Monday, June 29, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: EU Film Festival, July 10-19, 2015

The annual European Union Film Festival is back for another edition, running this year from July 10 to 19 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, screening 18 entries from 14 countries. Tickets are 120 baht and are on sale now at the box office and through the SF Cinema City website.

Under the theme of “Cinema Live. New Light”, the festival will screen stories about people striving to survive and have better lives, as well as present the cultural richness and diversity of the EU through recent award-winning films.

Highlights include Trespassing Bergman, a documentary about Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman and featuring many famous directors, the German World War II drama Phoenix, Girlhood, a French coming-of-age drama about a black teenager, '71, about "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland, the award-winning Spanish romance Beautiful Youth, the Danish crime drama Northwest and Mr. Hublot, an Oscar-winning animated short from Luxembourg. There will also be a selection paying tribute to Manoel de Oliveira, the Portuguese director who died this past April at age 106.

In addition to Bangkok, the festival will bring selections to SFX Maya Chiang Mai from July 24 to August 8 (where tickets are 80 baht) and at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Khon Kaen from August 7 to 9 (queue up for free tickets 30 minutes before the shows). It should go without saying but I'll say it anyway – films will have English and Thai subtitles.

Here's the line-up:

  • Melody (Belgium) – Bernard Bellefroid directs this drama about a young woman (Lucie Debay) who wants to open her own hairdressing salon. To achieve this, she agrees to be a surrogate mother for an Englishwoman (Rachael Blake). Debay and Blake shared the best actress prize at last year's Montréal World Film Festival, which also awarded Melody the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury-Special Mention.
  • Fair Play (Czech Republic) – In 1980s Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, a talented young sprinter (Judit Bárdos) on the country's Olympics team is chosen for a secret program in which she's given performance-enhancing drugs without her knowledge. She wants off the steroids when she discovers the truth, but there's pressure from the coaches, her peers and from her mother to continue using them. Andrea Sedlácková directs. Fair Play was a nominee for the Audience Choice Award at last year's Chicago International Film Festival.
  • Northwest (Denmark) – An 18-year-old street hood gets a leg up in the criminal underworld when he goes to work for a rival kingpin. Michael Noer directs this action-drama, which was nominated for three of Denmark's Bodil Awards and won best supporting actor. It was also an Audience Choice nominee in Chicago.
  • The Hour of the Lynx (Denmark) – A priest is called in to counsel an inmate at a high-security facility for the criminally insane, who attempted suicide while rambling about God. Søren Kragh-Jacobsen directs. Sofie Gråbøl was a Bodil Awards best-actress nominee for her role as the priest.
  • Concrete Night (Finland) – In the cramped slums of Helsinki, one young man prepares to go to prison as his younger brother contemplates following his sibling into a life of crime. Directed by Pirjo Honkasalo, Concrete Night won Best Film and six other prizes at Finland's Jussi Awards and the Spotlight Award of American Society of Cinematographers.
  • Girlhood (France) – A 16-year-old girl with few other prospects in life joins an all-female street gang, where she at first experiences the rush of newfound confidence. Céline Sciamma (Tomboy, Water Lilies) directs. Girlhood won prizes at festivals in Philadelphia and Stockholm and was nominated for the Queer Palm at last year's Cannes Film Festival, in addition to several prizes at France's César Awards.
  • Beloved Sisters (Germany) – The aristocratic Von Lengefeld sisters compete for the affections of hotheaded writer-philosopher Friedrich Schiller against the backdrop of social and political upheavals in France. Dominik Graf directs. Beloved Sisters won for best cinematography at last year's Bavarian Film Awards.
  • Phoenix (Germany) – A woman who was disfigured in a concentration camp and is unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches through ravaged postwar Berlin for her estranged husband, who she thinks might have betrayed her to the Nazis. Nina Hoss, Nina Kunzendorf and Ronald Zehrfeld star. Christian Petzold (Jerichow, Barbara) directs. A nominee at the German Film Awards, Phoenix has won at festivals in Hong Kong, Lisbon, San Sebastián and Seattle.
  • Heavenly Shift (Hungary) – In Budapest, a young refugee from the Balkan War joins an ambulance crew and inadvertently becomes involved in the funeral business. Márk Bodzsár directs this comedy-drama, which was nominated for the Orbit Prize at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film and won the Director's Week Award at Fantasporto. 2014
  • Dead Man Talking (Luxembourg) – William Lamers, a 40-year-old death row convict, has a few last words on the day of his execution. No one else is around to hear them, except for the lone journalist from the local newspaper. Patrick Ridremont stars as Lamers and directs. This comedy-drama was a best foreign film nominee at France's César Awards and was a major nominee at the Magritte Awards in Belgium, where it won for production design.
  • Mr. Hublot (Luxembourg) – In a world where characters form parts for gigantic vehicles, Mr. Hublot becomes fearful and decides to not set foot outside his apartment. His solitude is shattered by the arrival of a robot dog. Directed by Alexandre Espigares and Laurent Witz, Mr. Hublot won last year's Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
  • Borgman (Netherlands) – A homeless vagrant gradually infiltrates his way into the sealed-off surburban home of a well-off family. Alex Van Warmerdam directs this off-beat thriller, which was a nominee for the Palme d' Or at Cannes in 2013 and won prizes at many other festivals.
  • Gebo and the Shadow (Portugal) – Part of a special tribute to Manoel de Oliveira, this 2012 entry was the centenarian filmmaker's final feature. It's based on a stage play and follows an elderly accountant who seems to be hiding something from his wife and daughter-in-law regarding the absence of his son. Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau and Leonor Silveira star. Screened at the Venice film fest, it was a major nominee for Portugal's Golden Globes.
  • The Old Man of Belem (Portugal) – Manoel de Oliveira continued making films well past his 100th birthday. From last year, this short film has Don Quixote, Luís de Camões, Camilo Castelo Branco and Teixeira de Pascoaes having a chat in a garden in the middle of a modern city
  • The Japanese Dog (Romania) – A flash flood hits a village, leaving an elderly man widowed and destitute. He's determined to rebuild, but has to deal with his estranged son, who has turned up after years away in Japan with a wife and son. They want to take dad back to Tokyo with them, but there are unresolved issues. Tudor Cristian Jurgiu directs, making his feature debut. The Japanese Dog was Romania's submission to the Oscars last year.
  • Beautiful Youth (Spain) – A struggling young twentysomething couple, who still live with their parents, turn to making pornography after the woman discovers she is pregnant. Directed by Jaime Rosales, Beautiful Youth was selected for the Un Certain Regard competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival and won the Special Mention Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes Film Festival 2014.
  • Trespassing Bergman (Sweden) – Famous film figures, including Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Michael Haneke, Robert De Niro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Takeshi Kitano, Francis Ford Coppola and Claire Denis, visit the remote Faro Island home of director Ingmar Bergman, and reflect on the legacy of the Swedish auteur and his films.
  • '71 (United Kingdom) – Here's the hot ticket. This much acclaimed military drama is set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and follows a young British soldier as he is accidentally abandoned by his unit during a riot in Belfast. Somehow, he must survive the night and find his way to safety. Jack O'Connell stars and Yann Demange directs, making his feature debut. This was a major nominee at the 2014 British Independent Film Awards, where it won Best Director. It also won the Bafta Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

For more details, check Facebook or the SF Cinema City website.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 25-July 1, 2015


Arnold Schwarzenegger is earning terrific reviews for his comeback-career dramatic turn in Maggie, a slow-burn indie zombie thriller about a father who refuses to let his infected daughter go.

Talented young Abigail Breslin (Zombieland, August: Osage County) is the daughter. She has been infected and quarantined following a mysterious illness that has society on edge.

It's the feature directorial debut of Henry Hobson, a young filmmaker who previously created the title credits for several movies, including August: Osage County, The Lone Ranger and Snow White and the Huntsman.

Critical reception is mixed, with the consensus being that the performances by Schwarzenegger and Breslin lift an otherwise clunky drama. It also serves as a warm-up for the next week's big tentpole, Terminator Genesys, which has Arnie returning once again to one of his most iconic roles. Rated 13+

Also opening

The Duff – Teenage perceptions about body image are addressed in this high-school comedy about a girl who learns she's been designated her clique's "D.U.F.F." – designated ugly fat friend – even though she is neither fat nor ugly. Mae Whitman (Arrested Development, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) stars, along with Robbie Amell and Bella Thorne. The director is Ari Sandel, who makes his feature dramatic debut after previously working in television and on Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show. Critical reception is mostly positive. It's at SF cinemas. Rated 15+

Barely Lethal – Along with Maggie and The Duff, this action comedy could well complete a triple feature this week of movies spotlighting teenage female characters. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Pitch Perfect 2) stars as a student at a secret all-girls boarding school for assassins. Yearning for a normal life, she gives her minders the slip and then poses as an exchange student at a public high school, where she finds life even more challenging than black-ops missions. Jessica Alba and Samuel L. Jackson also star. Kyle Newman, who previously did the Star Wars homage Fanboys, directs. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

It Follows – After a sexual encounter with a stranger, a carefree young woman can't shake the feeling that she's being followed. David Robert Mitchell, yet another Hollywood rookie, directs. Maika Monroe, a former professional kiteboarder who's turned to acting, stars. Critical reception for this indie thriller is crazily positive. It moves to a regular release following two weeks of nighttime sneak previews. Rated 15+

Steak (R)evolution – Tapping into the trendy "foodie" movement, this follows carnivorous gourmets as they trek the world, looking for the best steak. France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, the UK, the US, Canada, Japan, Argentina and Brazil are visited, chatting up ranchers, butchers, chefs, historians and meat-eaters along they way. Rated G.

Lovesucks (รักอักเสบ) – A sports news anchor (Teya Rogers) is hit with a double whammy when she’s demoted from her job and then discovers her boyfriend (footballer Teerathep Vinothai) has been cheating on her. She then embarks on a one-night stand with another guy (James Maggie). Actress "Donut" Manasnan Panlertwongskul makes her directorial debut with this romantic comedy, which is produced by TrueVisions Original Pictures. At SF cinemas. Rated 13+

Tomb Robber – An ancient tomb is discovered in a remote valley and rumors start circulating that it may be the site of long-lost treasure. This is a Chinese 3D thriller but it seems to be showing only in 2D here. At Major Cineplex; Thai-dubbed only. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight, a fast-talking TV journalist (Dustin Hoffman) acts as an intermediary in a hostage situation involving a disgruntled former security guard (John Travolta) in Mad City, a 1998 drama by Costa-Gravas. Tomorrow, it's one last Peter Sellers film for the month, with an early acclaimed performance in 1959's I'm All Right Jack. Saturday's food-themed movie is the bizarre Eating Raoul while Spielberg Sunday is devoted to Schindler's List. 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.

A Child Outside: Retrospective to John Torres – Filmvirus and the Reading Room, with support from the Japan Foundation, bring leading Filipino indie filmmaker John Torres to Bangkok for a two-day retrospective of all his films. Saturday's program will be a selection of short films made from 2004 to 2011. There will also be two self-confessional autobiographical features, Todo Todo Teros, which blended found footage and home-video clips, and won several awards, and Years When I was a Child Outside, which won an award at the Bangkok International Film Festival in 2008. Sunday's line-up has Torres' two dramatic features, 2010’s Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song, about a young woman who takes on different roles as she travels from village to village. There's also 2013’s Lukas the Strange, a coming-of-age yarn about an awkward teenager coming to grips with his manhood just as a film crew comes to his village. And Torres himself will close off the event with a talk. Shows start at 1pm. The venue is a fourth-floor walk-up in a shophouse on Silom Soi 19, opposite Silom Center. Recent Filmvirus events there have been packed to the rafters, so be sure to arrive early to ensure you'll have a seat. For further details, check the Facebook events page.

Alliance Française – In Grand Central, a young drifter (Tahar Rahim) finds work scrubbing reactors at a nuclear power plant. As if the health risks from radioactivity weren't enough, he begins an affair with the wife of a co-worker. Léa Seydoux, Olivier Gourmet, Denis Ménochet, Johan Libéreau also star. Rebecca Zlotowski directs this award-winning romantic comedy-drama. It screens at 7pm on Wednesday, July 1, at the Alliance.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 18-24, 2015

Love and Mercy

John Cusack and Paul Dano star in Love and Mercy, an unconventional portrait of singer-songwriter Brian Wilson, the mercurial and mentally troubled leader of the Beach Boys.

The narrative toggles between the 1960s and the 1980s, and "Brian-Past" and "Brian-Future".

The younger Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood) portrays Wilson in his hit-making early music career, and during a mental breakdown that saw him retreat from touring and into the studio, where he worked obsessively on the landmark album Pet Sounds, amid mounting psychological problems.

Cusack plays the middle-aged Wilson in the 1980s, when he's heavily drugged and under the control of controversial celebrity psycho-therapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). An encounter with a Cadillac saleswoman (Elizabeth Banks) puts Wilson on the path to sanity.

The director is Bill Pohlad, who has produced such notable films as Into the Wild, 12 Years a Slave and The Tree of Life. Among the writers is Oren Moverman, who had a hand in the unconventional Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There, which had six actors portraying the folksinger.

Love and Mercy premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, and has also screened at the Berlin fest and at South by Southwest. Critical reception is mostly positive. Even Brian Wilson himself, who had little involvement with the project, has been praiseworthy. Rated 15+

Also opening

Little Forest: Winter and Spring – Having adopted a self-sufficient lifestyle, learning to grow her own food and cook for herself, a former city-dwelling young woman faces her next challenge – to survive until spring in her rural mountain home. Ai Hashimoto stars. Based on a monthly manga by Daisuke Igarashi, this is a sequel to Little Forest: Summer and Autumn, which was released here in April and has lingered at House on RCA. So now you can see both there, back to back. The films, which have appealed to urbanites yearning for sustainable lifestyles, are brought here by young distributor Worawisuth Calacheebh, and are yet another experiment in independent movie releases being promoted by social networking. You can read more about those efforts in an article in The Nation. Winter and Spring is in Japanese with English and Thai subtitles at House on RCA, the Lido in Siam Square and Major Cineplex Chiang Mai Airport Plaza. Rated G

Survivor – Ex-007 Pierce Brosnan continues to reinvent his career, portraying a steely assassin and terrorist known as "the Watchmaker". He's out to kill a US State Department staffer (Milla Jovovich) who has been framed for wrongdoing. She goes on the run while trying to clear her name and stop a terrorist attack on New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square. Other stars include Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett and Robert Forster. It's directed by James McTeigue, the surrogate director and assistant to the Wachowski siblings. He previously directed V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin and episodes of the Wachowskis' new Netflix series Sense8. Though it looks slick, critical reception ain't pretty. Rated 13+

Insidious: Chapter 3 – This third entry in the Blumhouse Pictures horror franchise looks into the origins of the demonic spirit that haunted a family in the first two films. Here, the gifted paranormal psychic Elise Rainier (the great Lin Shay) agrees to help a teenage girl reach out to the spirit of her dead mother, which causes an evil entity to take hold. Dermot Mulroney also stars. Leigh Whannell, the co-creator of those icky Saw movies as well as the first two Insidious flicks, directs. Critics have been generally upbeat about these Insidious movies, and reception is evenly mixed. Rated 15+

Monsters: Dark Continent – Ten years after immense alien creatures began appearing, fresh U.S. Army recruits are assigned to enter an “infected zone” in the Middle East, to rescue lost soldiers. This is a sequel to 2012's Monsters, a monster flick that focused on in-the-moment human drama and kept up the tension by only sparingly revealing the strange giant aliens. Critically hailed, Monsters was directed by Welshman Gareth Edwards, who has won more critical acclaim for his reboot of Godzilla and is set to direct a Star Wars standalone film. He is a producer on Dark Continent, which is directed by Tom Green (the British director, not the Canadian comedian). This is more action-focused, and a parable of current-affairs global military conflicts. Critical reception has been tame compared to the first entry. Rated 18+

The Loft – I thought it was an ad for a new condo when I saw the trailer playing in a theater lobby. But no, it's an actual movie, Five married men, from various professional backgrounds, go in together on the purchase of a penthouse that will serve as a secret meeting place for affairs, and keep their wives from spotting hotel charges on their credit cards. It seems like a swell plan until the bloodied corpse of a young blonde is found handcuffed to the bed. Karl Urban, James Marsden,Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet and Matthias Schoenaerts star. Erik Van Looy directs this Hollywood remake of his 2008 Belgian thriller. Critical reception is negative, with the opinion being the original version is better. It's at the Lido in Siam Square and SF cinemas. Rated 18+

ABCD 2 – Dancers from suburban Mumbai are in for cultural shocks as they head to Las Vegas to take part in the world hip-hop dance championships. Famed Bollywood choreographer Remo D’Souza directs the fact-based tale, with Prabhu Deva, Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor as stars. It's a sequel to Disney's hit 2013 3D Bollywood dance movie Any Body Can Dance. Like the first entry, the sequel was filmed in actual 3D, but, owing to the technological quirks of subtitling in both English and Thai, Thailand is only getting a 2D version. It's at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – The Thursday tributes to Costa-Gravas continue tonight with Music Box, a 1989 drama in which an immigrant man (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is accused of being a Russian war criminal. He asks his daughter (Jessica Lange), a successful lawyer, to defend him. Tomorrow, gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room. It's Peter Sellers is his triple-role showcase Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, in which he portrays a hapless British officer, the President of the United States and an ex-Nazi scientist. Saturday's food-themed movie is Ang Lee's 1994 breakthrough Eat Drink Man Woman. And Sunday's Spielberg is the original summer blockbuster, Jaws. Get a bigger boat and float on over. The month starts winding down next Wednesday with one more "boundary pushing" entry, 1979's The Tin Drum. 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.

Alliance Française – In 1979, a pair of young French cousins, a man and a woman, pose as a married couple as they see the sights behind the Iron Curtain. But by night, they meet with "refuseniks", Russian Jews who are persecuted for trying to leave the Soviet Union. It's Les Interdits (Friends from France), screening at 7pm on Wednesday, June 24, at the Alliance.

Take note

If you survived the onslaught of the recent overlapping film festivals, and are going through withdrawal from lack of film fests, there's more in store.

On June 27 and 28 at the Reading Room in Bangkok, there will be A Child Outside: Retrospective to John Torres, which will screen all the films of Filipino indie filmmaker John Torres, with a talk by Torres himself. Shows start at 1pm. If you're interested, arrive early to secure your spot – these Filmvirus events at the Reading Room have been increasingly popular, and the place fills up fast.

The Documentary Club has made their next selection – it's The Wolfpack.

Also next month is another big free film fest, the annual European Union Film Festival from July 10 to 19 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. It'll show 18 entries from 14 EU members. The fest will also be held from July 24 to August 2 at SFX Maya Chiang Mai and August 7 to 9 at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Khon Kaen.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 11-17, 2015

Jurassic World

Chris Pratt, the clownish slob from TV's Parks and Recreation who got a buff bod when he got his big break in film with Guardians of the Galaxy, takes on an evil dinosaur in Jurassic World.

After three movies, the dopes who run the dinosaur island still haven't learned that you shouldn't meddle with prehistoric DNA.

Anyway, a wealthy entrepreneur (Irrfan Khan) has bought the theme park, and to boost attendance has created Indominus rex, a hybrid dino that's many times larger and more terrifying than the Tyrannosaurus rex. It is also smarter, and it sets out on a killing spree that seems very calculated.

Pratt is an animal trainer, who has a trio of the clever velociraptors, who work with him. And Bryce Dallas Howard is the park's corporate manager, and aunt to a couple of imperiled youngsters. Other stars include Vincent D'Onofrio, Omar Sy and B.D. Wong, the lone holdout from the original Jurassic Park trilogy.

Colin Trevorrow, who previously did the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, directs. And Steven Spielberg still has a hand in as executive producer.

Highly anticipated by fans, critical reception is just coming in. It's in converted 3D, including IMAX, as well as regular 2D in some cinemas. Rated G

Also opening

A Matter of Taste – Michelin-starred chef Paul Liebrandt, known for his eccentric style, is profiled in this 2011 documentary. It follows him as he struggles with his career in post-9/11 New York City, where at one point he was serving up burgers and fries instead of his usual gourmet fare. It's directed by Sally Rowe, a former script supervisor on Chappelle's Show who ate at one of Liebrandt's restaurants, fell in love with the food and befriended the chef. A Matter of Taste is latest film to come to Thai cinemas courtesy of the Documentary Club, a grass-roots social-networking experiment in movie releasing. Screenings are at 3, 5, 7 and 9pm Friday through Sunday at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld and at 8 nightly from Friday to Sunday at SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Further screenings may be added, but to find out about those, you have to check Facebook. In fact, they already had a screening  – on Monday with a special fusion-cooking show. Sorry I missed that. Advanced bookings through the SF Cinema City website are encouraged.

Hamari Adhuri Kahani – This sweeping romantic drama has such exotic backdrops as Dubai, South Africa, and, of course, India, including a religious procession across a landmark bridge in Kolkata. Starring Emraan Hashmi and Vidya Balan, the story is about a married woman who falls for a man after her husband has disappeared, and was co-written by actor-producer Hashmi himself, based on his own parents. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also opening

Second Silent Film Festival in Thailand – One of many, many benefits of having an active and conscientious film archive in Thailand is that they put on wonderful festivals like this, and also raise the profile of the threatened historic Lido and Scala theaters. Every one of the films being screened is worth seeing. My own picks are the two-fisted pair of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. westerns, The Good Bad Man and The Half-Breed, as well as Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Junior, and Piccadilly, starring the gobstopping beauty Anna Mae Wong. Other highlights on the schedule include the pioneering experimental film Man With a Movie Camera, plus a free talk on Saturday afternoon by piano accompanists Mauro Colombis and Stephen Horne with music lecturer Dr. Anothai Nitibhon. There's also another chance to see the opening film, the German Expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari on Monday night. The fest shifts over to the Scala on Wednesday with The Epic of Everest, which was made under punishing and primitive conditions during the ill-fated expedition by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine. It's a charity event to benefit earthquake relief in Nepal. Tickets are 120 baht (200 baht for the closing film). There are also special packages of eight tickets for 800 baht, which come with a souvenir tote bag.

Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival – Heading into the final weekend for the inaugural BGLFF, there are many highlights on the schedule, including I Love You. Thank You and The Commitment from the Philippines and The Sun, the Moon and the Hurricane from Indonesia, which will have question-and-answer sessions by the directors. There's also question time scheduled for the U.K. gay drama Soft Lad. I've been looking forward to Eisenstein in Guanajuato, a gorgeously strange-looking feature from the great Peter Greenaway, inspired by that weird time when Soviet cinema pioneer Sergei Eisenstein went to Mexico to make a movie. The fest wraps up on Sunday with The Blue Hour, a new Thai independent drama. It's invitation only, but hopefully the film will get at least a limited release in Thailand.

Italian Film Festival – The first film fest at the new Quartier CineArt in that new mall opposite Emporium wraps up at 8 tonight with The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza), this year's winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Directed by Paolo Sorrentino and starring the auteur's frequent leading man Toni Servillo, the drama follows a retired writer on his 65th birthday as he walks the streets of Rome and reflects on his life, past loves and unfulfillment. Tickets are 150, 170 and 300 baht.

The Friese-Greene Club – Costa-Gravas' fast-paced French-Algerian political thriller Z screens tonight. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, it also has the rare distinction of also being nominated for best picture. Tomorrow, Peter Sellers daubs on the brown greasepaint for Blake Edwards' The Party, a politically incorrect comedy in he plays an idiotic Indian actor. It was actually an Indian friend from days long since past who turned me onto The Party, and she says it is a cult classic among her folk. That is the genius of Peter Sellers. Saturday's food-themed pic is another Peter Greenaway, his classic black crime comedy The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. The "her" in this case is Helen Mirren, 1989 Helen Mirren. And Spielberg Sunday is 1941, a sprawling, overstuffed World War II comedy that was his biggest flop but is beloved by some for its excesses. Next Wednesday's "boundary pushing" movie is Stanley Kubrick's erotic thriller Eyes Wide Shut. Shows start 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.

Alliance Française – There are two free French screenings to list. First up on Saturday is a "kids' screening". It's animation, but I think adults will like it too. It's 2013's Aya de Yopougon, the cool and stylishly animated tale of a teenage girl in 1970s Yop City, Ivory Coast, who somehow turns up pregnant. The show is at 2pm on Saturday. The usual Wednesday screening is 2 automnes 3 hivers, a romantic comedy centering on three hapless thirtysomethings during the course of two autumns and three winters. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, June 17.

Sneak preview

It Follows – After a sexual encounter with a stranger, a carefree young woman can't shake the feeling that she's being followed. Critics have high praise for this horror thriller with the consensus being "smart, original, and above all terrifying ... the rare modern horror film that works on multiple levels – and leaves a lingering sting." It's in sneak previews for the next two weeks, with shows from around 8 nightly. Rated 15+

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening June 4-10, 2015

Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Two much-anticipated Thai independent titles from the festival circuit, How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (พี่ชาย My Hero, P'Chai My Hero) and The Blue Hour, will have their local premieres in a brand new event, the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, running from tomorrow until June 14 at the Esplanade Ratchada.

In addition to the two Thai titles, the highlights are many, with entries from around the world and an especially potent combination of recent films from across Southeast Asia as well as China and South Korea.

The fest, which seems overdue for Bangkok, is being organized by the gay-lifestyle magazine Attitude, with support from the Thai Film Archive, the U.S. Embassy, the Goethe-Institut and other organizations.

Here's the line-up:

  • How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) (พี่ชาย My Hero, P'Chai My Hero) by Josh Kim – Adapted from the short-story collection Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, the tale centers on 11-year-old Oat, an orphan boy who is raised by his aunt and his openly gay older brother Ek. It also deals with Ek's concerns about the annual military draft lottery and whether he'll have to join the army.
  • The Blue Hour (อนธการ, Onthakan) by Anucha Boonyawatana –  A loner, bullied gay boy arranges to meet a stranger for a hookup at an abandoned swimming pool. Friendship follows, but it leads to very dark places.
  • 54: Director's Cut by Mark Christopher – Hacked to pieces by producer Harvey "Scissorhands" Weinstein, the disco drama 54 was stripped of its gay context and flopped when it was first released in 1998. Director Mark Christopher recently put his original edit back together and it's now begin hailed as a "cult gay classic". The storied 1970s-80s New York nightclub is seen through the eyes of a young bartender (Ryan Phillippe). Mike Myers takes a rare dramatic turn as embattled disco owner Rick Rubell, Breckin Meyer and Salma Hayek are along for the ride.
  • Eisenstein in Guanajuato by Peter Greenaway – British auteur Greenaway paints a surreal portrait of that strange time in the 1930s when groundbreaking Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein went to Mexico to make a movie.
  • Nude Area by Urszula Antoniak – The Polish-Dutch director offers an interracial coming-of-age romance between teen girls.
  • Summer by Colette Bothof – Another Dutch lesbian coming-of-age drama, Zomer is set in a small town dominated by a power plant, where the arrival of a rebel in leather jacket gives a local girl the courage she needs to break away.
  • Quick Change by Eduardo Roy Jr. – This award-winning documentary drama from the Philippines profiles several transgenders who take big risks to stay beautiful.
  • The Sun, the Moon and the Hurricane by Andri Cung – Three phases of life for a Jakarta man are charted in this drama, which also has Bangkok as a backdrop.
  • The Commitment by Joselito Altarejos – A gay couple faces challenges as they attend a wedding together.
  • Soft Lad by Leon Lopez – In this drama from the U.K., a man young man embarks on an affair that will change his life forever while his lover is forced to confront his own sexuality.
  • I Love You. Thank You by Charliebebs Gohetia – From the Philippines, this romantic drama is about the intertwining lives of jaded twentysomethings, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam serve as a backdrop.
  • The Night by Zhou Hao – Before he did his noteworthy recent documentary The Chinese Mayor, young director Zhou Hao directed and starred in The Night as a male sex worker who is romanced by one of his johns and makes friends with a female streetwalker.
  • Finding Phong by Swann Dubus and Phuong Thao Tran – A documentary and drama about the struggles of a young Vietnamese transgender person, it's directed by the same duo who did With or Without Me, a documentary about drug-addicted HIV-positive men in Vietnam.
  • My Fair Wedding by Jang Hee Sun – South Korea's first same-sex marriage is chronicled in this documentary.
  • Futuro Beach by Karim Ainouz – After failing to rescue a drowning German tourist, a Brazilian lifeguard meets the friend of the victim and decides begin a new life in Berlin, but he still can't escape his past.
Please note that the schedule has been updated. Things have been slow in coming together because the festival organizers have been dealing with the censors over the film ratings. Some films are rated 20-, so be sure to bring your ID if you look like you're younger than 20.

Tickets are 180 baht and 200 baht and can be purchased at the Esplanade box office. Also, the movies have been fed into Major Cineplex's website and apps.

There was further coverage in The Nation as well as that other blog. For more details, check the BGLFF's Facebook events page.

Chalui Tae Khob Fah

Veteran producer, director, actor and general jack-of-all-trades when it comes making movies in Thailand, Adirek "Uncle" Watleela was among the pioneers of the New Thai Cinema movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s that introduced Thai films to the world. At his company Film Bangkok, Uncle was behind the release of such era-defining classics as Tears of the Black Tiger, the original Bangkok Dangerous and Bang Rajan. Now, he is one of the figures behind the recently launched Transformation Films, a joint venture with Major Cineplex.

For Transformation's third release, Chalui Tae Khob Fah (ฉลุย แตะขอบฟ้า, a.k.a. Cha-Lui Reboot: Lost in Seoul or literally Touch the Sky), Uncle re-appropriates a movie he originally made in 1988, about the struggles of upcountry lads who come to the big city to pursue their dreams of becoming popular musicians.

In this new version, the protagonists aim even higher, hoping to tap into the popularity of K-pop and seeking stardom in Seoul, South Korea. Nachat "Nicky" Juntapun and Mek "Jessie" Mekwattana star, along with an actual K-pop boyband singer, Nichkhun Horvejkul, who is famous as the Thai guy in 2PM.

Major Cineplex is hoping for big success with this one, and separate from Cha-Lui, according to Variety and Film Business Asia, the multiplex operator and movie producer has inked a 10-film, three-year deal with South Korean mega-firm CJ Entertainment for more Thai-South Korean co-productions.

Cha-Lui Tae Kob Fah is rated 13+

Also opening

Spy – Melissa McCarthy reteams with Bridesmaids and The Heat writer-director Paul Feig for this send-up of spy movies. McCarthy is a lowly deskbound CIA agent who sees a chance to finally become a field operative when her partner (Jude Law) is declared dead and other top agents are compromised. But instead of the glamorous jetsetting cover identity she hoped for, she's ordered to pose as a dowdy tourist. A surprisingly game Jason Statham basically spoofs himself in his comic turn in support of McCarthy. The cast also features Emily Blunt, Miranda Hart, Morena Baccarin, Peter Serafinowicz and 50 Cent. Critical reception is generally positive. Rated 15+

Extraterrestrial – Hide the Reese's Pieces. The usual slasher-thriller setting of a cabin in the woods becomes the site of an alien invasion in this thriller, in which vacationing youngsters are terrorized by very unfriendly E.T.'s. It's directed by the Vicious Brothers, a Canadian duo who previously did the found-footage horror Grave Encounters. Critical reception is mixed leaning to negative. Rated 18+

La Famille Bélier – A 16-year-old girl, the only hearing member of a deaf farm family, discovers she has a talent for singing and gets a chance to go to Paris to pursue her dreams. But leaving home means her parents and brother will lose their interpreter. Directed by Eric Lartigau, this comedy-drama was a major nominee at this year's César Awards in France, and it won the Most Promising Actress prize for young star Louane Emera. It's in French with English and Thai subtitles. Rated 15+

Dil Dhadakne Do – A dysfunctional Punjabi family takes an ocean cruise in this Bollywood comedy-drama, which features the azure waters of the Meditterean as a backdrop to plenty of song-and-dance numbers. Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma and Farhan Akhtar star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

The Friese-Greene ClubJune's schedule has boundary-pushers on Wednesdays, Costa-Gravas on Thursdays, Peter Sellers on Fridays, food movies on Saturdays and Spielberg on Sundays. However, this Sunday, winter is coming, with a marathon screening of Game of Thrones season five, and plans are to show this season's remaining episodes on Monday nights. I'm not sure this TV thing is a good idea, but whatever. Tuesday nights are request night, as always, so check the schedule if you are interested in joining. Tonight's show is Costa-Gravas' Missing, a 1982 political drama featuring an Oscar-nominated turn by Jack Lemmon. Tomorrow's Peter Sellers movie is Hal Ashby's Being There, in which a simpleton gardener is thrust into the upper-crust of society. Saturday's food-themed feature is Big Night, a 1996 directorial effort by ubiquitous character Stanley Tucci, who stars with Tony Shaloub in a comedy about brothers who run an Italian eatery in the 1950s New Jersey. And next Wednesday's boundary-pushing entry is animator Ralph Bakshi's X-rated cartoon Fritz the Cat. 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.

Italian Film Festival – Continuing through next Thursday at the Quartier CineArt at the EmQuartier mall, among the highlights is Reality, a reality-TV satire by Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone. There's more coverage and the full schedule in a previous post. Tickets can be booked in advance for 150, 170 and 300 baht. For more details, check the Dante Alighieri Society website or Facebook.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – The club's Contemporary World Film Series continues at 7pm on Monday, June 8 with Runway, a 2010 drama by the late Bangladeshi director Tareque Masud, whose 2002 drama The Clay Bird was Bangladesh's first submission to the Academy Awards. Runway is about a poor hard-working family who live in a hut near an international airport. Among them is son Ruhul who becomes increasingly radicalized after he takes computer classes and begins hanging with the wrong crowd. The screening is courtesy of the director's widow Catherine Masud, who was the co-writer, producer and editor of all his films. Admission is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht for anyone wanting the snacks laid on by the Embassy of Bangladesh.

Alliance Française – Five high-school students sing their way through their senior year in their rundown port city in Chante Ton Bac D'Abord (We Did It on a Song), screening at 7pm on Wednesday, June 10, at the Alliance.

Second Silent Film Festival in Thailand – With the Italian Film Festival and the Bangkok Gay and Lesbian Film Festival already competing for our eyeballs, here comes the second edition of the Thai Film Archive's Silent Film Festival in Thailand, which runs from June 10 to 17 at the Lido and Scala cinemas. Next Wednesday's opening film is the classic German horror The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from 1920. All selections will be accompanied by pianists who are experts at playing for silent films, and will have intertitles in English and Thai. This was a very popular festival last year. Tickets are 120 baht and are already on sale, so hustle on over to the Lido and get them before they are gone. There's a special post detailing it all. Check the schedule at Facebook

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: The 2nd Silent Film Festival in Thailand, June 10-17, 2015

A welcome new addition to Bangkok's cavalcade of annual speciality movie extravaganzas, the Thai Film Archive's Silent Film Festival in Thailand is back at the Lido and Scala cinemas for a second year, with rare screenings of classics from the 1910s and '20s, among them the influential German horror The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Buster Keaton's stunt-filled Steamboat Bill Jr., more early Hitchcock and a newly rediscovered Sherlock Holmes, all accompanied live by experienced silent-film pianists.

Running from June 10 to 17, here is the line-up:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Germany/1920/76 min.) – German Expressionist cinema reaches its most darkly twisted heights in director Robert Wiene's thriller, in which a hypnotist who runs a carnival sideshow keeps a sleepwalking man in a coffin, and can make the somnambulist do his bidding, including murder. Roger Ebert argued that it was "the first true horror film".
  • Sherlock Holmes (US/1916/116 min.) – Thought to have been lost, this American film was discovered last year in mislabled cans in the Cinematheque Francaise's collection. It was screened in the recently wrapped-up San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which is supporting the Bangkok fest. Made by Chicago's Essanay Studios, it stars William Gillette, who was well-known for his stage portrayal of Holmes, and his largely credited for the popular image of the sleuth in his double-billed deerstalker cap.
  • The Half-Breed and The Good Bad Man (US/1916/101 min) – Here's a double bill of rootin', tootin' westerns starring the great Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and directed by Hollywood pioneer Allen Dwan. The Good Bad Man is another find from the San Francisco silent fest, which last year presented a newly restored version of a 1923 re-release.
  • Once Upon a Time (Denmark/1922/75 min.) – Danish film great Carl Theodor Dreyer directs this fairy tale about a wilful princess who is tricked by a prince posing as a pauper. About a third of the film has gone missing, but a recently reconstructed version fills in the blanks with still photos and explanatory intertitles.
  • Blackmail (UK/1929/84 min.) – Last year's inaugural edition of the Silent Film Festival in Thailand offered the bulk of the surviving silent films of Alfred Hitchcock. Blackmail, a thriller about a Scotland Yard detective and his girlfriend mixed up in an extortion plot, was Hitch's first "talkie", however it was originally a silent film, and it's that version from the British Film Institute that's screening here.
  • Man with a Movie Camera (Russia /1929/68 min.) – The alpha and omega of experimental film, Dziga Vertov's pioneering feature introduced dozens of techniques, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, extreme close-ups and stop-motion animation, which are now part of everyday films, TV, music videos and commercials.
  • Piccadilly (UK/1929/108 min.) – The heartstopping beauty Anna Mae Wong, Hollywood's first Chinese-American star, takes the lead in this drama, as a waitress-turned-dancer at at nightclub who becomes romantically entangled with the club owner and causes a rival dancer to be jealous.
  • Steamboat Bill Jr. (US/1928/69 min.) – One of Buster Keaton's classic comedies, Steamboat Bill Jr. includes one of the deadpan star's most iconic stunts, in which the facade of a building falls down on him, but he escapes thanks to a window. Keaton portrays a young ukulele-strumming hipster who wants to prove himself as a worthy successor to his father, a big burly riverboat captain.
  • The Epic of Everest (UK/1924/ 85 min.) – The official record of the ill-fated 1924 Everest expedition by British climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine was made in brutally harsh conditions with a hand-cranked camera. A recent restoration by the British Film Institute reintroduces original coloured tints and tones, including a dramatic blood red sunset over the Himalayas. This will be screened only once at the Scala in a charity gala event that will benefit earthquake relief in Nepal. Tickets are 200 baht.

  • Make it bigger

    Accompanists will be Australia-based Italian classical pianist Mauro Colombis, who has played for the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, the world's biggest silent film fest, and Britain's Stephen Horne, who also has played for screenings in Pordenone as well as Telluride, San Francisco, Cannes, Bologna and Berlin.

    They will be joined by noted Thai music lecturer and musical-theater director Dr. Anothai Nitibhon. She will conduct a masterclass for registered participants, who will accompany one round of Man with a Movie Camera.

    All films will have English and Thai intertitles. Tickets are 120 baht and available now at the Lido box office. There is also a "Silent Combo" package that has vouchers for eight tickets (closing film excluded) and entitles you to a tote bag from the festival's information table.

    For more details, check the festival's Facebook page.