April 19, 2007

Thai movies

Up next, I'll post some thoughts on Thai movies.

The historical epics of Chatree Chalermyukhol (ม.จ. ชาตรี เฉลิมยุคล) are probably based a bit too much on popular mythology, but they've got high production values and will help you learn your ratchasap. There's Suriyothai (สุริโยไท), which has a 2-hour version and a 5-hour version, and his new trilogy about King Naresuan (full Thai title ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช). Parts one and two have shown in theaters, part three comes out in theaters in December.

I also enjoyed เรื่ิิองรักน้อยนิดมหาศาล (Last Life in the Universe), screenplay by SEAWrite Award winner Prabda Yoon (ปราบดา หยุ่น). I've also seen มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์ (Transistor Love Story) by the same director, เป็นเอก รัตนเรือง, and I think this guy has above average talent. I haven't seen his latest film yet, but it was Thailand's official submission for the 2007 foreign language film Oscar. No nomination, though.

Another fun one is หมานคร (Citizen Dog), which, in its visual style and comedy, feels influenced by the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (think Amelie). Light-hearted and very attractive to look at.

Anyone who hasn't seen แฟนฉัน, do it. A cute movie that will give a crash course in thirty-something Thai nostalgia. This was a particularly big hit with that age group, in part because the soundtrack is a pitch perfect evocation of the songs of their childhood, and the kids do a great job acting. One of the few Thai movies I've watched repeatedly.

A few more I liked okay: 15 ค่ำ เดือน 11 (Mekhong Full Moon Party)--this one's got plenty of ภาษาอีสาน to practice with; the action films by Tony Ja (aka จา พนม) are low on plot, high in insane stunts that he actually does himself, Jackie Chan style: องค์บาก and ต้มยำกุ้ง; Beautiful Boxer, the story about the life of a well-known muay Thai boxer who boxed to earn a living to pay for his eventual sex change.

If you like scary movies, ชัตเตอร์ กดติดวิญญาณ (Shutter) is palatable, and may actually make you jump in a few places. The director's newest film แฝด just hit theaters. I'll probably see it soon.

Ones I haven't seen, which may or may not be good: มหา'ลัยเหมืองแร่ (Tin Mine) was the 2006 Oscar entry; โหมโรง (The Orchestra) was the 2005 entry; The Letter (จดหมายรัก); ไอ้ฟัก (Ai-Fak), based on the 1985 SEAWrite Award-winning novel คำพิพากษา (The Judgment) by ชาติ กอบจิตติ.

I've also seen a few real stinkers. Your mileage my vary.

Any recommendations?

[Note: An earlier version of this post occurs in another corner of the web.]


  1. สุริโยไท & โหมโรง were both, I thought, a little weak in the acting department, but both visually *very* worthwhile. The latter was also très keen for its music. เรื่ิิองรักน้อยนิดมหาศาล is tremendously interesting. Another Thai film which has recently seen international distribution is สัตว์ประหลาด (strangely translated as 'Tropical Malady'). I fell asleep in the theatre, but I'm a cinema narcolept: the film itself is great.

    My favourite Thai films—tho maybe not those with the greatest artistic integrity or whatever high-falutin' criterion—are the cheap comedies like เหยิน เป๋ เหล่ฯ. They're way over my head, but I see them as learning opportunities.

  2. I still haven't seen โหมโรง, but I agree about the acting in Suriyothai. These historical epics are saddled with the burden of portraying legendary history. It's how those in the present want history to be remembered, rather than how it probably was.

    I think this shows in the acting. The actors are saying all the right things, but it's like a computer that plays the piano. It hits every note, but there's a subtle artificiality to it.

    You know, I still can't sit through those cookie-cutter comedies, though. I know I'm missing opportunities, but I just can't stomach the cliche and the lowbrow stuff. Funny, because I grew up watching Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, etc. I'm not sure what to make of that.