Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 24-30, 2010

Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat (Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives)

Lucky Thailand. It's the third country on the planet to see this year's Palme d'Or winner from the Cannes Film Festival.

Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a strange, gentle tale of a man suffering from kidney disease who chooses to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. In a solid narrative, told in fractured episodes, the ghost of Boonmee's deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long-lost son returns home in a monkey’s body. In a much-talked about scene, a princess (Wallapa Mongkolprasert) has sex with a talking catfish. Eventually Boonmee sets off on a quest through a spooky jungle and is drawn to a cave where he was born in his first life.

Shot on 16mm stock, it's an old form of moviemaking that pays homage to the films Apichatpong saw in the Khon Kaen theatres of his youth, as well as TV dramas and comic books.

Since his return from Cannes, Apichatpong has been the toast of Thailand. The movie screened to two packed halls at the SFX Emporium last Friday for a press and VIP premiere.

At Cannes, jury president Tim Burton said "I felt it was a beautiful, strange dream you don't see very often. It's the type of cinema I don't usually see and again, that's what this festival is all about. ... You always want to be surprised by films and it did that for most of us."

Critical reception for Apichatpong's films has always been wildly polarized, though this year the negative criticism seems a bit muted.

Among those in favor of Uncle Boonmee was Screen Daily's Mark Adams, who called the film "a beautifully assembled affair, with certain scenes staged with painterly composure, and also increasingly moving as the subtle story develops." There is also "surreal humour – often laugh-out-loud moments".

Film Business Asia's Derek Elley found it a "baffling and ponderous take on reincarnation ... pretentious, elitist filmmaking without point or human pathos."

Apichatpong himself has urged audiences not to take it so seriously, saying "please don't think too much and let yourself be hypnotized and taken on a journey".

There's also a review at The Nation.

Watch the trailer at YouTube and see if you aren't intrigued.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives starts tomorrow (Friday), at SFX the Emporium, with showtimes at 7.20 nightly and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2. Rated 15+.

Also opening

That Sounds Good (เรา สองสาม คน, Rao Song Sam Khon) – Director "Leo" Kittikorn Liawsirikul hits the road for this romance set against the backdrop of an off-road rally kicking up dust across Laos and Vietnam. Musician Jay Montonn Jira shifts from scoring movies to starring in them with That Sounds Good. The composer of the 9 Wat soundtrack portrays the driver of a four-wheel-drive rig. Along for the ride with Jay's Somchu are two young women, Ter and Soontri (Ramita Mahapreukpong and Rattanrat Eertaweekul). The former doesn't see so good and wears thick round eyeglasses while the latter has impaired hearing and wears a hearing aid. Inevitably, with the three attached to their orange Suzuki four-wheeler, a love triangle forms, with plenty of significant glances and long, moody looks at the exotic landscape. Rated 13+.

The Karate Kid – More 1980s nostalgia is mined in this franchise reboot, with Will Smith's son Jaden Smith taking over the Ralph Macchio role. The setting is changed but the story is the same. A boy moves with his mother (Taraji P Henson) to a new place; this time it's Beijing instead of Los Angeles. Picked on by bullies, the kid tries to learn some karate moves, which prove ineffective but are enough so this franchise can keep its name. Jackie Chan steps into Pat Morita's role as a kindly handyman who takes the boy under his wing. The guy is actually a kung fu master, but keeps that a secret. He teaches the boy how to take the jacket off. Jacket on, jacket off, and so on. Critical reception has been surprisingly not so negative, with the stoney-hearted guys over at Twitch remarking this is probably the best solid acting performance that Chan's done. Harald Zwart (The Pink Panther 2, One Night at McCool's) directs. Rated G.

Knight and Day – Cameron Diaz plays a young woman who haplessly becomes involved in the violence-filled exploits of an unhinged fugitive secret agent played by Tom Cruise. Struggling to survive a mission that has him marked for death, the agent and the woman embark on a globe-trotting adventure with a determined federal agent (Peter Sarsgaard) in hot pursuit. This movie has long been in development hell, with many stars and directors attached. James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) finally got it done. Early critical reception is mixed. Rated 13+.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee – Writer-director Rebecca Miller puts together this ensemble drama starring Robin Wright as a woman with a checkered past who seeks to calm her life down by marrying a man 30 years her senior (Alan Arkin). They move to a Connecticut retirement community, where Pippa finds excitement is not ready to leave her yet. Bored, she strikes up a friendship with a neighbor's emotionally troubled son (Keanu Reeves). Monica Bellucci, Julianne Moore, Maria Bello and Winona Ryder also star. Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being it's a "reverential and offbeat .... road trip film [that] takes emotional detours and is elevated by great performances, particularly that of Robin Wright. At the Lido.

Fire of Conscience – Dante Lam directs this Hong Kong crime thriller that stars Leon Lai and Richie Jen as mismatched cop partners investigating the murder of a prostitute. When DNA evidence implicates a fellow officer from Lai's beat as the prime suspect, they must look beyond the obvious to get to the truth. Fire of Concscience premiered earlier this year at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. In Chinese with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance – This is the second in the Rebuild of Evangelion anime series, set in a post-apocalyptic world and involving a team of young pilots of giant mecha fighting machines, battling the constant attacks of the monstrous Angels. In Japanese with only Thai subtitles at the Lido.

Also showing

Raajneeti – Naseeruddin Shah, Arjun Rampal, Nana Patekar, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgn and Manoj Bajpai star in this sprawling multi-character Bollywood drama about a backstabbing family of politicians. It's thought to be loosely based on the Congress Party dynasty headed by Sonia Gandhi. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's playing at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) tonight (Thursday) at 7.30. Call (089) 488 2620 or visit

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