The 11th edition of World Film Festival of Bangkok opens tomorrow night at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with the Thai premiere of The Rocket, an Australian-made Lao-Isaan family drama that's been an award-winning crowd-pleaser at many other festivals. Australia has submitted it to the Oscars. It's an invitation-only affair but the film will screen one other time during the festival.
Running through November 24, the festival opens to the rest of us on Saturday, with 12 movies screening in three cinemas from 1pm until around 8 daily.
There are many, many highlights. Festival director Victor Silakong outlines his personal favorites in an article in The Nation. And the Thai highlights, including The Isthmus, Mother and Village of Hope, are profiled in another Nation article.
I like to see as many Southeast Asian films as a I can, because they will be hard to find otherwise.
There's also a healthy selection of South American and Mexican films. Just show up whenever you can and dive right in. Grab the schedule at the festival website.
Ain't Them Bodies Saints – Channeling the spirit of the New Hollywood directors of the 1970s, like Terrence Malick (Badlands) or Robert Altman (Thieves Like Us), this is set against the backdrop of 1970s rural Texas and follows three characters on various sides of the law – a fugitive (Casey Affleck), his wife (Rooney Mara) and a sheriff (Ben Foster) who's caught between them. The '70s vibe is completed with the era's indie film stalwart Keith Carradine (Nashville, Thieves Like Us) in the cast. It's the second feature from writer-director David Lowery and was developed at the Sundance Institute's Writing and Producing Labs. It premiered at this year's Sundance Festival and won the U.S. Dramatic Cinematography Award. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at Apex in Siam Square.
Lovelace – Amanda Seyfried portrays the star of Deep Throat in this biographical drama. It first shows her rise to fame as she embraces her role as an icon of sexual liberation. But that story runs counter to the dark truth – that she suffered from physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her hustler husband (Peter Sarsgaard), who forced her into the porn industry. Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick also star, playing Lovelace's parents from her strict, religious upbringing. Critical reception is mixed. It's at SF cinemas. Rated 18+
Malavita – Mixed reviews greeted the U.S. release of this crime comedy a couple of months ago when it was known as The Family, despite the involvement of Martin Scorsese as executive producer and his frequent collaborator Robert De Niro heading the cast. Released here under its original title, director Luc Besson aims for a Goodfellas vibe with this story of a mob boss (De Niro) who enters the witness protection program and is relocated with his family to a sleepy town in France. Despite the best efforts of an FBI agent (Tommy Lee Jones) to keep them in line, the mobster, his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their kids revert to their old habits and soon their former mafia cronies come gunning for them. Rated 15+
Pee-Kao-Pee-Ook (ผีเข้า ผีออก, a.k.a. Possessed) – Pakpoom Wongjinda (VDO Clip) directs this indie horror comedy about student filmmakers working on their project in a Chinese cemetery. But fantasy becomes reality when they shoot their film on the night of the hungry ghost festival and spirits possess them. Rated 15+
TAP: Perfect Education – The latest in a long-running series of "abduction" films from Japan, TAP has a middle-aged Okinawa gangster who loves flowers and tap dancing who abducts the teenage daughter of a yakuza brother’s mistress. A physical relationship develops and as their love deepens a war between the yakuza gang and their enemies gets out of control. In Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at House. Rated 18+
Grown Ups 2 – What did we do to deserve this? Adam Sandler makes a sequel to his lowbrow 2010 family comedy, cashing a check with his pals Kevin James, David Spade and Chris Rock. The eternal man-child moves back to his hometown to be with this high-school friends and their children and gets up to all kinds of gross misadventures. Critical reception is overwhelmingly negative. There's much better things to see this week. Rated 15+
Ram-Leela – Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone star in this fantastic Romeo and Juliet story of star-crossed lovers from families that have been sworn enemies for the past 500 years. At Major Cineplex. Opens Friday.
The Friese-Greene Club – The private cinema club returns to its regular programming with "disturbing" films on Thursdays. This week's entry is 1989's Parents, about a boy in 1950s suburbia wondering what he's really eating. It's an oddball directorial effort by Bob Balaban, who's better known for his understated turns as a character actor. Friday is more disturbing stuff, with Jean Pierre-Jeunet's 1991 black comedy Delicatessen. Saturday's feature ghostly love stories, and this week it's Truly Madly Deeply. And Sunday brings another early Hitchcock – 1938's The Lady Vanishes. Shows start at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so please check the website to make bookings.
Eternity (ที่รัก, Tee-Rak) – Indie production company Pop Pictures continues its "rewind" at House on RCA with a special one-week engagement of 2010's Eternity. The award-winning feature debut of Sivaroj Kongsakul, the partly autobiographical effort is a heartfelt tribute to his late father. The spiritual love story features a ghost dad haunting the land of his youth, and he recalls when he was courting the woman who would become his wife. It's all a run-up to the November 28 release of Pop Pictures' latest feature, Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy, a movie based on 410 entries from a high-school girl's Twitter feed.
The Buddha's Forgotten Nuns – Though female monks are permitted in other Buddhist orders, that's not the case in Thailand, where the monastic ranks are limited to men only. This documentary looks at the sexism. It screens at 8 tonight at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, followed by a question-and-answer session. Admission for non-members is 150 baht. On Monday night, there's another documentary at the FCCT, Madiba, The Life and Times of Nelson Mandela.
House on RCA will be closed on Sunday, November 17, for a private event. Regular showtimes resume on Monday.