Having honed his craft making award-winning short films and independent features and writing commercial screenplays, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit makes his much-hyped mainstream studio debut with Freelance Ham Puay Ham Phak Ham Rak More (ฟรีแลนซ์.. ห้ามป่วย ห้ามพัก ห้ามรักหมอ, a.k.a. Heart Attack).
A romantic comedy, it's about a stressed-out graphic designer who comes down with a skin rash and falls in love with the attractive female doctor who's treating him. The story, written by Nawapol, is loosely based on his own experiences as a struggling, stressed-out "freelance" filmmaker.
Freelance follows his much-acclaimed indie features, the low-budget experimental romance 36, the more-ambitious and more-overtly quirky Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy and the pirate-video documentary The Master.
Released by GTH, Thailand's most-successful movie studio, everything about Freelance is calculated to fill the multiplexes.
By his lonesome, Nawapol proved to be a one-man publicity juggernaut, putting buns in seats for his indie efforts solely through posts on Twitter and Facebook. Now he has the might of GTH's marketing machine behind him – the same machine that cranked out the box-office record breaker Pee Mak in 2013 and last year's No. 1 movie I Fine Thank You Love You.
Further interest in Freelance is guaranteed by the film's bankable stars, leading man Sunny Suwanmethanon from I Fine and Davika Hoorne from Pee Mak
Of course it also helps that Nawapol has actually been part of the GTH family for several years, having had a hand in the screenplay to the 2009 box-office smash Bangkok Traffic Love Story and writing 2011's entertaining young entrepreneur biopic Top Secret.
You can read more about Freelance in an article in The Nation. Owing to Nawapol's indie roots, Freelance is being screened at the indie theaters, Scala/Lido and House, which is unusual because those theaters rarely host first-run mainstream Thai commercial films. Rated 13+
The Transporter Refueled – French producer Luc Besson reboots his automotive action franchise, with newcomer actor-musician Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones) suiting up for the role made famous by Jason Statham. It's the same set-up as always – he's an excellent driver with a mysterious past who takes delivery jobs for criminals while adhering to a strict set of rules. This time around, he tangles with a trio of female assassins (Loan Chabanol, Gabriella Wright, Tatiana Pajkovic) who kidnap his father (Ray Stevenson). It's directed by Camille Delamarre, who previously was film editor on Transporter 3 and Taken 2 and made his feature directorial debut with Brick Mansions, the Paul Walker vehicle that was a remake of the Besson-produced action flick Banlieue 13. Critical reception is just getting revved up. Rated 15+
So Very Very (จริงๆ มากๆ, Jing Jing Mak Mak) – In this indie South Korean romantic comedy, aspiring filmmaker Sung-hoon (Oh Chang-kyung) falls for a Thai lady named Pan (Cho Ha-young), and the two get married and set out to have a happy life in South Korea. Instead, their relationship is like a Korean soap opera, as Pan soon wearies of struggling with a husband who can only land minor jobs in TV and films, so she decides to return to Thailand. Directed by Park Jae-wook, it's in Korean with Thai (and English!) subtitles at House on RCA. Rated 15+
Welcome Back – This sequel to the 2007 Bollywood action-comedy Welcome has the characters played by Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor and Paresh Rawal putting their criminal pasts behind them as they have become big businessmen. Conflict and hijinks ensue as everyone is under pressure to get married and start families. John Abraham and Shruti Haasan join the cast for this new song-and-dance romp. Anees Bazmee (Singh is Kinng) directs. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit and Rama III. Opens Friday.
The Friese-Greene Club – Horror-meister Wes Craven, who died on August 30 at the age of 76, is paid tribute this month, with a slate of some of his best-known films on Tuesdays. Next week is his 1984 classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street, which introduced the very scary steel-clawed dream invader Freddy Krueger to the world, and features an early appearance by Johnny Depp. Other features this month are "not the usual sci-fi" on Wednesdays, first features on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and the films of Douglas Sirk on Sundays. Tonight, it's indie American director Noah Baumbach's 1995 debut Kicking and Screaming (not to be confused with the Will Ferrell soccer comedy). Steven Spielberg's white-knuckle 1971 debut Duel, starring Dennis Weaver and a Peterbilt truck, screens tomorrow. And Alejandro González Iñárritu's eye-popping first feature, Amores Perros, is on Saturday. Even after last year's astonishing Birdman, it's still his best film. Jane Wyman and a raw young Rock Hudson star in Sirk's 1954 romantic drama Magnificent Obsession on Sunday. And next Wednesday's offbeat sci-fi offering is Shane Carruth's low-budget Sundance smash Primer. 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.
Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice – Thai director Banjong Pisanthanakun (Pee Mak, Hello Stranger, Shutter) will screen one of his favorite films at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center on Saturday. It's The Chaser, a terrific crime thriller from 2008 that was the feature debut by South Korean director Na Hong-jin. He'll be in attendance for a talk about his film with Banjong afterward. Registration opens at 4.30pm, with the screening at 5.30 in the BACC's fifth-floor auditorium.
Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The FCCT's Contemporary World Film Series spins on, with the Embassy of Belgium bringing the beer and cheese on Monday night for a 7pm screening of Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit), the latest drama by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Marion Cotillard, an Oscar nominee for her role, portrays a woman in a fight for her job. Admission is 150 baht for non-members, plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the suds and snacks. Also next week at the FCCT is a documentary and panel talk, Thirty Years On: The Killing of Neil Davis and Bill Latch, which recalls the 1985 attempted coup by the "Young Turks", which was bloodily put down by government forces, resulting in 59 injuries and five deaths, including the two journalists. Reservations are required for this event, which is on the failed coup's anniversary, 7pm next Wednesday, September 9. Admission is 350 baht for non-members plus 350 baht for anyone wanting the buffet (hence the need to RSVP). Also this month is a screening of the gripping high-seas adventure, Norway's Kon-Tiki on September 28.
Alliance Française – A novice actor and a veteran director form an unlikely friendship during a film shoot in Maestro, a 2014 comedy-drama directed and co-written by Léa Fazer. Pio Marmaï and Michael Lonsdale star. Inspired by a real-life encounter by the late young actor Jocelyn Quivrin and French New Wave director Eric Rohmer, it screens at 7pm on Wednesday, September 2, at the Alliance.
Thai film studios and distributors have largely cleared the decks this week to make way for the big tentpole release of Freelance, because nobody wants to go up against a GTH film. Go see it at House or Lido and support your local independent cinemas.
Next week, there will be more than a half-dozen new films, among them the made-in-Thailand action drama No Escape, which has been torn to bits by critics.
There's also Thai martial-arts star Tony Jaa's well-received Hong Kong action debut SPL 2: A Time for Consequences, and a big title from this year's Cannes Film Festival, Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-Hsien's The Assassin. I'm holding out slim hopes that both the Chinese-language films will have at least one place playing the original soundtrack with English subs.
And an interesting release next week will be Gerontophilia, a weird new film by the taboo-challenging cult director Bruce LaBruce. Set for the Lido, it's being brought in by the new indie distribution shingle Doo Nang Took Wan, run by Ken Thapanan Wichitrattakarn, who single-handedly brought the Brazilian coming-of-age gay drama The Way He Looks to Bangkok a few months back.