Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening September 10-16, 2015


Attendees of the now-defunct Bangkok International Film Festival in 2008 might remember a weird movie called Otto: Or Up with Dead People, an offbeat musical comedy about a gay zombie that featured explicit sex scenes.

And as far as I recall, that's the last time a Bruce LaBruce movie played publicly in Bangkok, until now. This week brings a light-hearted 2013 effort from Canada's taboo-challenging cult director, the romantic comedy Gerontophilia, which covers the sexual awakening of a young man (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) as he discovers he has a fetish for elderly men. To nurture his new obsession, he takes a job in a nursing home and develops a special bond with one of the patients.

The film has been brought in by the new indie distribution shingle Doo Nang Took Wan, run by Ken Thapanan Wichitrattakarn, a public-relations professional who got into the movie business a few months ago when he single-handedly brought the Brazilian coming-of-age gay drama The Way He Looks to Bangkok.

Critical reception has been mixed. It's at the Lido. Rated 18+

Also opening

No Escape – Owen Wilson, not content to wait by the phone for his buddy Wes Anderson to call, stars as a water engineer who has moved with his family to an anonymous, strife-torn Southeast Asian country. There, wherever that is, a rebellion breaks out and the family become targets as anti-foreigner sentiments boil over. Lake Bell and Pierce Brosnan also star. There have been at least a couple controversies over this production, which had the working title of The Coup when it was being made in northern Thailand a year or so ago. One was when Wilson posed for a photo with whistle-blowing anti-government protesters. There was also a fuss over the signage in the film, which in a desperate move by the country's film minders to strip any Thai identity out of the picture, so as to not harm tourism, was written in Khmer and turned upside down. That has led to No Escape being banned in the newly emerging cinema market of Cambodia, amid rumors that it would be banned in Thailand as well. No such luck. Critical reception has been mixed. It's by the writer-director pair of John Erick and Drew Dowdle, who previously did the found-footage thrillers Quarantine and As Above, So Below. Rated 15+

SPL 2: A Time for Consequences – Thai martial-arts star Tony Jaa makes his much-anticipated debut in a Hong Kong action film. He's a tough Thai cop who has taken a job as a prison guard while he tries to raise money to pay for his sick daughter's treatment. On the job, he's assigned to watch over a prisoner (Wu Jing) who is actually a Hong Kong police officer who has gone way undercover in a relentless bid to bring down the head of a human-trafficking ring. Louis Koo and Simon Yam also star. Cheang Pou-soi (Dog Bite Dog, Motorway) directs. This is a sequel-in-name-only to the terrific 2005 Hong Kong crime thriller SPL: Sha Po Leng, which had Donnie Yen throwing down with the formidable Sammo Hung. Wu Jing was in that one too, but played a different character. A box-office success in China, critical reception for SPL 2 has been fairly positive – much better than for Jaa's English-language debut Skin Trade, which I actually kinda liked. SPL 2 is Thai-dubbed only with English subtitles. Rated 18+

The Assassin – Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-Hsien returns with his first movie in eight years, and his very first wuxia martial-arts drama. It's set during the olden days of the Tang Dynasty. Shu Qi stars as a young woman who returns to the village where she was born, and sent away from as child. Training since then as an assassin, she is out to redeem herself after botching a previous job. But this one isn't going to be easy, as her new target is the man she had been arranged to marry. Chang Chen also stars. After making a buzzworthy premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the best director prize, critical reception has been generally positive. It's in Mandarin with English and Thai subtitles at Apex, House, Major Ratchayothin, Major Rama III, Paragon, Quartier CineArt and SFW CentralWorld. Rated 15+

Assassination – Not to be confused with China's The Assassin, this South Korean period drama deals with a ragtag team of resistance fighters under Japanese occupation in the 1930s. Lifting a page from The Dirty Dozen, they are condemned criminals who have been let out of prison with top-secret orders to kill the Japanese army’s commander. Critical reception has been favorable. It's in Korean with English and Thai subtitles at Esplanade Ratchada, Major Ratchayothin, Paragon and Quartier CineArt. Rated 18+

Self/less – A terminally ill elderly billionaire buys a chance for eternal life through an underground experimental medical procedure that transfers his consciousness into the cadaver of a younger man. He's played by Ryan Reynolds. Tarsem Singh, slumming it since the hyperstylishness of The Cell, directs. Critical reception has been mostly negative. Rated 15+

The Shamer’s Daughter – There's swords and sorcery in this adaptation of a best-selling Danish young-adult fantasy novel by Lene Kaaberbol. It's about a supernaturally gifted young woman who has to uncover the truth when her realm's heir to the throne is wrongfully accused of killing his family. Seems it is Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+

Cub – Kids are in peril in this Belgian import about Cub Scouts camping in the woods becoming prey for a local poacher and his feral son. It's at SF cinemas only, and according to the soundtrack information I've been given, it's in Flemish and French with English and Thai subtitles.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, a mathematician becomes increasingly paranoid and obsessed as he tries to find meaning in a mysterious numerical sequence in Pi, the debut feature of Darren Aronofsky. And tomorrow it's the directorial debut of Robert Redford, 1980's Academy Award-winning Ordinary People. And another classic shows on Saturday, Terrence Malick's debut Badlands. It's still his best film. Sunday has a special screening of the 1997 comedy As Good As It Gets, with a member of the assistant director team, Robert Neft, sharing behind-the-scenes stories of working with director James L. Brooks, star Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear. And next Wednesday is Android, a low-budget 1982 robot drama that B-movie producer Roger Corman passed on. It went on to be a critically acclaimed sleeper hit. 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.

Behind the Painting – Time to get out of the cinema and into the art gallery, as the interesting and talented video artist and filmmaker Chulayarnnon Siriphol offers his interpretation of the classic Thai story Behind the Painting. Set in Japan, the tragic romance involves a young Thai student who has been employed by an elderly Japanese man to look after his young blue-blooded Thai wife. Written in 1937 by popular author Sri Burapha, the novel has been adapted for film, television and stage many times, including a 2001 film version that was the last feature by the revered Thai auteur Cherd Songsri. In an homage to Cherd, his film is woven into the fabric of Chulayarnnon's entertaining experimental work, which has him hilariously portraying both the young man and, in the grand tradition of theatrical cross-dressing, the young woman. I've actually seen this, in a Film Virus retrospective last year, and I told Chulayarnnon afterward that I don't feel I need to see any other version. Definitely worth a look. It was created last year during Chulayarnnon's participation in the artist-in-residence program at the Aomori Contemporary Art Center in Japan. Organized by the Japan Foundation and curated by the Aomori center's Hiroyuki Hattori, Behind the Painting is at the Silpakorn University Art Center, opening tomorrow night (invitation only) and running until October 10. Directions to the gallery are available online.

Alliance Française – There are two French film to list this week. First up is a family friendly animated feature at 2pm on Saturday, 2012's Moon Man, in which the Man in the Moon grows bored and goes sightseeing across the universe. Meanwhile, none of the children on Earth can fall asleep because the Moon Man is missing. And next Wednesday's usual screening is 2013's Un château en Italie (A Castle in Italy), written, directed by and starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. The semi-autobiographical yarn has a woman re-energized by love in her life. Meanwhile, her wealthy industrialist family is crumbling around her. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, September 16, at the Alliance.

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