Friday, August 30, 2013

More Marrese Crump, bit more Jeeja in second Tom-Yum-Goong 2 teaser

Yeah, never mind Fast and Furious 7 for a moment. Tom-Yum-Goong 2 (ต้มยำกุ้ง 2) is due in Thai cinemas on October 23. Character posters are hanging in the multiplexes. It's an exciting time.

The second Tom-Yum-Goong 2 teaser (embedded below) runs for just 55 seconds, but it's packed full of punches and Tony Jaa being tortured. There's more of adversary Marrese Crump, plus a few more glimpses of Jeeja Yanin and Rhatha Pho-ngam.

Use your imagination to see it in 3D.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tony Jaa moving too fast and furious for Sia Jiang and Tom-Yum-Goong 2

Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren strike a pose in April to promote the production of A Man Will Rise. Others taking part include Panna Rittikrai, left, and Sahamongkol Film International chief executive Somsak Techaratanaprasert, third from right. Nation photo by Anant Chantarasoot.

Over the weekend, The Hollywood Reporter had an exclusive report that Tony Jaa had been cast in Fast and Furious 7, joining regular franchise stars Vin Diesel and Paul Walker as well as new villain Jason Statham. Set to start shooting next month, it's being directed by Saw and Insidious helmer James Wan, who takes over the series from Justin Lin.

The THR report appears to be based on an e-mail from Jaa:

"I have been a big fan of the Fast and Furious franchise," said Jaa via e-mail from Thailand. "The films are fast-paced, fun and keep the audience involved. There is a great mix of humor and action, something I really appreciate. There is no better film to be involved in for a first U.S. studio production."

As can be expected, the report when viral, with all the usual genre-film websites repeating it.

A handful of the Thai press also ran with the story, and it was all a big surprise to Tony's boss and career father figure, Sahamongkol Film International head honcho Somsak "Sia Jiang" Techaratanaprasert. He called a press conference on Monday to explain his surprise. Here's a recap from Soopsip in The Nation today:

“Jaa is still under a 10-year contract with us,” he calmly said, and it was only renewed last month. Of course, that’s just for movies he makes in Thailand.

Sia Jiang did seem a bit like an upset father, though, since he financially takes care of not only Jaa but also Jaa’s parents. He too only found out about the “Furious” news when Manager Online picked up a Hollywood Reporter story. Jaa hasn’t even mentioned it to him.

“I’m holding this press interview so that he knows I’m not mad at him.”

But isn’t he disappointed about not being informed?

Sia Jiang said he has no right to feel that way. “Haven’t you guys ever seen a rising star before?” he laughed. “He’s very famous, so what can I do about it? When he was a nobody, maybe he would prostrate himself before me, but when he’s famous, it could be vice versa.”

It rambles on like that for awhile longer, with the gist being Sia Jiang saying he's only been looking out for Tony Jaa's best interests all these years, etc., but he won't stand in the way as the 37-year-old Ong-Bak star finally breaks out of the Thai industry to land Hollywood roles.

Aside from Fast and Furious 7, Tony is wrapping up work on a new directorial effort, the "Eastern western", A Man Will Rise, co-starring Dolph Lundgren. It's being produced under Sahamongkol's shingle.

And Jaa's reportedly agreed to co-star in a Hollywood vehicle for Lundgren, Skin Trade, in which the Expendables star will portray a New York cop who runs afoul of the Russian mob. Again, reportedly, it's set to be directed by Beautiful Boxer helmer Ekkachai Uekrongtham.

Meanwhile, there's that other little movie that Jaa did, Tom-Yum-Goong 2 (ต้มยำกุ้ง 2). Character posters have turned up in Thai cinemas ahead of its release on October 23 and I expect a second trailer to be turning up online any minute.

It's unknown whether Jaa's schedule on Fast and Furious 7 will conflict with Thai promotional efforts for TYG2.

Review: Yam Yasothon 3

  • Directed by Petchthai Wongkamlao
  • Starring Petchthai Wongkamlao, Janet Keaw, Likhit Butrprom, Paythai Wongkamlao, Chen Chernyim, Endu Wongkamlao, Piroonrat Kedkhum, Rattiyaphon Phakdilon
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 8, 2013; rated G
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Yam Yasothon 3 (แหยม ยโสธร 3), the third entry in Petchthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkamlao's '70s-tinted Isaan comedy series, is like an old worn out pair of shoes. They are comfortable and easy to slip into while doing chores around the house or yard, but you wouldn't necessarily want to be seen wearing them in public.

The costuming is so colorful, it's blinding but somehow still palatable against the bright green of Isaan's rice fields. Quite simply, it's eye candy.

It's harder on the ears. The jokes are old and ribald, but somehow still funny. And the music by Rangsi Serichai, Mum and others is toe-tappingly infectious, even if the blue-streak lyrics will (hopefully) keep the songs off the radio.

A running sight gag has a group of Afro-wigged musicians playing air instruments except for one percussionist whose congas are the bald heads of a couple of funny-looking guys. An audible slap on bare skin punctuates the rhythm and the bald guys wince in pain.

Amid the cornball comedy, a pair of love stories are forming. They involve two sons of the moustachioed patriarch Yam.

The older, handsomer and smarter of the two, Katathep (Likhit Butrprom), meets his girl Rumpun  ("Fah" Piroonrat Kedkhum) on a bus ride home. As the two catch each others' glances and then turn away in embarrassment, the old lady sitting between them grows increasingly impatient. "Do you want me to move so you can sit next to one another?" she finally asks in a huff.

In the village, a new school year has started, and another of Yam's sons, the comical-looking, dimwitted Khamphan (Mum's son Paythai Wongkamlao) is in the 12th grade for the third time. The teacher and headmaster put their foot down and say Khamphan has to go, but the boy wants to hang around so he can speak sweetly to Rumpoey (Rattiyaphon Phakdilon), the brightest girl in school. And she actually thinks he's sweet, because he has a good heart, even if he is a goofball. With his bowl-shaped haircut and loud clothes, Khamphan gets the biggest laughs for his multi-colored platform-heel boots – footwear that might've been commandeered from the Commodores.

Problem for the guys is the girls are the daughters of Kamnan Ploy (Chen Chernyim), the village chief and a longtime rival of Yam's. Seems Ploy stole Yam's first love, Rumpueng (played by Mum's real-life wife Endu Wongkamlao). Ret-con flashbacks show how Ploy and Yam's formerly ugly second girlfriend and eventual wife Joei (Janet Keaw) conspired to make that happen.

So while old wounds are reopened and jealousies reignited, there's the usual hayseed hijinks of these movies, mostly involving cross-dressing characters. There are also a few callbacks to the 2005 first entry and the 2009 sequel. And there are courting scenes between the couples that look like they could have been yanked frame by frame out of any of the Thai movie musical romances of the 1970s and '80s.

It culminates at the village fair during a big musical performance that is highlighted by an extended cameo from Mum's frequent comedy cohort Pongsak Pongsuwan, performing a luk thung number dressed in a white jumpsuit as Elvis. It's got to be a reference to his role with Mum in Killer Tattoo.

To settle the feud between the families, it's proposed there will be a dance-off. And it's probably the lamest dance-off in cinema history. Endu dresses up to perform a Bollywood-inspired number, but, oddly, it hardly ever shows her actually dancing, opting instead for close ups of her face mugging for the camera with cutaways to swaying hips that might not be hers. Mum and his boys then take the stage to try and top that, which should be easy. They do a few pelvic thrusts to a lewd song, and apparently that's enough.

See also:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Short 17 reviews: The Death Trilogy, White Elephant 1

Mothers and fathers want justice in The Death Trilogy, an anthology of recent shorts by veteran filmmaker Pimpaka Towira, screened as a special program of the 17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

My Father (พ่อ ), which won a special mention at the Vladivostok International Film Festival in 2011, has the title character, a janitor at an upcountry railway station, upset over the brusque treatment of his boss. So he writes a letter of protest, which costs him his job. He then heads to Bangkok and ends up joining the red-shirt rally, but the film only shows him coming back a broken, emasculated man. Having lost his job, he's no longer the breadwinner. Plus he's suffering from a stomach ailment. So he lingers around the house, caring for a baby while the wife works and the older daughter is packed off to Bangkok. He is a sad dad.

All three of The Death Trilogy films are open-ended, but My Father is the least hopeful of the bunch. It's punctuated at the end by a lively dance by the grandmother, who chants about the cycle of life and its depressing inevitability.

The Mother (แม่), which was featured at the International Film Festival Rotterdam this year, takes place at the funeral of a 13-year-old girl. The 15-minute piece is a single-shot work, breathlessly covering the last day of the funeral ceremonies. Not many people have turned up, except for a local village "big man" and his lackey. Seems the "big man" may have had something to do with the girl's death, and the young lackey, portrayed by Wanlop Rungkumjad of Eternity (Tee-Rak) and 36, is instructed to "take care" of the matter with the mother. But the fierce mom (Chontida Praton) is stubborn. And the threat of a cellphone video clip looms.

Rounding out the trio is the newest piece, Malaria and Mosquitoes, a 24-minute drama that Pimpaka has been shopping around the project markets in hopes of turning into a feature. It has possibilities, and is also the most hopeful in terms of how things might end up for the main character. She is a young widowed Karen immigrant, whose husband served as a border patrolman for Thailand and was shot dead in his boat on the river along the Thai-Myanmar boundary. The wife is eager to sell the boat, which still has her husband's blood stains on it, but her mother-in-law wants to wait for the Thai authorities to inspect the boat and give her compensation for her son's death. Mother and daughter-in-law are pitted in a battle of wills. For young Nawda, the wife, selling the boat represents the quickest means of obtaining the money she needs to secure Thai citizenship and a brighter future from under the lash of her in-law. The betel-nut-chewing mother takes things into her own hands with a unique solution, which raises questions that might be answered in a longer film.

Video capture of Wang Ploeng Intersection via Limitless Cinema.

Another tale of injustice was offered in Wang Ploeng Intersection (สี่แยกวังเพลิง), the lead-off entry of White Elephant 1, the first program of shorts in the competition for college-student filmmakers. By far the strongest entry in this selection (Limitless Cinema gives it good marks), Natpakan Khemkhaw's 20-minute drama is the fact-based story of a poor family under threat when the mother is hauled in by the police and charged with an apparently heinous crime that carries a 200,000-baht fine and/or a jail sentence. What, exactly, was the horrible thing the mother did? The short waits until the end to tell us, and I don't want to spill it here except to say it has to do with a particularly draconian part of the 2008 Film Law.

Instead, the film takes its sweet time showing just how hard things are for the poor family, in which mother is the primary breadwinner and motorcycle driver. The father, who has one leg, helps out however he can, sewing clothes and looking after their two schoolchildren, a boy and a girl. Mother works the land and dad sews clothes, but it isn't enough. The one-legged pop takes things particularly hard, and comes up with a solution that's strikingly similar to the dad in Pimpaka's My Father.

Next best in the program was Hey Manob I Really Need You by Tanaset Siriwattanadirek and Wandee Taboonpong, about a chubby woman who is infatuated with barista at a coffee shop. She gets her chance to be with him when she finds a cache of buried jewelry at a construction site, and one of the baubles transforms her from a plump woman with good teeth to a skinny girl with braces and a revealing dress. Inspired by watching Star Wars Episode III, she gets the coffee shop guy to go to a Star Wars convention. But, just as the power of the dark side failed Anakin Skywalker, the ring's powers backfire on the woman, but with more-hilarious results. She, after all, still has her arms and legs, is not Darth Vader, and there is definite hope.

Two others were sentimental family tales that dragged, despite their 20-minute lengths. Come Back by Watharapong Pattama is about a mother trying to reconcile with the son she abandoned years before, while Tanatorn Chalongkwamdee's Moment in Time is about "picture perfect family", but the young woman and her father are at odds over the illness of the younger sister. Can't they just get along? No, I guess they can't.

The final entry, Jirassaya Wongsutin's She Is My Best Friend dragged less, thanks to its 12-minute length and the back-and-forth motion of badminton. It has two girls, best friends and neighbors, meeting to play the game, when one girl's mother yells down at them to reveal some bad news. Seems the more-needy of the pair will have to learn to stand on her own sooner than she expected.

Apichatpong-a-rama: Mysterious Object restored, 69 other directors take part in Venice 70

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's groundbreaking debut feature, the experimental Mysterious Object at Noon  (ดอกฟ้าในมือมาร, Dokfa Nai Meuman, will be screened at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.

Here's more from the Austrian Film Museum, which took part in the restoration work:

In early September, the 70th Mostra del Cinema in Venice will host the world premiere of the restoration of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s debut feature, Mysterious Object at Noon, which was jointly carried out by the Austrian Film Museum and the World Cinema Foundation. The American premiere of Mysterious Object at Noon will follow at the beginning of October at the 51st New York Film Festival. The Thai director, who was awarded the Palme d’Or in 2010 [for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives], produced his first feature on a shoestring budget: a fascinating “road movie”, shot in grainy black and white, which melds “direct cinema” techniques with a fairytale story that unravels during a cross-country journey throughout Thailand. Shortly after the film’s completion, its original 16mm camera reversal element disappeared. Working from a 35mm duplicate negative with burned-in English subtitles, which Weerasethakul deposited with the Film Museum for safe-keeping in 2007, the restoration applied digital technology to make the film accessible again. A new 35mm internegative and print were also produced.

Another Austrian Film Museum project, Filipino auteur Lav Diaz' historic 2002 feature Batang West Side, which began the "Newest Philippine Cinema" movement, was presented at the recent Locarno Film Festival.

Back in Venice, both Diaz and Apichatpong will also take part in 70 Directors for Venice 70, in which 70 directors who made the recent history of the Venice Film Festival to celebrate fest's 70 years by offering a short film.

Apichatpong's 2006 feature Syndromes and a Century premiered in the Venice main competition, and he served as head of the Horizons jury in 2011.

Diaz has appeared in Venice many times, with Horizons awards for 2007's Death in the Land of Encantos, 2008's Melancholia and jury duty on 2010's Horizons panel.

Other directors taking part in the 70 Directors for Venice 70 include Peter Chan, Amit Dutta, Hong Sang-soo, Jia Zhangke, Shekhar Kapur, Kim Ki-duk, Brillante Mendoza, Sion Sono, Shinya Sakamoto, Bing Wang and Yonfan.

The addition of Apichatpong to this year's Venice proceedings follows the earlier announcement of the premiere of  Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy as part of the Venice Biennale College – Cinema project.

The Venice International Film Festival runs from August 28 to September 7.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Short 17 preview: Sivaroj breaks an egg, Pimpaka makes a trilogy

Eggs are a running theme of the Thai Short Film and Video Festival, with the posters usually featuring egg shapes. This year’s design has a female body with a camera for a head ready to break out of her egg-like womb.

The symbolism is apt, especially as many directors, even the guys, have said that the films are their babies and making them is like giving birth.

Continuing with the theme of eggs, there’s the festival bumper, a short clip that precedes each screening at the festival. Frequent attendees will see it dozens of times during the fest's two-week run. A new bumper is made each year, usually by established directors who got their start at the fest, and they almost always incorporate eggs.

Yolking it up this year is "Karn" Sivaroj Kongsakul, whose award-winning short films Always and Silencio made their debuts at the fest. He’s since cracked on with longer films, with his 2011 debut feature Eternity (Tee Rak) winning the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam fest.

Karn’s two-minute bumper, embedded below, features a girl sitting in front of a white background holding a single egg in her hand.

“I love this work,” she says. “I have been doing it. I have fought for it. Either successful or unsuccessful, it’s a way of life.”

She then drops the egg and looks at where it splattered on the floor, which is basically all a filmmaker can do once they’ve completed their work and thrown it up on big screens for everyone to see.

As the saying goes, you have break a few eggs to make an omelette, and Karn’s made his share.

Apart from Karn’s bumper and the usual dozens of Thai shorts in competition in this year’s festival, there are a few other local ingredients in the mix.

Veteran producer-director Pimpaka Towira offers her cheerily titled Death Trilogy, a compilation of three shorts she’s made since 2010.

My Father involves the political situation that year, and has a railway worker from upcountry who is forced to quit his job because of a protest letter he wrote. He then heads off to Bangkok in search of justice and joins the red-shirt rally. After the rally’s end, he returns home a loser with a deep wound in his heart from his failures.

The Mother from last year has a grieving mum at the funeral of her 13-year-old daughter. Haunted by the girl’s mysterious passing, the mother is in search of answers.

The trio is completed by Pimpaka’s latest film, Malaria and Mosquitoes, which finds a widowed Karen woman caught in the limbo of statelessness.

It screens at 5 on Saturday and 6.45pm Thursday.

Another program worth mentioning is the Digital Forum, which started a few years back as a spotlight for digital media. In this category, the meaning of short film is stretched to medium length and sometimes far beyond.

That’s the case with the 222-minute Thawathosamat, Punlop Horharin’s examination of Thailand’s shifting religions, from animism to Hinduism and Buddhism and how these beliefs mixed and became the conception of the nation. It screens at 1 tomorrow.

More succinct but just as philosophical is the 34-minute 1674.38 How the Earth Around Us by Wairin Mathong, which has a student transferred to a new school and struggling to keep up as the world whizzes by. It screens at 3 on Sunday.

There are several other entries in the Digital Forum, but they and many other Thai shorts don’t have English subtitles, so please check the program before you enter the screenings and then cause a disruption by quickly exiting when you realize you can't understand what's being said. Usually there’s two screenings going on, so if one doesn’t have subtitles, it’s a good bet the other one will.

The Thai Short Film and Video Festival runs until September 1 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (closed Mondays). Check the festival's Facebook page for the schedule.

Monday, August 19, 2013

17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival opens with South Korea's Jury

Film experts come together to disagree in Jury, the opener of the 17th Thai Short Film and Video Festival on Thursday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Directed by Kim Dong-ho, the artistic director of the Busan International Film Festival, the 24-minute satire has a film-festival judging panel of various nationalities at odds over what makes a great film.

Filmmaker Jeong asserts that a film should move the heart while actress Soo-yeon says it’s the message that matters. British film critic Tony (played by Tony Rayns) yammers on about the current trend of Korean cinema while Japanese member Tomiyama can’t fully express her thoughts because of the language barrier. And, Sung-ki, the head of jury, can’t control any of them.

In addition to Jury, the Thai Short Film and Video Festival will present its usual roster of local and international competition films.

For the Thai competition, the categories include the R.D. Pestonji competition for general filmmakers, named after Thailand’s pioneering auteur; the White Elephant competition for college students and the Special White Elephant for high school and younger students; the Duke competition for documentaries, named after Prince Sanbassatra, the “father of Thai film”; and the Payut Ngaokrachang competition for animation, named after the pioneering Thai animator.

Apart from the competition, other Thai highlights include The Death Trilogy, a compilation of three shorts by veteran indie producer-director Pimpaka Towira, My Father, The Mother and Malaria and Mosquitoes.

Sixteen finalists have been chosen for the International Competition, with the entries hailing from Hong Kong, France, Belarus, the US, Iran, China, Ukraine, Portugal, Japan, Lebanon, Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and Madagascar.

Among the special programs will be another installment of the S-Express shorts from around the region. This year’s selection offers packages from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Chinese-speaking territories.

Another regular highlight is the Best of Clermont-Ferrand, featuring this year’s cream of the crop from the world’s premiere short-film festival. It's an always-watchable mix of quirky animation, live-action comedies and dramas and experimental shorts.

Another annual programme is the “queer” shorts. The theme this year is “Gender Doesn’t Matter” with films from Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Chile and Belgium.

And a special program this year will offer shorts about people with disabilities, with the films hailing from France, Mexico, Malaysia and Cambodia.

Among the visiting filmmakers will be India’s Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, who will conduct a masterclass for registered participants. He will also be a judge for the international competition along with Thai filmmaker Lee Chatametikool.

A retrospective of Kulkarni’s work will feature five of his short subjects depicting unusual everyday lives, Darshan from 2003, Girni from 2004, Three of Us from 2008 and The Spell and Vilay from 2009.

The 17th Thai Short film and Video Festival runs from August 22 to September 1 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (closed Mondays). Screenings will be in the fifth-floor auditorium and the fourth-floor conference room. Shows start at 5pm on weekdays and 11am on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is free. Not all the Thai films will have English subtitles. For the schedule, please visit

Kongdej, Tongpong in the hunt at Asian Project Market

Features by Kongdej Jaturanrasamee and Tongpong Chantarangkul are among the selections in this year's Asian Project Market at the Busan Iternational Film Festival.

Kongdej is planning what is apparently a sequel to his comedy-drama puzzler P-047 (Tae Peang Phu Deaw, แต่เพียงผู้เดียว) – P-048. The Thai title is Kalapalwasan. Meanwhile, Kongdej's latest indie feature, the teen drama Tang Wong, is set for release in Thai cinemas on August 29.

Tongpong is planning a feature called The Fireflies. It follows his critically acclaimed debut I Carried You Home (Padang Besar, ปาดังเบซา), which was supported by the Busan fest's Asian Cinema Fund.

They'll vie for funding with 28 other projects, which include Exotic Pictures by Edwin and Monkey's Mask by Garin Nugroho from Indonesia, and Samuel Over the Rainbow by the Philippines' Benito Bautista.

Also of regional news interest – Cambodian auteur Rithy Panh has been selected as the Asian Filmmaker of the Year.

APM also hosts another round of the Ties That Bind workshop, which is held in cooperation with the Udine Far East Film Festival. This year's selection included Malaria and Mosquitos by Pimpaka Towira.

The Asian Film Market and the Asian Project Market run from October 7 to 10 as part of the 18th Busan International Film Festival, October 3 to 12.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

By the River wins special mention in Locarno

Nontawat Numbenchapol © Festival del film Locarno

By the River (Sai Nam Tid Shoer), the latest documentary by Nontawat Numbenchapol, was awarded a special mention at the 66th Locarno Film Festival.

Making its world premiere in the Swiss film fest's Concorso Cineasti del presente Windows of Discovery competition, By the River deals with an environmental case along Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi province. Contamination from a lead mine ruined fishing and livelihoods for a Karen village there, and a lawsuit over the matter dragged on in Thai courts for 15 years.

Earlier this year, Nontawat released another documentary, Boundary, about the controversial topic of the Thai-Cambodian border. It premiered in Berlin and Nontawat shepherded it around to cinemas in Thailand for a limited run.

Other awards in Locarno included the Golden Leopard went to Albert Serra's La Historia de la Meva Mort (Story Of My Death), Best Actress for Brie Larson in Short Term 12, the Variety Piazza Grand Award for Balthasar Kormakur's 2 Guns and best actor to Fernando Bacilio for the Vega brothers' El Mudo. South Korea's Hong Sang-soo won best director for Our Suhni.

The complete list of awards is at Deadline.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Censor Must Die won't be censored

Here's a news release from Manit Sriwanichpoom, producer of the banned film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย, Shakespeare Tong Tai) and the companion documentary Censor Must Die (เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย), which chronicles his and his wife and director Ing K.'s exhaustive efforts to appeal against the ban.

This very day, even as the online community is seething over the government’s increasingly intense scrutiny and persecution of social media users, even as the police is requesting co-operation from Line, the popular smartphone chat app, to let them monitor its users to prevent threats to national security, we have unbelievable good news for freedom of expression in Thailand from the most unlikely quarter: the Film Censors.

Last year the Film Censorship Committee and the National Film Board banned the horror film, Shakespeare Must Die, a Thai adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Accordingly, since we are filmmakers, we recorded the whole banning process and our fight against the ban, from the Censors’ Office to the Film Board, to the National Human Rights Commission and the Senate House Committee on Human Rights, all the way to the Administrative Court. This has resulted in the documentary Censor Must Die.

Recently, as required by law, this new film was submitted to the censors. This morning we received a letter by post, document # Ministry of Culture 0508.2/6058 (Thai original and English translation in the attached files) from the Department of Cultural Promotion to inform the result of their deliberation: “Censor Must Die is exempted from the film censorship process and has been given permission from the Film and Video Censorship Committee, by the power of the 2008 Royal Edict on Film and Video, Article 27(1)”, because “the producer of Censor Must Die made the film from events that really happened.”

Furthermore, due to this exemption from censorship, Censor Must Die has not been rated and may be seen by anyone of any age.

For us, the filmmakers, this is like winning the lottery. We can’t stop smiling. It’s a great relief that we won’t have to repeat the arduous process of appeal that we went through and are still going through with Shakespeare Must Die. We must thank the censors for their brilliant broadmindedness.  I hope this precedence-setting decision will help to bring a more optimistic future for Thai cinema.

In the case of Shakespeare Must Die, both the National Human Rights Commission and the Senate House Human Rights Committee have concluded that the 2008 film law should be amended. The NHRC further recommends that the ban on the film should be lifted, as the ban infringed our right to freedom of expression. The case against the Censors and the Film Board is progressing in Administrative Court.


Manit Sriwanichpoom


Shakespeare Must Die and Censor Must Die

The reference to the "smartphone chat app" is in regard to the Royal Thai Police moves to monitor Line.

The news that Censor Must Die won't be censored and that it's apparently exempt from the ratings process because it's "made from events that really happened" is interesting and might perhaps encourage other documentary filmmakers in Thailand.

But there's not yet any word of when Censor Must Die might be shown in cinemas, which might be difficult given the recent experience of other politically sensitive documentaries, Paradoxocracy by Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Pasakorn Pramoolwong and Boundary by Nontawat Numbenchapol, which were both passed after changes were ordered by censors, but then ran into problems during their theatrical release.

The Hollywood Reporter has more on Censors [sic] Must Die.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Review: Pawnshop

  • Written and directed by Parm Rangsi
  • Starring Krissada Sukosol Clapp, Supaksorn Chaimongkol, Chalee Muangthai
  • Limited release in SF Cinemas on August 1, 2013; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5 

"I hate graveyards and old pawnshops. For they always bring me to tears," John Prine wrote in his song "Souvenirs".

And Prine might have the same sentiment for the low-budget Thai horror Pawnshop (โลงจำนำ, Long Jam Nam), though the tears might not necessarily be of sadness, but of sheer frustration and impatience for a dull movie that goes nowhere.

Directed by Parm Rangsi, who previously did the cooking comedy Daddy's Menu  (เมนูของพ่อ, Menu Khong Phor), Pawnshop is latest in a string of low-budget horrors released by B-movie marque Golden A Entertainment.

It wears its pretensions as an "art-house horror" on its sleeve, with plenty of nifty point-of-view camera angles, shadows, smoke, theatrical-style staging and lots of spattering fake blood. It looks pretty, but there isn't much beneath the surface.

Selfishly I suppose, I was kind of hoping for something like the U.S. reality-TV series Pawn Stars, which is strangely addictive and entertaining because of its wacky cast and the endless parade of weird artifacts brought in by their customers.

But no. The depressing Pawnshop is run by possibly the worst pawnbroker in the world, a cruel, unscrupulous dealer who has no intentions of giving any of his customers a square deal. The customers have no redeeming qualities, each being motivated by their own bad situations or simple greed to deal with the dodgy pawnbroker. And, there is a curious lack of curios on display in a shop that should be jam-packed with junk – a sure tip-off that this is a pawnshop best steered clear of.

You see, the pawnbroker Long Zhu (Chalee Muangthai), doesn't ever seem to buy anything. He only trades for people's souls, hence the Thai title Long Jam Nam, or literally "coffin pledge". The souls he takes are then in turn used to feed a malevolent, vengeful ghost he's pledged his life to. She was a classical Thai dancer long ago, but was raped and murdered. Now she vomits an endless stream of blood. And Long Zhu will do anything to keep the ghost on his side, even commit murder. However, it can't be a very good trade, because Long Zhu is still living in a dingy, dusty little pawnshop.

The deals invariably go like this: the customers come in with the items they want to sell and they state their ridiculous price, say 600,000 baht for a few flea-market trinkets. Long Zhu then counter-offers with an equally ridiculous price, say 30,000 baht.

"But," he says. "I can offer you more for something else." And, for that 600,000 baht or maybe even 1 million baht, the deal is you have to trade your soul.

The customers' eyes light up at the prospect. "Well, I wasn't using it anyway," their thinking probably goes.

Of course there's a catch to all this – the customers must spend the night in a room at the pawnshop, and if there's "an accident", there will be no pay-off.

Among the easily duped customers is a guy named Neung, played by Krissada Sukosol Clapp. A pub owner, he has the unfortunate habit of driving home drunk and falling asleep at the wheel. Something bad happened, and now is wife (Supaksorn Chaimongkol) is mad at him. So he plans to sell some of his stuff to the pawnbroker to raise money and get out of whatever mess he's in.

To pad out the running time, there are other customers – some other guy whose story is forgotten about completely, a young woman who is there to defiantly prove her fearlessness, and, in the words of the pawnbroker, "a fat gay guy", whose boyfriend lost all his money gambling on English Premier League soccer.

In addition to the pawnbroker, there are a couple of young women, presumably his daughters, who still hang around this mean old man for no apparent reason, and a couple of shady guys who help finalize the deals.

It takes forever for the movie to get around to spilling the beans about the horrible thing Neung did, even though it's been explained in most of the synopses made available online – he ran over a little girl and wants to raise money to pay for her hospital treatment.

But instead of making clear what Neung's got at stake and making him a more-sympathetic character from the start, the story takes a seemingly endless path that's filled with dead ends and cul-de-sacs.

It's a vacuum that must be filled with something, and that something is the formidable presence of Noi Sukosol, who in this "art-house film" is given space to lose his shit Nicolas Cage-style and go over the top with a performance that seems to belong in another film entirely.

He is given to outlandish temper tantrums, in which he gets into awkward shouting matches with his shrewish wife (Kratae Supaksorn in a thankless role). He hits himself in the face, repeatedly, and bangs his head against the well. And, in a master stroke, when confronted by the pawnshop spirit, gets into a slapping contest with the ghost.

The talents of the intense, brooding Noi, the energetic lead singer of the rock band Pru, have been well-used in bigger-budget movies, such as Antapal or 13: Game of Death, or better-written small-budget indies like A Moment in June, but here, when there's little else happening around him, he's just too much.

Noi's antics had the audience of around six people in a late weeknight screening in stitches. And I don't think comedy was what was intended by anyone involved with the making of this picture.

See also:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On Region 1 DVD: The Gangster

Following its appearance at the New York Asian Film Festival, one of the best Thai films of 2012Antapal (อันธพาล) – has made a bow on English-friendly Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray as The Gangster, thanks to Magnet Releasing
Starring Krissada Sukosol Clapp, it's a fact-based tale of a hoodlum named Jod in 1950s and '60s Thailand, and spins another thread from the story told by Nonzee Nimibutr in Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters.

After serving time in prison, the late Dang's former lieutenant Jod finds things have drastically changed, with knives replaced by guns. He comes into conflict with a new crew of ambitious idealistic younger gangsters as well as the brutal functionaries of the military dictatorship who are the new power on the streets.

Directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri, it's stylishly bloody affair, with the violent scenes interspersed with sometimes hilarious documentary-style interviews with purported old-timers who recall those bad old days.

A couple of reviews have surfaced since the DVD/Blu-ray release last month.

Here's Patrick Galloway at Asia Shock:

Violence doesn't just explode in The Gangster, it erupts! And, of course there are the usual turf wars and rivalries within gangs leading to treachery. The ending is a bloody barn-burner. I don't want to be Mr. Spoiler, so I'll just say it plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy, if you get my meaning. OK, so I spoiled it for the English majors, but the rest of you nudnicks are in for a shock.

And, of course, Thai film fan Peter Nellhaus at Coffee Coffee and More Coffee:

The ending is some kind of tour-de-force which reminded me of the climatic shoot out in The Wild Bunch. That's probably deliberate. Jod's code of honor reminded me of Ernest Borgnine's great line, "At least we don't hang people". Rival gangs give it everything they've got, on the streets and even a rooftop chase. Peckinpah's film is also recalled with the use of slow motion. On a thematic level, one can also see parallels in that both films explore the limits of male camaraderie. Knives are brought back when a bulletless Jod faces off against his sworn enemy.

Five GTH horrors scared up for Singapore's Halloween theme park

Ghosts from Shutter and Coming Soon flank GTH writers and directors Parkpoom Wongpoom, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, Chantavit Dhanasevi and Paween Purijitpanya as they promote their Spooktacular theme-park attraction.

In what could very well be a plot for GTH's next big horror film, five of the hitmaking studio's popular thrillers are being repurposed for the Spooktacular Halloween theme park attraction at Singapore's Sentosa resort.

Five films have been chosen, including the regional mega-hit ghost comedy Pee Mah Phra Khanong, as well Shutter (haunted photos), Body (haunted medical school), Coming Soon (haunted movie theater) and Dorm (haunted boarding school).

The Nation has more details in an article today:

Featuring haunted houses and other activities, the annual night-time festival has been a great success, with tickets being snapped up the moment they go on sale.

After last year's event, the Sentosa team decided they wanted to turn horror-movie experiences into real-life haunted houses. And because Singapore filmgoers seem to have a particular penchant for Thai-style horror, the GTH movies were the obvious choice.

"It's very hard to explain why we like Thai horror so much, but looking at the Asian horror film industry, Thai movies stand out. They touch something you can't explain. They bring your nightmares to the screen so accurately and GTH is very successful with internationally acclaimed movies like Shutter and the latest Pee Mak," says David Goh, the senior division director of Sentosa.

Among the GTH talents lending their expertise to designing the attraction are "self-confessed theme-park geeks" Parkpoom Wongpoom (Shutter) and Paween Purijitpanya (Body). In addition to the five movies mentioned, a towering hungry ghost from Paween's Phobia 2 short Novice has somehow found its way into the world of GTH's Spooktacular.

Perhaps while working on it they'll find inspiration for their next hit horror, maybe a new story or a sequel like Phobia 3: Six Roads to Fright or Shutter 2: Still Clicking. Or, perhaps Laddaland 2: Scared in Singapore or Coming Soon 2: Electric Boogaloo.

The haunted house at the gloomy, isolated Fort Siloso, will be open on October 19, October 24-25 and October 31 to November 2. Tickets are bound to sell out swiftly. For details, check the official website.

The attraction is teased a bit more in the video clip embedded below.

Meanwhile, Pee Mak Phra Khanong continues its record-setting march across Southeast Asia, and is set to have fans of Mario Maurer squealing with delight when it opens in the Philippines on August 28.

Tang Wong shimmies into Thai cinemas on August 29

Writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasamee has secured a local release for his latest independent feature Tang Wong (ตั้งวง), with producer Soro Sukhum recently informing me that it's set for screening in around 15 or 20 Thai theaters from August 29.

Colorful posters and a trailer (embedded below) are accompanying the release.

The teen-oriented comedy-drama is about four schoolboys from various backgrounds who pray to a shrine and make a promise to perform the traditional tang wong dance if they are successful in their endeavors. The problem is, none of them know much about tradition nor about dancing. So they enlist the help of a ladyboy to teach them the moves.

Made with the support of the Culture Ministry's Office of Contemporary Art and Culture and the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Program (HAF), Tang Wong premiered at this year's Berlin International Film Festival and also screened at the Hong Kong fest.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tom-Yum-Goong 2 English-subtitled teaser

It's been a long time coming, but finally, an official teaser for Tony Jaa's Tom-Yum-Goong 2 (ต้มยำกุ้ง 2) has landed, offering about a minute of furious fighting, jaw-dropping stunts, an epic road chase involving thousands of motorbikes and an exploding tanker truck to top it all off.

That's all after about a half a minute of Tony Jaa recapping the glories of the past 10 years, including his major studio debut Ong-Bak, plus Tom-Yum-Goong (a.k.a. The Protector) and Ong-Bak 2 and 3.

Blink and you'll miss an appearance by Jeeja Yanin, who apparently got her licks in before getting pregnant. Rhatha "Yaya Ying" Pho-ngam, hot off her debut performance in In Only God Forgives, joins the cast as a fighter with a mean hair flip, a red dress and "twenty" written across her chest. There's also Marrese Crump, RZA as the villain and Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak sidekick Petthai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkumlao.

But it's Tony Jaa's show, with Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai sharing credit as directors. And it'll be in 3D.

The release in Thailand is set for October 23.