Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening July 9-14, 2015

Y/our Music

Urban and city beats blend in the tuneful documentary Y/our Music, which finally comes to Bangkok cinemas after a spin on the festival circuit.

I've seen it twice, and it kept my toes tapping both times. Directed by David Reeve and Waraluck “Art” Hiransrettawat Every, Y/our Music is a bifurcated look at Thailand's social divide through the benignly harmonious prism of music.

In Bangkok, there's an esoteric blend of city folk, playing Western-influenced folk, jazz and rock, while in the countryside, there are National Artists, performing the traditional Isaan country-folk music of mor lam, on traditional instruments, such as the electric pin (Isaan banjo) and the khaen (Isaan reed pipe).

It's those Isaan sounds that mostly come through, thanks to ever-present transistor radios in market stalls, taxi-cab stereos, masked street performers and, eventually, the Northeastern legends themselves.

Here are the performers:

  • Wiboon Tangyernyong – A Khao San-area optician who developed a worldwide following as a maker of bamboo saxophones.
  • Sweet Nuj – Young musician and indie record label entrepreneur Bun Suwannochin formed a duo with his singer mother-in-law Worranuj Kanakakorn, and they sell their discs online.
  • Happy Band – Following the tradition of The Who, Velvet Underground and Talking Heads, some Bangkok artists thought it'd be a swell idea to create a rock band as an art project. Eventually, they learned to be musicians.
  • Captain Prasert Keawpukdee – A gentleman who sells used violins and Buddha amulets at Chatuchak market, he hosts old-timey fiddle jam sessions on weekends.
  • Nattapol Seangsukon – Otherwise known as DJ Maftsai, he is a DJ who collects old mor lam, luk thung, string and Thai funk, and is the glue that holds this all together.
  • Chaweewan Phanthu – National Artist singer and academic.
  • Chalardnoi Songserm – National Artist singer.
  • Thongsai Thabthanon – Phin master. "Borrowed" telephone wire from American GIs to string up his Isaan banjo and play with rock bands.
  • Sombat Simlhar – A blind virtuoso of the khaen, the Isaan bamboo reed pipe. He lost his sight in early childhood and turned to music, becoming a major recording artist and performer who is still much sought-after.

Critical reception is pretty great. Y/our Music screens at 6.45 nightly until July 22 at the Lido in Siam Square. Rated G

Also opening

Magic Mike XXL – Before he blew up big with such movies as 21 Jump Street, Foxcatcher and White House Down, dancer and actor Channing Tatum worked for about eight months as a stripper, and it was his early-career exploits that inspired the 2012 sleeper hit Magic Mike, which was directed by Steven Soderbergh and was widely acclaimed. So of course there's a sequel, with Tatum's Mike rounding up most of the six-pack-rocking crew from the first film, including Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez and Gabriel Iglesias. The story is set three years later, after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game. They get back together for a last hurrah, hitting the road for a tour from Florida to South Carolina. Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Amber Heard, Andie MacDowell, Jada Pinkett Smith and Michael Strahan join the cast this time around. Gregory Jacobs, a first assistant director and producer on many of Soderbergh's films, takes over as director. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive, making XXL not as well received as the first Magic Mike but probably still magical enough for the fans. Rated 15+

Minions – The gibberish-spewing little yellow characters from Illumination Entertainment's animated Despicable Me franchise come front and center in their own movie, with a story that explains their origins, in which the devoted henchmen quested for centuries to find a master to serve. Their latest is female supervillain Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who tasks them with breaking into the Tower of London to steal the queen's jewels. If you listen closely, you might hear a bit of Bahasa Indonesian sprinkled throughout the nonsensical utterings of the Minions. That's thanks to co-director Pierre Coffin, the son of a French diplomat dad and an Indonesian novelist mum. The overstuffed voice cast also includes Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Geoffrey Rush and Jennifer Saunders. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated G

Danny Collins – Al Pacino stars in this fact-based musical drama about an ageing 1970s rock musician who is inspired to change his hard-living ways after he receives a letter of encouragement from John Lennon, delivered 40 years late. Nine of Lennon's songs were licensed for the film, which is very loosely based on the life of English folksinger Steve Tilston. Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer also star. It's written and directed by Dan Fogelman, screenwriter on such films as Last Vegas and The Guilt Trip. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 18+

F. Hilaire (ฟ.ฮีแลร์) – The writer of the widely used "Darun Suksa" Thai-language textbook was not Thai at all: he was a French Roman Catholic missionary and schoolteacher. Brother Hilaire was one of the key educators behind Thailand's Assumption College and taught many of the statesmen who would lead the Kingdom into the modern era. His story is recalled with help from a present-day scholar (Pharunyoo "Tac" Rojanawuttitham) who is looking for a new angle as he tries to write a thesis. Jason Young portrays the bearded clergyman teacher. Rated 13+

The Scar International Version – Dramatist ML Bhandevanop "Mom Noi" Devakula's adaptation of the classic tragic romance Plae Kao (แผลเก่า) is back in cinemas for one week as The Scar International Version. Adding 40 minutes of further exposition, the longer director's cut premiered at last month's Thai Film Festival in London. Adapted from a novel by Mai Muengderm, The Scar is set in the Bang Kapi countryside of the 1930s, where poor farm boy Kwan is hopelessly in love with Riam, the daughter of a wealthier farming family. The star-crossed romance has been adapted for film and TV many times before, including a beloved 1977 film version by Cherd Songsri. Mom Noi's take stars Chaiyapol Julian Pupart from Mom Noi's Jan Dara remake as Kwan and Davika Hoorne from Pee Mak Phra Khanong as Riam. It's playing at House on RCA.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – A black-clad gunfighter rides the Old West in search of enlightenment in tonight's cult-classic "midnight movie" El Topo by avant-gard auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky. Tomorrow's "precocious girl" is Natalie Portman, making her motion-picture debut as a pint-sized assassin in Léon: The Professional, starring Jean Reno and a very shouty Gary Oldman. Saturday night's "bad kids" movie is Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale, which has inspired such films as Kill Bill and The Hunger Games. Sunday has another imaginary friend in the deeply unsettling Donnie Darko. And next Wednesday, it's South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, in which all the world's ills are blamed on Canada. Shows are at 8pm. The FGC is down an alley next to the under-renovation Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. For more details, check the club's Facebook page.

European Union Film Festival – The long-running annual EU fest gets underway tomorrow night at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld with Girlhood, a French coming-of-age drama about a black 16-year-old who joins an all-female street gang. Saturday has the Czech sports drama Fair Play and the German post-World War II thriller Phoenix. Sunday has entries from Luxembourg (the Oscar-winning animated short Mr. Hublot and the death-row tale Dead Man Talking). Other entries are the Swedish documentary Trespassing Bergman, the Danish psychological drama The Hour of the Lynx and the Finnish crime yarn Concrete Night. Tickets are 120 baht at the box office. You can also book through the SF app and the website. For showtimes and other details, please check my earlier post.

According to Marguerite Duras Project – Born in French-colonial-era Saigon in 1914, author Marguerite Duras wrote steamy novels that reflected on her affairs and the expat experience. Her works have been adapted many times for films that highlight her cross-cultural romances. She also directed many films herself and wrote screenplays. This month, Thong Lor Art Space is screening some of those movies as part of the According to Marguerite Duras Project. With screenings at 7.30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, next week's show is 1975's India Song. Delphine Seyrig stars as a twice-married French socialite in Calcutta, where she takes lovers to relieve the boredom. Other offerings will be 1969's Détruire dit-elle on July 21 and 22 and 1959's Hiroshima Mon Amour, directed by Alain Resnais, on July 28 and 29. All will have English and Thai subtitles. In addition to the films, which are free, the project is also staging a play. An Epilogue to the Malady of Death will be performed at 7.30pm on Thursday and Friday and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday until August 1. For details, check the Thong Lor Art Space Facebook page or the Facebook events page.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Burmese human-rights activist Aung Myo Min is profiled in the documentary This Kind of Love, screening next Wednesday. Directed by Jeanne Hallacy, it premiered at last month's Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon. The 45-minute doc follows Aung Myo Min's return to Burma after 24 years in exile, and highlights his vision of human rights for everyone, especially GLBT folk. You can read more about the film and Aung Myo Min in stories from The Nation. Hallacy will take part in a panel talk, with Aung Myo Min calling in on Skype. Entry for non-members is 350 baht. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, July 15 at the FCCT.

Alliance Française – A poor theater actor who has left his wife to take up with his new love – a struggling actress – tries to make that relationship work in La jalousie, directed by Philippe Garrel, and starring Louis Garrel, Anna Mouglalis and Rebecca Convenant. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 15, at the Alliance.

Take note

Upcoming is the next entry in the Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice series at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, on July 25, where Concrete Clouds director Lee Chatametikool picks How to Disappear Completely, an award-winning 2013 drama by Raya Martin, one of the leading directors of the Philippines indie film scene. Martin and actress Ness Roque are expected to take part.

Ongoing events include the Short Film Marathon, in which all 500 or so entries in next month's 19th Short Film and Video Festival are screened until August 2. Shows are from 11am to 8.30pm on Saturday and Sunday and 4.30pm to 8.30 Tuesday to Friday in the FA Cinematheque on the second floor of the BACC.

Also, if you still haven't seen the Documentary Club's latest offering The Wolfpack, it looks likely it will be around for another week or so. A weekend screening I attended was more than half full, and more showtimes were being added.  For details, check their Facebook page or SF Cinema City for details.

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