The classic tragic romance of the Bang Kapi countryside in the 1930s, Plae Kao (แผลเก่า, a.k.a. The Scar) is a story best known for its 1977 film version by Cherd Songsri, starring Sorapong Chatri as the farmboy Kwan who is hopelessly in love with the neighbor girl Riam (Nantana Ngaokrachang).
Although their families are bitter rivals in the village, Kwan persistently romances Riam by playing his wooden flute, and accompanies her for swims in the lotus pool and on long rides through the rice fields on the back of a water buffalo. But then Riam is sent away by her social-climbing father to Bangkok, where she is taken in by a wealthy woman. Promised the hand of a rising young politician, she becomes distant from Kwan.
There have been remakes and TV versions of the late Cherd's masterpiece, even though the idea of remaking his film ought to be akin to doing a remake of Citizen Kane – it is unnecessary and should never be attempted. Instead, why not organize frequent, easy-to-access revival screenings of the original Plae Kao and other classics of Thai cinema?
But no. Director ML Bhandevanov "Mom Noi" Devakula, the reigning king of Thai-film remakes, feels the need to put his own weird high-brow stamp on Plae Kao, which is adapted from a novel by Mai Muengderm. A drama coach who has schooled virtually every Thai actor on the screen today, Mom Noi made a string of lavish romantic drama films in the 1980s and '90s and then made his comeback as a film director in 2008 with Chua Fah Din Salai (Eternity), an erotic-novel adaptation that had been filmed before. He followed that up with Umong Pha Muang (a.k.a. The Outrage or At the Gate of the Ghost), a northern Thailand-flavored adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon. Last year, he did a two-part retelling of Jan Dara, another erotically charged piece of Thai literature. It had been made into a film just 10 years before.
With his new Plae Kao, Mom Noi aims to bring the old story to contemporary audiences with help from fresh-faced young half-Thai stars, Chaiyapol Julian Pupart from Jan Dara as Kwan and Davika Hoorne from Pee Mak Phra Khanong as Riam. The supporting cast is filled out by a host of youngsters from the reality-TV talent show The Star and a handful of veterans who've acted in Mom Noi productions before. Rated G.
Joe – Every once in awhile, Nicolas Cage takes a break from the over-the-top performances that make bad movies a little more tolerable, and reminds us he's still a fine actor who is capable of great work in great movies. Joe is one of those. It's directed by David Gordon Green, a director I admire in any genre. Pineapple Express or Eastbound and Down (or The Sitter) anyone? Or are you stuck on George Washington? The indie drama has Cage as an ex-con who becomes the unlikely role model for an abused teenage boy. The kid is played by Tye Sheridan, who previously earned critical raves in another backwoods American thriller, Mud. Winner of two awards at last year's Venice fest, including the Marcello Mastroianni best-actor gong for Sheridan, critical reception is generally favorable. It's at SF cinemas. Opens on Thursday.
22 Jump Street – The tongue-in-cheek big-screen reboot of the 1980s TV series 21 Jump Street barrels on. The premise involved young police officers recruited to do undercover anti-drugs work at a high school. Now they are in college. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill star as the mismatched buddy cops who proved to be a hilariously winning combination with the first film. Critical reception for the sequel is generally positive, with the consensus being it's the once-in-a-blue-moon sequel that improves upon the original. Rated 15+
Singham Returns – Anybody remember the 2011 Bollywood actioner Singham? I don't, but no matter, because he's back. Ajay Devgn stars as a straight-shooting, no-nonsense deputy police commissioner – an honest cop in a corrupt world. Kareena Kapoor also stars. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Opens Friday.
Silent Film Festival – There are just two nights left in the first Silent Film Festival in Thailand – The Water Magician at 8 tonight at the Lido and tomorrow's closing-film gala at the Scala with The Lodger. From 1933, Kenji Mizoguchi's The Water Magician centers on a young woman who is water juggler for a travelling theater troupe. A headstrong young woman, she taunts a carriage driver into driving faster and he loses his job. She falls for him and pledges to put him through law school, no matter what. Tickets are 100 baht. Alfred Hitchcock's murder thriller The Lodger, hailed as a masterpiece of the silent era, will feature accompaniment from Bangkok Opera maestros Trisdee Na Patalung and Somtow Sucharitkul. The show is at 8pm at the Scala; tickets are 500 baht. The Nation has stories today on the accompanists and early Hitchcock.
The Friese-Greene Club – Already covered in last week's entry, tomorrow night's question-and-answer session will have David Cluck talking about his experiences working as first assistant director on The Merry Gentleman, a 2008 drama that was the directorial debut of Michael Keaton. This Thursday's Asian horror offering is Confessions by Tetsuya Nakashima, in which a grieving mother plots revenge for her daughter's death. Friday's Alan Parker film has Mickey Rourke squaring off against a shadowy figure (Robert De Niro) in Angel Heart. Gaspar Noe's controversial Enter the Void is Saturday's "head trip", and on film noir Sunday, feast your eyes on one of cinema's greatest long takes (and Charlton Heston as a Mexican) with Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. Next Wednesday is another question-and-answer session, with Bangkok-based production designer Jim Newport sharing his thoughts about working on the 1987 cult-classic thriller The Stepfather. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. There's just nine seats, so book them. Also, check the Facebook page for updates and program changes. Please have a look at that other blog for a new video on the FGC.
As We Can See Here: A Tribute to Harun Farocki – German experimental filmmaker and video artist Harun Farocki died on July 30 in Berlin at age 70, leaving behind more than 100 films, mostly short documentaries that explored contemporary life and its various depredations – war, imprisonment, surveillance and capitalism. In tribute, the Reading Room and Filmvirus will present a selection of his films and host a talk. Here is the schedule:
Saturday, August 16
- 13:00 - As We Can See Here (or As You See), 1986, 72min
- 14:15 - Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, 1995, 36min
- 14:55 - Still Life, 1997, 58min
- 16:00 - Prison Images, 2000, 60min
- 17:00 - War at a Distance, 2003, 54min
- 18:00 - Nothing Ventured, 2004, 50min
- 13:00 - Images of the World and the Inscriptions of War, 1988, 75min
- 14:15 - How to Live in the German Federal Republic, 1990, 83min
- 15:40 - Respite, 2007, 40min
- 17:00 - Discussion: Keiko Sei and Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn
The Lives of Others – Writers are featured in this Sunday's Filmvirus double bill of biopics at Thammasat University Tha Prachan. With help from producers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull screenwriter Paul Schrader honors Japanese writer Yukio Mishima with Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. That's followed by Hamsun, with Max von Sydow as the Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian author who later was named a traitor for his support of Nazi Germany. The show starts at 12.30 on Sunday in the Pridi Banomyong Library at Thammasat University Tha Prachan, in the Rewat Buddhinan Room, floor U2, the basement. Dress appropriately and inform the desk worker you are there to see a movie. For details, call (02) 613-3529 or (02) 613-3530.
Alliance Française – Selections from last year's My French Film Festival in Bangkok are featured this month. Tomorrow's film, already covered last week is Une bouteille à la mer (A Bottle in the Gaza Sea). Next week, it's La désintégration about Arab boys living in Lille, France, who fall under the influence of a charismatic older Arab. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, August 20.
Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series explores cross-cultural struggles with The Namesake, a 2006 drama by Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair. Irrfan Khan and Tabu star as a Bengali couple who immigrate from Kolkata to New York and have children. Through a series of mishaps, their son is named Gogol, after the father's favorite Russian author. He (Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) grows up lazy and resentful, but through various struggles, travels and romantic entanglements, he learns to embrace his Indian heritage. Critical reception is generally positive. The show, courtesy of Mirabai Films and the Embassy of India, is at 7pm on Thursday, August 21 at the FCCT. Indian Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla will be on hand with Indian wines and treats from Mrs. Balbir's. Admission for non-members is 150 baht plus 100 baht for the wine and food.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Mired in fanboy controversies that are too tiresome to recount, producer Michael Bay's reboot of the 1980s character-licensing juggernaut recounts the origins of four pizza-chomping outcast brothers who rise up out of the sewers of New York to discover their destiny as crime-fighting superheroes. They join forces with a plucky TV reporter. She's former Transformers star Megan Fox, who made nice with Bay after she compared him to Hitler. They combat the supervillain martial-artist Shredder. Jonathan Liebesman, the South African helmer of Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans directs. Critical reception is mixed. In 3D (converted) in some cinemas, it's in nightly sneak previews at most multiplexes until it opens wide on August 21.
Except for Joe, most new movies are being released a couple days earlier this week to celebrate today's combined holidays of Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday and Mother's Day. The next update here will likely be on August 21, at which point I hope to have a few details about the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival, running from August 28 to September 7 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.