film, according to Screen Daily. Variety has it, too. And Kung Fu Cult Cinema also has it from Screen Daily.

Though hardly anybody saw it, The Tin Mine is one of the year's best films from Thailand. It was released in Thailand on May 26 to a lukewarm audience reception. It wasn't an action film, a comedy or a ghost drama so local audiences didn't know what to make of this lush bit of nostalgia. Hopefully, it'll do better on the festival circuit. It's among 10 Thai films at the Pusan International Film Festival.

The sophomore film from Mekhong Full Moon Party director Jira Malikool,
The Tin Mine is based on the experiences of writer Arjin Panjapak who went to work at the titular mine in the 1950s after flunking out of college. At the mine, working for a hard-driving foreign boss, he started his education over, learning life lessons at the college of hard knocks.

(Thanks Sebu! Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Review: Yam Yasothon

  • Directed by Petchtai Wongkamlao
  • Starring Petchtai Wongkamlao, Janet Keaw, Chaipan Ninkong, Yaowalak Toomboon, Waew Wongkamlao, Anuporn Wongkamlao
  • Released in Thai cinemas on September 8, 2005

Hard-working entertainer Petchtai Wongkamlao's second directing effort after The Bodyguard finds the comic actor and Ong-Bak sidekick on more familiar ground.

Shifting from a wire-fu action comedy, Petchtai, better known as Mum Jokmok, goes back to the 1960s with this homage to the Thai musical comedies of that era. It was a time when Mitr Chaibuncha (and later Sombat Metanee) and Petchara Chaowarat ruled the silver screen, beehive hairdos were the preferred hairstyle and bright-colored clothing clashed with the vivid green of the rice fields.

It's a style that Petchtai captures perfectly, and it places his film among the pantheon of other recent Thai "color" films, like Tears of the Black Tiger, Citizen Dog, and, dare I mention it, Bangkok Loco. Given its bigger budget and more mainstream star power, it's also more fully realized than the recent Petchara homage, The Adventures of Iron Pussy.

But for all its beauty, Yam Yasothon is rude and crude, and hilariously so. It comes off so well because it's essentially the low-brow cafe comedy that Mum knows so well. But instead of a nightclub, the jokes are on a movie set in rural Northeast Thailand, or Isaan.

Right from the start, Mum lets folks know that this isn't necessarily a family comedy. Take the first scene, when Isaan farmer Yam (Mum) is fishing in the river with his ladyfriend, Juei (Janet). They are fishing Thai style, wading in the river, trying to catch fish with a weighted net.

"I got one. I got one. I caught a catfish," Juei shouts."That's my dick," says Yam.

"Oh, that's why it doesn't have spines. It's quite big, though," Juei says.

"You're rude."

Yam would rather Juei would just leave him alone. She's a sweet enough gal, and is always popping up in the middle of the field to recite Yam a love poem.

He'd probably like her, except for the simple fact: she's just plain ugly. He skin is dark and splotchy, her teeth are rotten and she has a big dark mole above her lip.

He kicks her into a lotus pond. He leaves her to make her pick up his fishing equipment. He shouts and yells. He's just plain hateful. He treats animals with more care -- fixing up birds with broken wings, as well as squirrels, cats, dogs and snakes (well, he does 'fix' them) that people have mistreated.

This only increases Juei's love for Yam.

Meanwhile, there are the young, good-looking sweethearts, Yam's nephew, Thong (Chaipan) and Soy (Yaowalak). They spend all their spare time kissing.

It's all great fun until Soy's black-hearted Aunt Dok Toh shows up and ruins it. This is Mum's sister, Waew, and she's a hoot in her portrayal of the haughty Dok Toh, the village's money lender who looks down on anyone who doesn't have as much money as she does, which means she looks down on everyone, especially poor farmers like Thong and his Uncle Yam. To make her even more ridiculous, she peppers her speech with rude English commands, like "shut up", "go home" and "take a shower". She is aided in her derisive remarks by her maid (Mum's brother Anuporn, in transvestite mode). It's classic Thai comic overacting.

Dok Toh orders Soy and Jeui (who as it turns out is Soy's maid and governess) to go home and stay away from Thong and Yam. She has arranged the local sheriff's handsome shit-for-brains son to propose to Soy -- a match more befitting Soy's status.

The sheriff's son has couple of idiot henchmen working for him -- a pair of guys who can't complete a sentence on their own. They have to work as a pair, even to the point where one says "yes" and the other says "sir". One is wearing a fake pencil mustache and a crazy short leisure suit outfit with go-go boots. The other has these crazy sunglasses. They must be seen to be appreciated.

The climax comes during the village temple fair, when Soy and Juei sneak out to join Thong and Yam -- a night that ends in an emotionally devastating episode for Yam.

For their transgression, the girls are packed off to Bangkok. All contact between them and their boyfriends are cut off by the aunt, who intercepts their letters.

In Juei's absence, Yam's heart grows fonder. Juei, meanwhile, is learning a trade, making some money and having some beauty treatments, which makes her eventually return to the village pretty puzzling for Yam, who does not recognize her.

The boys make a trip to Bangkok, with black and white scenes of Krungthep of old projected behind the action. It's a cheesy effect, but it works because it's a cheesy effect.

Throughout, an Isaan country band (or morlam) stands in a rice field, performing musical interludes that express the longings of the lovers -- much in the same way Jonathan Richman did in There's Something About Mary.

Yam Yasothon is all around the most entertaining Thai film to be released so far this year. It works on so many levels. It's a great showcase for what will surely be recognized as "Thai film", with the use of color. It's hilarious, with Mum leading a cast of cafe comedy vets -- virtually all who never acted on film before. And it's a great display of Thai culture, which works so well because it doesn't try so hard. It's natural, and it seems like the folks at the temple fair or the Thai New Year celebration are really having fun, rather than putting on a labored performance.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

The Overture: The Puppet Show

It was a hit movie last year, was Thailand's pick for the Oscars and is a staple on the film-fest circuit.

Now it's a puppet show.

In a bid to stay relevant and draw audiences, the Joe Louis Puppet Theater in Bangkok is staging an adaptation of Ittisoontorn Vichailak's The Overture, which tells the life story of Sorn Silapabanleng, a Thai traditional musician from the late 1800s to the 1940s.

The best thing about The Overture was the grim, fire-eyed villian, portrayed by Narongrit Tosa-Nga, who is a virtuoso of the ranan-ek, or Thai xylophone. When he plays, I half expect storm clouds to roll in, just like they do in the movie. This weekend, for a benefit performance, Narongrit will reprise his role of the dark-clad Khun In, so bring your umbrellas.

For those in Bangkok, the Joe Louis Theatre is in the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Performances are at 7.30pm.

It's quite a shift for the at-times troubled puppet troupe, which continues to stage shows despite a fire some years ago that ravaged their puppets and getting kicked out of their theater last year over a hassle with the rent payments.

Usually, they stage excerpts from the Ramayana, so The Overture is a bid to try and reach a bigger audience by tying themselves in with the hit film. It's a good match, since The Overture was so steeped in that Thai traditional culture that tourism officials are so keen to promote.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thursday, September 8, 2005

10 Thai films at Pusan International Film Festival

The Pusan International Film Festival has the mother of all lineups, with a whopping 10 Thai films in its program. I saw it first at Kaiju Shakedown, but they give the scoop to, which details what to watch for.

There's the mainstream choices: Jira Maligool's underappreciated bit of nostalgia, The Tin Mine, Mum Jok Mok's dramatic turn in the romance, Midnight My Love and the indie relationship film, My Space.

But the one to really watch for will be Innocence, an indie film directed by former Miss Thailand Ariya Chumsai and her co-director Nisa Kongsri. Set at a boarding school in Northern Thailand, the story is about hilltribe children who "are taken by the school's principal to see the water's end as a way to fulfil their dreams", ThaiCinema says. Does this mean the ocean? I know if I were a hilltribe kid in Northern Thailand, I'd want to see the ocean. Anyway, bring it on. When's it show locally?

There's also 3 Friends by Aditya Assarat, ML Mingmongkol Sonakul and Phumin Chinaradee. Another indie film, it's also showing at Toronto, as is Citizen Dog.

Are you counting? That's six. Rounding out the Big 10 are four films by late auteur Ratana Pestonj: Sugar Is Not Sweet (1965), Black Silk (1961), Country Hotel (1957) and Dark Heaven (1958) will be shown.

The artistry and influence of Ratana can't be understated, which makes his untimely death in 1970 even more tragic. Read his story at and just try to hold back the tears. I can barely type right now just thinking about it. I've missed out on chances to see these films and can't afford the trip to Pusan, so I really hope that someday I'll have the opportunity to see for myself just what it was Rattana was doing that made him special.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

More Invisible Waves pix

I'm still bummed about the release of Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Invisible Waves being put off until next year.

But I won't let that stop me from posting more photos from the film. These and more are found at

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Mum Jokmok: Thailand's hardest working man in showbusiness

Petchtai Wongkamlao, aka Mum Jokmok, follows up his co-starring role in Tom Yum Goong with Hello Yasothon (Yam Yasothon) a romantic comedy that harks back to the Thai musical comedies of the 1960s and 1970s that starred Mitr Chaibuncha and Petchara Chaowarat (and later Sombat Methinee in place of Mitr).

So beehive hairdos and a curly-queue wisp of hair around the ears for the ladies. Bright colors -- pastels of yellow, blue, pink and lime green.

Set in 1967, in rural northeastern Thailand, the story concerns Yam (Mum) and his younger nephew, Thong. Both have their ladies. Thong, the handsome one, has an attractive girlfriend named Soy that he spends his spare time kissing. Yam, however, keeps his lady, Juei, at arm's length and is reluctant to let her get too close. Juei, portrayed by an uglied-up Janet Keaw, has a big birthmark above her lip as a prominent feature and she has freckled, splotchy skin. In other words, she's ugly, and Yam doesn't really want anything to do with her.

I'm missing a bunch of names of characters and actors here, but a mean aunt (Mum's sister, Waew) is involved. She wants her niece Soy to stay away from the farmers, marry a local rich boy and get some education. And she wants her niece's maid and nanny, Juei, to stay at home as well. So the girls disappear from the picture, and that's when Yam starts to think they maybe he really loves Juei after all.

It's the second film that Mum has directed, following up his action comedy, The Bodyguard. So he's learning as goes along. Next up is a sequel to that, Bodyguard 2.

Long term, Mum told the new English-language daily ThaiDay recently, he'd like to do a historical battle epic set in Thailand thousands of years ago. "It can be like Troy -- the Thai Troy, but still a comedy of course."

Yam Yasothon is the third film Mum has starred in this year. Aside from Tom Yum Goong, he was in the romance Cherm (Midnight My Love). He also had guest appearances in the comedies, Holy Man and Dumber Heroes, roles he did for a case of beer.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Thai films at Firecracker

Firecracker magazine has an interview with Yutthlert Sippapak in its current edition. He's the director of Pattaya Maniac, Buppa Rahtree and Killer Tattoo -- all some of the edgiest, most entertaining films produced in the Thai industry.

The interview ties in with this year's Firecracker Showcase, which is screening Pattaya Maniac and many other Asian films in London.

In addition, Firecracker has articles and reviews of Tom Yum Goong (yet another disappointed viewer), Born to Fight and Sars Wars.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Film industry followup, film fest news

Following up an earlier posting on the state of the Thai film industry, Kaiju Shakedown opens up a can of you know what on the subject, probing the issue even more. Make sure you read the comments.

In the same posting, Grady Hendrix' film blog also delves into the unfortunately named 3rd World Film Festival of Bangkok. It's the third year for this upstart film festival in Bangkok, which competes with the bigger Bangkok International Film Festival for films, guests and prestige. So next year, it'll be the 4th World.

They're doing good. This year opens with Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist, with a visit by Polanski himself. There will also be a restrospective on him, featuring Knife in the Water, Cul de Sac, Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby.

There will also be a retrospective on French director Jean Pierre Jeunet, featuring Delicatessan, Children of God, Amelie and A Very Long Engagement. It's a good choice, because Jeunet's been an influence on Thai directors, especially Wisit Sasanatieng who channelled a bit of Amelie in Citizen Dog.

It's a film fest with ideas -- the big one being that organizers will attempt to put movie ratings in place at the fest. So the closing film, Tsai Ming Liang's The Wayward Cloud, which features, among other sex acts, a guy having sex with a watermelon, will rated be NC-17 -- no one under 17 will be admitted. The fest took a poll on movie ratings at last year's festival to try and jump-start the issue in Thailand.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Thai films at TIFF

A great lineup of Thai films at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Among the three is Wisit Sasanatieng's colorful urban romantic comedy, Citizen Dog. If there was any film that came out last year in Thailand that deserves to be on the festival circuit, it's Citizen Dog. Go see it! Citizen Dog, by the way, also is playing at the Catalonian International Film Festival.

Speaking of colorful, there's Bangkok Loco, playing as part of Midnight Madness, which is the perfect place for this crazy tale of a battle between good and evil drummers.

Then there's Three Women, which I don't think has even been shown in Thailand yet. It's a beach romp featuring three Thai model-actress types Napakprapa "Mamee" Nakprasert, Penporn Poonsaem and Jitraporn Panit. It's co-directed by ML Mingmongkol Sonakul, a major force on the Thai indie film scene. She's produced Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Mysterious Object at Noon and Pimpaka Towira's One Night Husband and wrote, directed, financed and distributed the wonderfully experimental bus-bound drama, I-San Special.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)