Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 21-27, 2011

Pumpuang (The Moon)

One of the Thai film industry's most anticipated releases this year, Pumpuang (พุ่มพวง, a.k.a. The Moon) is a biographical drama about the revered 1980s superstar Pumpuang Duangjan.

One of 12 children from a hardscrabble farming family in Suphan Buri, the illiterate Pumpuang grew up singing in the sugarcane fields. She worked her way into show business and spearheaded the popularization of luk thung, a form of Thai country music that had mainly only been heard in the rural central plains. With disco beats added and the tempo pumped up, the soulful, lovelorn rural reveries crossed over to become pop hits in the clubs of Bangkok. She went on to become one of the biggest recording artists in Thai showbiz, and made a number of movies. She died from lupus in 1992 at the age of 31.

You can hear some of her music at the MonrakPlengThai blog.

Making her big-screen debut as Pumpuang is Paowalee Pornpimon, a 19-year-old luk thung singer, who, like Pumpuang herself, is from Suphan Buri.

The director is Bandit Thongdee, who made his debut in 2002 with Mon Pleng Lukthung FM, a.k.a. Hoedown Showdown, a comedy about a music contest that featured an all-star roster of actual luk thung singers. Prachya Pinkaew is producing the release for Sahamongkolfilm International.

The Bangkok Post had a story about the movie on Sunday and yesterday. The Nation has one in today's paper.

And you can watch a trailer at YouTube.

It's rated 13+.

Also opening

Lourdes – A wheelchair-bound woman, mostly paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, makes a journey to the pilgrimage site in southwestern France's Pyrenees Mountains. Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner directs. A Golden Lion nominee at the 2009 Venice Film Festival and winner of many awards, critical reception is mostly positive. The consensus: "As bewitchingly ambiguous as it is beautifully shot, Lourdes explores profound themes with subtlety and a deft comic touch – and a marvelous performance from its star, Sylvie Testud." In French with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA.

Hanna – Saoirse Ronan is 16-year-old Hanna, raised from by her ex-CIA-agent father (Eric Bana) in the frozen wilds of Finland to be an assassin. Sent on a mission of revenge, she's tracked by a ruthless rival spy (Cate Blanchett). Tom Hollander and Olivia Williams also star. Joe Wright, who previously teamed with Ronan on Atonement, directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to favorable. "Fantastic acting and crisply choreographed action sequences propel this unique, cool take on the revenge thriller" is the consensus. Rated 13+.

Water for Elephants – A veterinary student (Robert Pattinson) is forced to abandon his studies and joins a traveling circus. There, he falls in love with the show's star performer (Reese Witherspoon) who happens to be the wife of the cruel animal trainer and circus owner (Christoph Waltz from Inglourious Basterds). Controversy has surrounded this film since an animal-rights group alleged that the movie's biggest star, an elephant named Tai, was abused during training. The trainer has denied the allegations and has said CGI was used in the depictions of cruelty. Adapted from a 2006 novel by Sara Gruen, this romantic drama is directed by Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend). Critical reception is mixed, the consensus being "it's a tale tastefully told and beautifully filmed, but ... suffers from a pronounced lack of chemistry." At Apex and SFW CentralWorld, SFX the Emporium and SFX Central Chaeng Wattana. Rated 15+.

Kites: The Remix – Hollywood's Brett Ratner produces this English-language release of the 2010 Bollywood hit starring Hrithik Roshan as a dance teacher in Las Vegas who marries immigrant women to get them green cards. He gets mixed up with a Mexican woman (Bárbara Mori) who's destined to marry a dangerous man. The original score is by Remix co-producer Rajesh Roshan, but Graeme Revell almost completely re-scored the film. Critical reception (presumably based on The Remix version) is mainly positive. At House on RCA.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – Three young guys put their friendships to the test on a road trip to Spain. Among their adventures is a musical number during the La Tomatina festival, which was recreated for the film using more than 16 tons of tomatoes. Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar and Katarina Kaif star. It screens at SFW CentralWorld Friday through Sunday at 8pm and at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai) on Monday at 8. Call (089) 488-2620 or look for the BollywoodThai ticket table in the cinema lobby.

Also showing

The King of the White Elephant (Phra Chao Chang Pheuak, พระเจ้าช้างเผือก) – Screening tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, this 1941 black-and-white historical epic is a rare film for at least a couple of reasons. First, it's one of the few Thai films made in English. And second it's one of the oldest surviving complete Thai features. Produced by statesman Pridi Banomyong, The King of the White Elephant was an anti-war propaganda piece in the months leading up to the Japanese invasion of Thailand. Not long after the film was released, Thailand was allied with Japan and Pridi had joined the Seri Thai resistance. With elephant battles and palace intrigue, as well as lots of humor, it's the story of a peace-loving king who finds himself having to go to war when his borders are attacked. The cast are all non-actors, students and faculty from Thammasat University, which Pridi founded. Though the 35mm prints were lost, a 16mm print was found in the U.S. Library of Congress and efforts were undertaken by the Thai Film Archive to make a restored 35mm print with the generous assistance of Kodak and Technicolor Asia. The restored film was presented at the 2007 Phuket Film Festival. The FCCT's screening (on DVD) will be introduced by the archive's deputy director, Chalida Uabumrungjit. And there will be a ranad (Thai xylophone) performance by Thaweesak Akarawong of the Office of Performing Arts. Pridi's daughter Dusdi Banomyong will be a special guest. Admission for non-members is 150 baht and 50 baht for anyone wanting to eat the Thai snacks. The show time is at 8pm on Thursday, July 21.

The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย, Poo Kor Karn Rai) – Controversial filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul's latest feature will screen in Thailand after all. With its mix of politics and penises, it would never be passed by censors for a commercial cinematic release, but it will be shown as part of an exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Dialogic exhibition at the BACC, which runs from today until September 25. The opening reception is at 6pm on Thursday, July 21. Thunska will have a video installation in Dialogic called KISS = ปี้, which looks at "farang-styled kisses" vs. "Thai-styled kisses", and, in the same vein as The Terrorists and his other recent features Reincarnate and the banned This Area is Under Quarantine, will comment on politics and history and the treatment of homosexuals and "terrorists" – folks on the fringes of Thai society. You can find out more about Thunska's work at the Dialogic website. Other artists taking part in Dialogic are writer Lom Penkaew, designer Pracha Suveeranon, visual artist Surasri Kusolwong, performance artist Pattarasuda Anuman Rajadhon, multimedia artists Mahasamut Bunyarak and Sedhawat Aoudha, architect Singh Intrachooto and singer Tul Waitulkiat of the rock band Apartment Khunpa. In the exhibition, the artists "interpret the cycle of birth, pain, and death and all that it entails, from eating to sleeping to having sex", according to an item in the Sunday Nation. The Terrorists, which premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival and is in competition this week at the New Horizons International Film Festival in Poland, screens at 3.30pm on Saturday, July 23 at the BACC. The screening venue is a corner of the BACC's eighth-floor gallery, on a bare white wall where there are a handful of beanbag chairs strewn around. If you want a seat, get there early. It's on the sidelines of Dialogic and is the opener of the Morbid Symptom screening series by Film Virus. See the DK Film House blog for the complete line-up.

Third Class Citizen 027: Spark With Electric Eels – In the latest installment of its ongoing screening series, the film-activist group Third Class Citizen offers a retrospective on the short films by young filmmakers Wasunan Hutawach and Wichanon Somumjarn who are part of Electric Eel Films, the production company started by Mundane History director Anocha Suwichakornpong. Shorts by Wasunan open the program: Small World (2008), Love Me Love My Dog (2010), This Way (2010), The Visitors (2011, done for Third Class Citizen's Postcard Cinema project) and A Railroad Engineer (2011). Her Love Me Love My Dog was featured at last year's World Film Festival of Bangkok. Wichanon's shorts are W.C. (2005), A Brighter Day (2007), the award-winning Four Boys, White Whiskey and Grilled Mouse (2009), All That Remains (2010) and a teaser for his upcoming feature Like Raining at the End of April, which was recently previewed at the Paris Project Screenings. The show time is at 4pm on Saturday, July 23, in the Eat@Double U Restaurant on the ninth floor of SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Admission is free.

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