A singularly weird film, The Isthmus (ที่ว่างระหว่างสมุทร, Teewang Rawang Samut) opens for a limited run this week, more than a year after it made initial bow on the festival circuit.
Tapping into indie Thai cinema's popularity for "contemplative" or "shoegaze" films, the film's poster adds a new tagline for the Bangkok theatrical run, "A celebration of nothingness."
Directed by a pair of university film-studies lecturers, Sopawan Boonnimitra and Peerachai Kerdsint, The Isthmus deals with a little girl who suddenly starts speaking only Burmese after her Myanmar nanny dies. The girl's hi-so single mother (Sangthong Gate-U-thong from Citizen Dog and Muay Thai Chaiya) is desperate to find out what's wrong, so she takes the girl and journeys to Ranong, the coastal border province that's home to the late nanny's sister and a vast community of Mynamar migrants. There, they encounter various other characters, such a local physician and community activist, and an oddball Japanese priest.
Screened at the 2013 edition of the Busan film festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok, The Isthmus is a strange film and is difficult to sum up, though it is a worthy attempt to address the issues of Myanmar migrants and show their place in society. It's at House on RCA and at Apex in Siam Square.
Blackhat – Celebrated director Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral) makes his return with this globe-trotting high-tech crime thriller. Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker who cuts a deal with the authorities to be freed from prison so he pursue a network of cyber-criminals in a hunt that takes him from Chicago to Los Angeles and Hong Kong to Jakarta. Viola Davis also stars, along with top Taiwanese talents Tang Wei and Wang Leehom. Critical reception is forthcoming. Rated 15+
Into the Woods – A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are cursed with childlessness by a witch (Meryl Streep). So they venture into an enchanted forest to find a way to break the spell and encounter various fairy-tale characters who are searching for their own happy endings. Based on the hit 1980s Broadway musical by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim, there are plenty of songs and dancing along the way. Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp also star. A nominee for three Golden Globe Awards (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, best actress for Emily Blunt, best supporting for Meryl Streep), critical reception is leaning to positive. Rated G
The Water Diviner – Russell Crowe directs and stars in this historical drama as an Australian farmer whose three sons go off to war in Turkey. When they fail to return after the Battle of Gallipoli, he heads to Turkey himself. In Istanbul, he forms a bond with a hotel owner (Olga Kurylenko) while trying to find a way to get to Gallipolli. Critical reception is mostly positive. Rated 15+
Home (a.k.a. At the Devil’s Door) – As she's preparing a house for sale, a real-estate agent encounters a young runaway girl and then becomes entangled with a supernatural force. An indie horror, it premiered at last year's South by Southwest festival and is directed by Nicholas McCarthy, who earlier did the indie horror The Pact. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+
Laggies – Keira Knightly stars in this indie coming-of-age comedy as a 28-year-old slacker woman. At her 10-year high-school reunion, she panics after her long-time boyfriend suddenly proposes marriage. She then crosses paths with a 16-year-old girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), buys her beer and feels a kinship. Sam Rockwell also stars. Lynn Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister's Sister) directs. Laggies premiered at Sundance last year. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 15+
Wolves – A popular high-school student (Lucas Till) awakens from a horrific nightmare, only to realize that he’s living it. Forced into a life on the run, he is drawn to a remote mountain town where he discovers others like him. Jason Momoa and Merritt Patterson also star. David Hayter, screenwriter on Watchmen and X-Men 2, directs, making his feature debut. Critics are howling. Rated 15+
Tevar – A young man goes to factionalism-hit part of the country to participate in a kabaddi match, but ends up being drawn into a conflict over a young woman and the dangerous faction leader who seeks to marry her. Arjun Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha and Manoj Bajpai star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Central Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.
The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, it's a masterpiece of Spanish cinema with Spirit of the Beehive, a 1973 drama by Victor Erice, it's been described as the "bewitching portrait of a child’s haunted inner life". Tomorrow's documentary is The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, a 2009 portrait of a family of redneck career criminals. Saturday's "strange future" is Woody Allen's Sleeper, while Sunday's Doris Day movie is Calamity Jane. Next Wednesday's documentary is Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page. There's just nine seats, so book them.
Filmvirus Kawaii Luv Luv – Up first in the Sunday double-bill of Japanese romantic dramas is Permanent Nobara from 2010. Directed by Daihachi Yoshida, it follows a young divorced woman back to her small hometown, where she takes up work in her mother's hair salon, where the women spend their days talking about men and relatinships. Next is 1995's A Last Note, about a group of ageing actresses and their friends and their reflections on life. 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.
Polish Film Festival – Six recent examples of Poland’s celebrated cinema will be shown in the Polish Film Festival from Sunday until Thursday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Organized by the Polish Filmmakers Association, the Polish Film Institute and the Embassy of Poland, here is the lineup:
- Ida – Poland's official submission to the Academy Awards, the black-and-white drama is set in the 1960s and follows a young woman as she's about to take her vows as a Catholic nun. She takes trip to see the last surviving member of her family, and uncovers dark secrets about World War II and the Nazis. Screens at 6pm on Sunday with q-and-a by producer Ewa Puszczynska and 9pm on Wednesday.
- Walesa: Man of Hope – Veteran filmmaker Andrzej Wajda directs this acclaimed biopic about the Nobel Prize-winning founder of the Solidarity Movement, which spearheaded the Polish revolution. Screens at 8pm on Sunday and 9pm on Tuesday.
- One Way Ticket to the Moon – It's 1969 and a young man is about to enter the submarine service in the Polish Navy. Before he goes, his older brother decides to take him on a trip across the country to meet friends and relatives – and for the young man to lose his virginity. Screens at 7pm on Monday with q-and-a by director Jacek Bromski and 9pm next Thursday.
- Fanciful – After the death of her mother, a 15-year-old girl falls ill with a strange disease, and her previously distant father enters her life and tries to re-establish a connection. Meanwhile, the girl’s fight against illness presents a tough test for the family. Screens at 9pm on Monday and 7pm next Thursday with q-and-a by producer Eryk Stepniewski.
- Gods – Another biopic, this one follows the efforts of Dr Zbigniew Religa, a maverick cardiac surgeon who led a team of doctors in Poland’s first human heart transplant. Screens at 7pm on Wednesday with q-and-a by director Lukasz Palkowski.
- Life Feels Good – A young man grows up with cerebral palsy against the backdrop of major changes in Polish society during the 1980s and '90s. Screens at 7pm on Tuesday.
All films have English and Thai subtitles. Tickets are Bt120.
German Open Air Cinema – The fact-based story of a Swiss policeman who helped German and Austrian Jews escape the Nazis during the late 1930s is depicted in Akte Grüninger (Grüninger's Fall). It screens at 7.30pm on Tuesday, January 20, at the Goethe-Institut of Sathorn Soi 1.
Alliance Française – A woman struggles to balance her job as a journalist with raising her two young daughters, just as the president election arrives in her town and her ex-husband shows up for his court-appointed visit with the kids. It's La Bataille de Solférino (Age of Panic), in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, January 21 at the Alliance.