Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening March 20-26, 2014

The Teacher's Diary (Khid Thueng Wittaya)

A washed-up wrestler with a broken arm (Sukrit “Bie" Wisetkaew) takes a job as a teacher at a rural school on a houseboat and finds himself feeling lonely after he's cut off from such modern conveniences as 24-hour electricity, smartphones and the Internet. His only solace is the diary of his predecessor (Chermarn “Ploy” Boonyasak), who writes of similar feelings. When she returns to her post, she finds the young man has also written in the diary.

That's the story of The Teacher’s Diary (คิดถึงวิทยา, Khid Thueng Wittaya), a comedy-drama about a romance between two people who have never met. Directed by Nithiwat Tharatorn, it's the first release this year by the major Thai studio GTH, which last year shattered box-office records with the ghost comedy Pee Mak.

The male lead, popular soap star Bie Sukrit is making his feature-film debut (he's also preparing for a Broadway role), while the female lead, Ploy Chermarn, is a still-young actress whose credits go back to her teens, and include such films as the Buppa Rahtree ghost franchise, the romantic drama Chua Fah Din Salai and 2011's Rashomon remake The Outrage.

Director Nithiwat was among six young directors who got their big break with the 2003 hit childhood romance tale Fan Chan – the film that basically built the GTH studio and set the template for all GTH movies – youth-oriented, sentimental tales with high production values and loads of commercial appeal. Nithiwat's other features include the 2006 teen romantic drama Season's Change and 2009's coming-of-age travel tale Dear Galileo.

You can read more about the movie in an article in The Nation. Rated G

Also opening

Divergent – Another week brings yet another movie ripped from the pages of young-adult novels. Aiming for the types of fans who flocked to movie versions of Twilight and The Hunger Games, Divergent is about a future society that's been broken up into "factions" according to temperament and values. At age 16, you have to choose one. But one young woman, Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley from The Descendants), learns she’s “divergent” and won’t fit in to any faction. She discovers a plot to destroy the misfits, and with a mysterious guy named Four (Theo James), she seeks to find out what makes “divergents” dangerous before it’s too late. Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet are among the co-stars. Directed by Neil Burger (Limitless), it's based on a young-adult trilogy by first-time novelist Veronica Roth. Critical reception is threadbare, but is so far giving this a collective eyeroll. Rated 15+

Queen – Kangana Ranaut is a young woman from a traditional Punjabi family in Delhi. She sets out on a life-changing solo honeymoon to Paris after her marriage is called off. In Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The late Philip Seymour Hoffman is in one of his creepier roles tonight in Doubt, squaring off against Meryl Streep in the tale of a priest suspected of preying on girls at a Catholic school. Tomorrow, the "perspectives of war" are from Poland with 1957's Kanal by Andrzej Wajda, the first film about the Warsaw Uprising. Saturday, get ready for a workout alongside Sylvester Stallone in his Oscar-winning triumph, 1976's Rocky. Sunday, Errol Flynn hits the bullseye in one of his signature roles, 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood, directed by Michael Curtiz. Shows start at 8. 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 reservations are a must. There are sometimes additions in the schedule, especially on Tuesday request days and Wednesdays, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Alliance Française – In addition to its usual free French films on Wednesdays, the Alliance Française de Bangkok this week has a special film event on Saturday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the publication of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's beloved children's book The Little Prince. It starts at 10am with a screening of Hollywood's 1974 Lerner and Loewe adaptation by Stanley Donen (apparently dubbed in French with no subtitles). Then at 6.30 on Saturday, there will be a screening of the 1994 documentary Saint-Exupéry: La Dernière Mission (also with no subtitles), in which the writer-artists life is presented in flashbacks that cover his other career as a pilot. At 7pm on Wednesday (with English subtitles as usual), it's 17 Filles (17 Girls), a fact-based 2011 drama about 17 teen girls who make a pact to get pregnant at the same time. The Alliance Française de Bangkok is at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless roads, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Salaya International Documentary Film Festival – The fourth Salaya Doc opens at 1pm on Saturday at the Thai Film Archive with At Berkeley, a four-hour examination of one of America's top research universities by one of the world's top documentary filmmakers, Frederick Wiseman. Other highlights include the Asean Documentary Competition, with all seven entries screening on Sunday at the Film Archive. The fest adds the Bangkok Art and Culture Center as a venue from Tuesday until March 28 (plus Doc Day on March 30), with screenings starting most days at 5.30. The sked includes Japanese Campaign material from Kazuhiro Soda and a UK film package. All are worth checking out! The schedule can be found by hitting this link. For more details, see the festival's Facebook page.

German Film Weekends – The award-winning Barbara screens on Saturday as the Goethe-Institut's series continues. Set in East Germany in the 1980s, it's about a young East Berlin doctor (Nina Hoss) who wants to leave East Germany but is assigned to a rural clinic. She bides her time while she waits for a chance to defect. Directed by Christian Petzold, it won the Silver Bear at the Berlin fest in 2012. On Sunday it's Cracks in the Shell, in which a drama student has mind games played on her by a professor. He tells her she's invisible, just before she has a major audition. The shows are at 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays until March 30 at the Esplanade Cineplex Ratchadaphisek. Check the website for details on tickets.

Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice – The Bangkok Art and Culture Center's Cinema Diverse series was relaunched last November with Director's Choice, lining up five prominent Thai filmmakers to choose a favorite foreign film and then talk about it. It opened with Kongdej Jaturanrasmee (Tang Wong) presenting Charlie Kaufman's mind-bending directorial debut Synecdoche, New York. After having an event hosted by Tanwarin Sukhapisit (Threesome) postponed in January, this Saturday it's the turn of Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Headshot, Last Life in the Universe), who will screen the much-acclaimed 2009 Sri Lankan drama Between Two Worlds. "The first shot of Between Two Worlds is a long shot of an empty ocean, just sea and sky. We watch this empty shot for what seems like an eternity, then a tiny figure falls from the sky into the ocean. The film becomes more and more entertaining as it switches between surrealism and fable... it's magical, funny, thought-provoking and absolutely unforgettable,” Pen-ek says. As an added treat, the film's director, Vimukthi Jayasundara, will also be present to chat about the film with Pen-ek. The film will have English and Thai subtitles and the talk will be translated in both English and Thai. Vimukthi will present a masterclass to registered participants at Bangkok University on Monday. Other entries in the Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series has Nonzee Nimiutr showing the South Korean western The Good, the Bad, the Weird on May 17, Jira Maligool with the 2011 Czech film Autumn Spring on July 19 and Tanwarin closing out the series on September 20 with Himizu from Japan. The screening is at 6pm with registration opening at 4.30pm at the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium.

Film Virus Double Bill – "Cinema politics" enters the picture on this Sunday with Silent Wedding (2008, Horatiu Malale, Romania) and After the Battle (2012, Yousry Nasrallah, Egypt). The show starts at 12.30pm. The venue is the Rewat Buddhinan Room in the basement of the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University, Tha Prachan. You'll need to show your I.D. and have it scanned to gain entry. The get there by ferry, take the Chao Praya River Express to Wang Lang (Siriraj) pier and then transfer to a ferry heading to Tha Prachan or Wat Mahathat piers.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Hot off its much-buzzed-about nomination for this year's Academy Awards and win at Britain's BAFTAs, The Act of Killing will screen at 7pm on Wednesday, March 26 at the FCCT. Director Joshua Oppenheimer will be there for a talk afterward. The widely acclaimed documentary covers the deeds of the anti-communist death squads in Indonesia in the 1960s. Largely unheard of outside the country, the former militiamen went unpunished and are living out their lives. Rounded up by the filmmakers, they were encouraged to re-enact their killings in various colorful ways – as westerns or gangster movies, even as a big musical spectacle, complete with one of the killers as a diva drag queen. Non-members have to pay 350 baht plus 350 baht more for members and non-members who want the buffet. Reservations are recommended. See the FCCT website for details.

Take note

Although there's not much in the way of new films opening this week, there is an overwhelming number of special events. It was a lot of work to get all this information together. But I probably still missed something. If you're reading this right now and you run a regular film event in Bangkok but I didn't mention you, I'd like to hear about it. Hit the contact link at the top of the blog for my e-mail.

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