Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 26-April 1, 2015


British expat readers have been pestering me for months about this one. "When is Paddington coming to Bangkok?" they have asked repeatedly.

Well, please stop bothering me. He's here now.

The marmalade-loving "rarest of bears" of British children’s literature comes to the big screen in this tale that explains how he came to arrive in the big city. Discovered at a London railway station, lost and alone with a note around his neck, Paddington is taken in by the kindly Brown family, however a sadistic museum taxidermist has other ideas.

Ben Whishaw (the new Q from the Bond series) is the voice of Paddington. Colin Firth was originally supposed to do it, but he didn't fit. Plunging into the depths of the uncanny valley, the bear was created for the screen with a combination of computer-generated imagery and animatronic puppetry. His human saviors are Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go-Lucky), with Nicole Kidman as the evil museum lady.

Paul King wrote the screenplay and directs. Michael Bond, the author of the books, was also involved.

Critical reception is mostly positive. Rated G

Also opening

Home – A fugitive member of an invading race of space aliens is befriended by a plucky teenage girl in this new feature from DreamWorks Animation. It's winning praise for voice work by Rihanna as the girl Tip. Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory) voices the alien named Oh. Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin are also featured. Critics are mixed. This opened last week in a sneak preview run and how moves to a wider release. It's in 3D in some cinemas. Rated G

X+Y – An autistic teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) discovers new confidence and friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad for the International Mathematics Oympiad. Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins also star. It's directed by Morgan Matthews as a fictionalized follow-up to his documentary about teen math geniuses Young Beautiful Minds. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 13+

Robot Overlords – With Earth conquered by robots from a distant galaxy, a teen discovers a way to sneak past the cyber sentries and form a resistance group with other youngsters. Hot on their trail is an ex-teacher and robot collaborator. Callan McAuliffe, Gillian Anderson and Ben Kingsley star. Critical reception isn't really a thing. Rated 15+

Citizenfour – This year's Academy Award winner for best documentary feature comes to Bangkok in an extremely limited release as part of Doc Holiday, which in recent months has organized a series of screenings of acclaimed documentaries at SF Cinemas. Citizenfour is directed by Laura Poitras, a noted documentary filmmaker who began receiving encrypted e-mails from someone named "citizen four" who leaked information about the US National Security Administration's illegal wiretapping. This prompted her and a team of journalists to fly to Hong Kong to meet the source, who turned out to be fugitive former NSA computer administrator Edward Snowden. Critical reception is overwhelmingly positive. It screens from tomorrow until Sunday at SF World Cinema and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Advance bookings are recommended. For details, please check the SF Cinemas website.

Also showing

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – Entries in the Asean documentary competition are screening from 1pm today and tomorrow at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Special screenings include Position Among the Stars from the fest's "director in focus" Leonard Retel Helmrich at 5 today followed at 7pm by Love Is All: 100 Years of Love and Courtship, which weaves together home movies and historic footage to survey romance, from the first kiss, to mixed-race pairs and homosexual love. Tomorrow at 3, there's a one-off screening of Diving Bell: The Truth Shall Not Sink with Sewol, a controversial account of last year's South Korean ferry disaster, followed at 5pm by Frederick Wiseman's three-hour opus National Gallery. On Saturday, the fest moves back to the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and wraps up with The Wages of Resistance: Narita Story, Helmrich's Promised Paradise and the closing film, the new Thai documentary Y/Our Music, with an after-party and live music. It's not a bad idea to reserve your seats, and you can do so online at

The Friese-Greene Club – Top talents of Hong Kong and Chinese cinema converge in Hero, Zhang Yimou's vivid martial-arts fantasy starring a terrific Jet Li as a lawman who tells of his fights with warriors who attempted to assassinate an emperor. Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi and Donnie Yen also star, with cinematography by Christopher Doyle. Tomorrow, head to the pancakes house with the Coen Bros. and their critically acclaimed 1987 black comedy Fargo. Saturday has the final entry this month from Italian director Guiseppe Tornatore, the 2000 drama Malena, in which a beautiful woman disrupts life in a village. And Sunday is the third offering in a tribute to Sir Carol Reed, with the film-noir thriller Our Man in Havana. Based on a Graham Greene novel, it stars Alec Guinness as a hapless vacuum-cleaner salesman caught up in an espionage scheme. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22.  For April's schedule, check the club's Facebook page.

Alliance Française – Free French films continue in April with Les garçons et Guillaume, à table! (Me, Myself and Mum), an autobiographical comedy-drama from actor-director Guillaume Gallienne, who adapts his one-man stage show about his sexually confused upbringing and his love-hate relationship with his domineering mother. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, April 1 at the Alliance.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 19-25, 2015

Lupin the Third

Lupin the Third, the live-action adaptation of a long-running manga series gets a limited release following its local premiere at last month's Japanese Film Festival.

Ryuhei Kitamura (VersusThe Midnight Meat Train) directs this adventure tale about the gentleman thief Lupin III (Shun Oguri) and his colorful partners in crime. While trying to stay a step ahead of Lupin III's dogged nemesis Inspector Zenigata (Tadanobu Asano), they come to a fictional Southeast Asian land that looks a lot like Thailand. There, they face a powerful enemy while trying to retrieve the priceless Crimson Heart of Cleopatra. There's a host of Thai talent in the cast, including Rhatha Pho-ngam, Vithaya Pansringarm and Nirut Sirichanya.

Critical reception has been mixed, mostly negative. But to me, it looks more interesting than the major Hollywood release this week. You can read more about Lupin III in an article at The Nation. It's at SF Cinemas, with the original soundtrack with English and Thai subtitles SFC Terminal 21 and SFW CentralWorld. Update: It's also at Apex Siam Square. Rated 13+

Also opening

The Way He Looks – Blind teenager Leonardo struggles with independence, and spends most of his free time with neighbor girl Giovana. Their friendship takes a turn with the arrival of a new boy at school whom Leonardo feels instantly connected to. Directed by Daniel Ribeiro, this Brazilian coming-of-age gay romance won the Fipresci critics prize and the Teddy Award for LGTB-themed features at last year's Berlin International Film Festival. Critical reception is generally positive. This picture comes to us through the singlehanded efforts of indie film enthusiast "Ken" Thapanan Wichitratthakarn, who saw The Way He Looks at a Hong Kong festival and loved it so much, he just had to acquire the Thai theatrical rights for it. You can read more about that in an article in The Nation. It's in Portuguese with English and Thai subtitles at Apex Siam Square, House on RCA and SFW CentralWorld.

Insurgent – Just let me see if can contain my excitement for this week's big Hollywood tentpole release, the second entry in the latest adaptation of a series of best-selling young-adult science-fiction novels. Following the first entry Divergent, the story has young heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her guy pal Four (Theo James) living as fugitives in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world. While they are hunted by the power-hungry Erudite faction, Tris must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance that threatens to tear society apart. Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer also star. Critical reception is mostly negative, but movie critics aren't who this movie was made for. It's in fake 3D (why bother?) in some cinemas including IMAX. Rated 15+

2538 Alter Ma Jive (2538 อัลเทอร์มาจีบ) – It's Back to the Future for a young Thai guy who discovers a message on an old pager belonging to his parents. He first tries to call the number on his smartphone, but, in the way things always go with cellphones in movies, the battery is dead. So he finds a still-working old-fashioned phone booth to call the number, and is transported 20 years back in time to 1995, altering the events in which his parents met and fell in love. Danarun Ramnarong and Pimchanok Luevisadpaibul star. It's directed by "Sua" Yanyong Kuru-angkul. Rated 13+

Feel Good Roosuek Dee The Me Kan (Feel Good...เพราะรู้สึกดีที่มีกัน) – Three stories are depicted in this indie Thai romantic comedy. They involve a pair of newlyweds, two college kids and a young man who uses a science to win over the girl he loves. Ratcd 15+

Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal – The anti-hero of Chinese legend Zhong Kui (Chen Hun) is forced into a battle among the realms of Heaven, Earth and Hell as he attempts to save his countrymen and the woman he loves (Li Bingbing). It's Thai-dubbed in most places, except for SFW CentralWorld and Paragon. Rated 13+

Also showing

German Film Week – As covered in a special update last week, German films are screening at 7 nightly until Sunday at Paragon Cineplex. Tonight, it's the adventure yarn Measuring the World, about German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and geographer Alexander von Humboldt and their surveys of the world in the 1800s. Tomorrow is the road movie The Man Who Jumped Over Cars and Arab-Jewish relations are covered Saturday's Kaddisch for a Friend. The closing film is the 1954 adaptation of the famous children's book Emil and the Detectives. Tickets are free and can be booked by calling (02) 108 8231-32, e-mail or check For more details, visit

The Friese-Greene Club – A barely literate 13-year-old girl (Wei Minzhi) is left in charge of a rural schoolhouse and pluckily rises to the challenge of stopping the school's loss of students in Zhang Yimou's 1999 drama Not One Less. Tomorrow, it's the Coen Bros.' Barton Fink, which they dashed off while experiencing writer's block on the screenplay for Miller's Crossing. Actually, they say, Barton Fink is about wallpaper. Saturday, Tim Roth is an enigmatic piano player born aboard an ocean liner in The Legend of 1900, another of the films of Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore. It features a score by the great Ennio Morricone. Sunday is another of Sir Carol Reed's film-noir thrillers, 1948's The Fallen Idol. Based on a Graham Greene novel, it's about a butler (Ralph Richardson) who is implicated in a murder by the towheaded boy who idolizes him. And next Wednesday is the final entry in a series of Jean-Pierre Jeunet films, the epic World War I romance A Very Long Engagement. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22.  For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The schedule is now complete for the fifth annual edition of Salaya Doc, and seats can be booked online. The opener is at 1pm on Saturday at the Thai Film Archive with The Look of Silence, the follow-up to The Act of Killing, which probed genocide by the Indonesian military in the 1960s. Weekend highlights include Asean competition entries plus a pair of films about film, Flowers of Taipei: New Taiwanese Cinema and Love Is All: 100 Years of Love and Courtship. Frederick Wiseman's National Gallery screens at the Archive on Monday. The screenings then shift to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center from Tuesday until next Friday. Among the highlights are the films of this year's director in focus, Dutch-Indonesian auteur Leonard Retel Helmrich, who is known for his "single-shot cinema" technique. His films are Eye of the DayShape of the MoonPosition Among the Stars and Promised Paradise. More details of the festival are covered over at that other blog and in a special posting from last week.

A scene from No Word for Worry, screening on Tuesday at the BACC as part of Salaya Doc and on Thursday at the FCCT.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – In addition to Salaya Doc, more documentaries are on offer at the FCCT, which has Life and Death at Preah Vihear, director David A. Feingold's examination of the conflict of the disputed territory around the 11th century Hindu temple on the Thai-Cambodian border. That's at 7pm on Tuesday, March 24. And next Thursday is a Salaya Doc entry, No Word for Worry, Norwegian director Runar Jarle Wiik's look at the fast-fading "sea gypsy" culture of the Moken people in Myanmar's Mergui archipelago. For more details, please see the FCCT website.

Alliance Française – This month's films have featured stories of women going through major life changes, and the final entry next Wednesday is the 2013 comedy-drama Elle S'en Va (On My Way), starring Catherine Deneuve as a 60-year-old woman who is dumped by her lover and left with a financially troubled family restaurant. She gets in her car and just starts driving. It's in French and English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, March 25 at the Alliance.

Sneak preview

Home – A fugtive member of an invading race of space aliens is befriended by a plucky teenage girl in this new feature from DreamWorks Animation. It's winning praise for voice work by Rihanna as the girl Tip. Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory) voices the alien named Oh. Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin are also featured. Critics are mixed. It's in sneak previews from around 2pm in most cinemas from Saturday until Wednesday before opening wide next Thursday. Rated G

Take note

Apologies for omitting several film events from last Thursday's update. I belatedly found out about German Film Week and quickly put up a special post. I wonder if there's anybody at the Goethe-Institut who can tip me off to the German film events? I only seem to find out about them after they'e already started. Other quickie updates of things I missed earlier, such as for the BACC's Cinema Diverse series last Saturday and yesterday's screening of Song of the Lao Elephant at the FCCT, were handled on my Twitter feed, so please keep on eye on that for late-breaking #BangkokCinemas updates.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: Salaya Doc 2015

With an abiding focus on Southeast Asia, as well as filmmaking and cultural preservation, the Salaya International Documentary Film Festival returns for its fifth edition from March 21 to 28 at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and from March 24 to 27 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Opening film
  • The Look of Silence – Director Joshua Oppenheimer continues to examine genocide in Indonesia with this follow-up to his Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing, which rounded up the lethal men behind Indonesia’s anti-communist purges of the 1960s. The Look of Silence centers on an optometrist who uncovers the identity of the men who killed his brother. Winner of the Venice fest’s grand jury prize and awards at many other festivals, The Look of Silence has been much acclaimed, and has even been made required viewing for Indonesian military troops.
Closing film
  • Y/Our Music – Unusual figures at the fringes of Thailand’s music scene are featured in this indie doc by Waraluck “Art” Hiransrettawat Every and David Reeve. It journeys through the Isaan countryside and hidden pockets of Bangkok to survey an array of musicians, from the amateur maker of bamboo saxophones to veteran performers of traditional songs. The documentary premiered at last year’s Busan fest, and this week makes its North American premiere at the music-leaning South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.
Special screenings

  • Southeast Asian Cinema – When the Rooster Crows – Italian director Leonardo Cinieri Lombroso interviews four of the region's cinema talents: Cannes-winning best director Brillante Mendoza from the Philippines, Singapore’s Eric Khoo, Indonesia’s Garin Nugroho and Thai auteur Pen-ek Ratanaruang. It is generously sprinkled with clips from all the directors’ films, and has interviews with producers, critics and behind-the-scenes talents. I reviewed it at last year's Luang Prabang Film Festival.
  • Flowers of Taipei: Taiwan New Cinema – Here's a look at the influential stalwarts of Taiwanese cinema, among them Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien, and how they aided Taiwan’s transformation from a hub of cheap plastics manufacturing to a cultural and technological powerhouse. Artists and filmmakers from other parts of the world are interviewed about how Taiwanese cinema has shaped their work. They include Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul invoking his “film is memory” mantra, along with Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Jia Zhangke, Wang Bing, Ai Weiwei and others.
  • Love is All: 100 Years of Love and Courtship – Rare footage from the British Film Institute and Yorkshire Film Archive covers this history of romance in film, from the very first kisses ever caught on film, through the disruption of war, to the birth of youth culture, gay liberation and free love. It's directed by Kim Longinotto directs, and Richard Hawley, formerly of the British rock band Pulp, provides the soundtrack.
  • No Word for Worry – Norwegian director Runar Jarle Wiik looks at the fast-fading culture of Moken “sea gypsies” in Myanmar, and one young man's efforts to preserve it.
  • The Wages of Resistance: Narita Stories – This is a followup to the series of classic documentaries by Ogawa Shinsuke about the farmers who opposed the building of Tokyo's Narita airport in the 1960s. They haven't given up, and are now fighting airport expansion. It's directed by Daishima Haruhiko with Otsu Koshiro, who served as cinematographer on Shinsuke's earlier docs, which I saw at the 2011 edition of Salaya Doc.
  • National Gallery – And the festival continues to fete the esteemed 85-year-old “institutional” documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Last year the festival featured his At Berkeley and this year it's an exhaustive three-hour look behind the scenes of the revered London art museum.

Asean competition

  • The Storm Makers – Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, whose Oscar-nominated The Missing Picture screened in Salaya last year, produces this work by French-Cambodian director Guillaume Suon. It's the story of Aya, a young woman who at age 16 was sold into work as a maid in Malaysia, where she was exploited and beaten for two years without receiving any pay. “I should have died over there”, she says. The director then has a chat with Pou Houy, the notorious head of a recruiting agency who shamelessly admits he doesn’t care what happens to the women he hires, and that he’s only interested in profit.
  • Die Before Blossom – Indonesian director Ariani Djalal focuses on two families during a decisive period of their daughters’ schooling in Yogyakarta, just as public education in Indonesia is coming under political pressure to include more Islamic teachings in its formerly secular curriculum.
  • Lady of the Lake – Yangon Film School student Zaw Naing Oo directs this examination of Myanmar’s “cult of the nat” – spirit worship – in a village on Moe Yun Gyi Lake, in the country’s southcentral Bago Region.
  • Echoes from the Hill – In northern Thailand, a village inhabited by the “Pgaz K’Nyau” – simple humans – is under threat. Their sacred belief is to remain in harmony with nature, even as they come into conflict with the Thai government’s attempts to build a dam and make their ancestral forest lands a national park. Jirudtikal Prasonchoom and Pasit Tandaechanurat, students King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang direct.
  • Madam Phung’s Last Journey – Ageing drag queens lead a transgender carnival troupe around Vietnam. At each town, a pattern is repeated. Locals are at first enchanted by the entertaining visitors, but later at night, after the drinks have flowed, the scene turns ugly, and the troupe has to beat a hasty retreat. Nguyen Thi Tham, who spent around a year embedded with the troupe, directs. I reviewed it at last year's Luang Prabang Film Festival.
  • 03-Flats – Lei Yuan Bin seeks to dispel the dull and drab image of Singapore's public housing program with help from three single women who have made their flats into spaces that can truly be called homes.

Please note that the screening schedule had not yet been completed when I last checked, and that this is only a tentative lineup. I'll aim to have further information in time for my usual update next Thursday. For more details, check or