Director ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula brings his penchant for lavish historical melodramas and lots of naked skin to the infamous erotic tale of Jan Dara, about a 1930s Siamese hi-so family in which sexual abuse and incest were the rule.
It's the third film of the 1966 novel by Utsana Phleungtham. It was previously adapted in 1977 but is mostly known today for its 2001 version by Nonzee Nimibutr.
Mom Noi is on a remake roll since his return to filmmaking after a 13-year hiatus with 2008's Chua Fah Din Salai – another erotic-novel adaptation that had been filmed before – and Umong Pha Muang (The Outrage), last year's Lanna-flavored "adaptation" of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon.
But, he insists Jan Dara is ripe for a remake and he dismisses critics who say otherwise.
With his sense for the breathtakingly theatrical, complete with elaborate costumes, stage-worthy performances and finely detailed old-time settings, Mom Noi greatly expands on previously filmed versions of the story, making this Jan Dara just a "chapter" – the first of two parts. What we'll see now covers Jan's tumultuous life from birth to age 17.
Love of Siam heartthrob Mario Maurer stars, playing young Jan, whose abusive father is a sex-addicted womanizer. Much of the story deals with Jan's first brushes with romance and his struggles to have a normal relationship with a girl his own age, in spite of the negative influences of his home life.
Curvy "Tak" Bongkot Kongmalai is Aunt Waad, who is the nurturing maternal figure in Jan's life since his own mother died. Singer Ratha "Yaya Ying" Po-ngam takes on the role of Khun Bunluang, the worldly seductress who moves into the household as Jan's father's minor wife. And, controversially, Japanese adult-video star Shou Nishino is cast has Khun Kaew, Jan's half-sister and major thorn in his side.
It's rated 18+.
On the Road – Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles, who previously directed the road-trip adventure of a young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries, takes another cross-country drive from another time with On the Road, adapted from the partly autobiographical novel by beat author Jack Kerouac, chronicling his youthful travels. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Sam Riley as Kerouac's alter-ego Sal Paradise. An aspiring New York writer, he sets out with his wild ex-con pal Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) on a road trip across 1940s America with their girlfriend Mary Lou (Kristen Stewart). Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss and Terrence Howard also star. It premiered in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival, but critical reception is somewhat tepid. It's at Apex Siam Square. Rated 18+.
Jesus Henry Christ – Toni Collette and Michael Sheen star in this offbeat comedy about a precocious boy (Jason Spevack) who was a test-tube baby. He discovers he has a half-sister and sets out to find his biological father. Directed by Dennis Lee and adapted from his Academy Award-winning student short film of the same name, it's executive produced by Julia Roberts. Critical reception is mixed. It's at Paragon and House on RCA. Rated 13+.
Painted Skin: The Resurrection – This sequel to the 2008 Chinese fantasy epic has the Fox Demon (Zhou Xun) released from her ice prison and again on the hunt for men's hearts to feed on in order to maintain her shape as a beautiful seductress. She meets up with a plucky scar-faced warrior princess ("Vicky" Zhao Wei) and the two get involved in a romantic triangle with the princess' former beau (Chen Kun). Critical reception is generally positive, and is probably a good bet if you're into these crazy Chinese fantasies. It's at SF cinemas with the Chinese soundtrack and English subtitles at some branches. Rated 13+.
R2B: Return to Base – In the wake of director Tony Scott's death, here's a South Korean Top Gun drama starring Rain as a hotshot air force fighter pilot. It's a remake of a 1963 Korean film, Red Muffler, a.k.a. Soar Close to the Sun. It's apparently Thai-dubbed and is at Major Cineplex. Rated 13+.
Joker – Akshay Kumar stars in this fantasy comedy about a man who returns to his home village to find it has dropped off the map, and while the world around it has changed, the village has remained the same for 60 years. Sonakshi Sinha and Chitrangda Singh also star. It's at Major Cineplex.