Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening November 21-27, 2013

World Film Festival of Bangkok

There are just four days left in the 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Today's highlights include The Isthmus, a interesting new Thai indie drama that ventures into the Myanmar migrant community. That's at 6.30. At 8.30, you have a choice between the steamy French gay romance Stranger By the Lake (it's Rated 20-!) or auteur Tsai Ming-Liang's reputed final film Stray Dogs. Stranger and Stray screen again tomorrow night, both at 9.

Other highlights tomorrow include Thai director Boonsong Nakphoo's Village of Hope at 3.20. A black-and-white rural ode, festival director Victor Silakong has praised it as the veteran helmer's most "auteurlike" effort yet.

Special attention is given to actress Jarunee Suksawat, this year's recipient of the festival's Lotus Award for lifetime achievement. She was at her height of fame in 1980 when she starred in Baan Sai Thong, an enduring drama about class conflict that's served as a template for all Thai TV soap operas. A box-office record-breaker in its day, it was quickly followed by a sequel, Pojjaman Sawangwong. Both are screening in the festival, with the sequel at 6 on Friday night and Baan Sai Thong at 3.30 on Saturday. The films are very melodramatic and dated, with laughably exaggerated acting and overly obvious exposition, but are well worth watching for their portrayal of the illusions created by wealth, power and high social standing. If anything, it's fun to watch Jarunee kick some hi-so butt.

Also Saturday, a true don't miss – Tabu – a breathtaking Portuguese romance that's shot in black-and-white. The bulk of the film is a tragi-comic flashback to colonial-era Africa of the 1960s, and except for a sad old man's voiceover as he recalls a torrid love affair, it is dialogue-free, with just a few sounds effects and atmospherics. Aside from a few lively rock songs, it's almost a silent film. It shows at 9pm.

The closing day on Sunday offers another chance to see the festival's opening film, The Rocket. Screening at 1pm, it's an honest-to-goodness feel-good family drama, about a little Lao boy's efforts to keep his family together through heartbreaking tragedies. It's won more than a dozen awards at festivals all over the world and is Australia's submission to the Academy Awards. Director Kim Mordaunt talks more about his film in an article in The Nation.

Other offerings on Sunday include the Indonesian coming-of-age romance What They Don't Talk About, They Talk About Love, which is set in a school for the visually impaired. I liked it just fine.

And the closing film (it's invite only, but you can try asking), is the Thai premiere of a new documentary by Boundary director Nontawat Numbenchapol, By the River, which covers the Klity Creek lead-mine spill and a Karen village that was left reeling as a legal case over the environmental devastation dragged on in Thai courts for more than a decade. It's already won awards and earned a rave review at the recent Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.

Also opening

The Counselor – Director Ridley Scott shifts tone yet again as he teams up with No Country for Old Men writer Cormac McCarthy. A pulpy, weird thriller, it's the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's first screenplay. Michael Fassbender stars as a respected lawyer whose life spirals out of control when he gets involved with a shady business deal. No Country baddie Javier Bardem has yet another crazy hairdo as the colorful drug kingpin. Other stars include Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt in a cowboy hat. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to negative, though there are positive views. Rated 18+

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The second film based on a trilogy of young-adult novels, this a cliff-hanging placeholder until we get to the two-part Mockingjay movies next year and in 2015. The story is set in a surreal post-apocalyptic North America where there are only the very rich or the very, very poor. From the poor districts, teenagers compete in a to-the-death reality-TV game that's designed to take everyone's mind off how miserable they are. Having won the 74th games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) embarks on a victory tour with her fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering. But the all-powerful Capital district and the president (Donald Sutherland) are still in control as preparations are made for the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell). Liam Hemsworth also stars along with Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) takes over as director from Gary Ross. Critical reception, so far, is mostly positive. Rated 15+

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein – Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor star in this Bollywood romance about a shallow guy who realizes too late that a relationship with his firebrand ex-girlfriend was the best thing that ever happened to him. It's at SF Cinema City Terminal 21. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Please check with the private cinema club's website and Facebook page before heading over, because sometimes there are last-minute schedule changes. It happened this week when a special program by Hollywood production designer Jim Newport was added, pre-empting yesterday's planned screening of This Is Spinal Tap. For now, it appears the schedule is back on track with William Friedkin's freak-out The Exorcist screening tonight, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's charmer Amelie on Friday, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir on Saturday and another early Hitchcock with 1940's Rebecca on Sunday. And, if the schedule holds together, it'll be Rob Reiner's The Sure Thing, maybe, next Wednesday. Keep your eyes open for when they might reschedule Spinal Tap. 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 bookings are highly recommended.

Hi-So (ไฮโซ)– In the run-up to next week's release of Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy, Pop Pictures' "rewind" continues at House cinema on RCA, with the studio's head, writer-director-producer Aditya Assarat, screening his sophomore feature effort. It's a partially autobiographical look at conflicted cultural identity among Thais who have spent time overseas and seem to belong neither here nor there. Ananda Everingham, the Lao-Australian leading man of many Thai movies, stars.

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