Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bangkok Experimental Film Festival!

Chiang Mai movies update, Saturday, July 12

by Thomas Ohlson

Experimental Film Festival in Full Swing

Beginning Sunday, July 13, at the CMU Art Museum is a program of experimental films, independent short films, and experimental documentaries presented by the company of the acclaimed Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, in association with the Thai Film Foundation and the independent arts organization Project 304.

This is the touring version of the Bangkok Experimental Film Festival 5, which ran in Bangkok in March of this year, the fifth year of the festival.

The festival begins Sunday (tomorrow, July 13) and runs through July 27. Sunday’s program will run from 1 pm to 4:30 pm in the auditorium of the Chiang Mai University Art Museum on Nimmanahaeminda Road.

The subsequent programs will be shown at 7 pm at Film Space, which is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building, across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or perhaps the roof.

Admission is free to all screenings.

Sunday’s presentation will consist of two programs:

1:00 – 2:30 pm – Nature’s Recipe – an 80-minute ethnographic program giving a taste of the diverse food traditions of Southeast Asia. More than just a celebration of nature’s cycles, these films show how food can also inspire the maintenance and revival of ancient knowledge.

2:30 – 4:30 pm – If These Walls Could Talk … 100 minutes. Six films about the secret lives of walls. At the arbitrary borders between states and communities, friend and foe blur, chance and history intersect and collide, and what is kept apart may end up getting bound together.

The next scheduled showings are Friday through Sunday, July 18-20, at 7 pm. Friday’s program, July 18: Test Patterns – a 65-minute program of focusing on the mass media, from YouTube to Big Brother, as media artists riff on and remix the familiar of everyday life.

Saturday’s program, July 19: Track Changes – another 65-minute program, this one reflecting on the role of the media in the making – and the forgetting – of political history. Ten films responding to Thailand’s political flux since 2006, including three films made on the night of the September 19 coup d’état.

Sunday, July 20: Daily Rounds – an 85-minute collection of new Thai works devoted to the cycles of everyday life. Experimental films that reveal what is extraordinary about the ordinary, what is timeless about the everyday.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hellboy and the Red Cliff!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, July 10

by Thomas Ohlson

Best bets: Hellboy (or wait for Batman!).

Here are the movies currently playing in Chiang Mai at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista in Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, July 10, 2008. There is also information on the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space. This is Issue Number 37 of Volume 3.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Hellboy II: The Golden Army: US Action/Fantasy – 119 mins – Again directed by Guillermo del Toro and again starring Ron Perlman as Hellboy, this presents again a dark and difficult fantasy world full of fantastical creatures. Almost too rich, almost too much to keep up with, one is overwhelmed with astonishing visuals and strange stories. For lovers of extreme action fantasy comics. I admire this director, but for me, this one has too much action, too many fights; I got action fatigue. The imagination, however, is unbounded. Generally favorable reviews: 74/70 out of 100.

* Red Cliff/ สามก๊ก โจโฉ แตกทัพเรือ: China Action/Adventure – 150 mins – This $80-million film, directed by John Woo – the most expensive film ever produced in Asia – has been plagued by difficulties from the outset, including the walk-out by two stars, a storm that wrecked an outdoor set, and a stunt that went wrong killing a stuntman and injuring six others. And now there’s another huge hurdle for the film: except for the Apex Scala cinema in Bangkok, throughout Thailand the film is only being shown in a Thai dubbed version, at least at present. What a shame! I suppose you could go see it just for the spectacle.

Red Cliff is being released in two parts in Asia, with the second part scheduled for December 15th; in the US and Europe the two parts will be combined and shortened, and presumably will have English subtitles. The film depicts events in third century China, as the Han Dynasty is facing its death, and the emperor raises a million-man army against two kingdoms that are hopelessly outmatched. Starring Tony Leung.

Hancock: US Action/Comedy – 92 mins – There’s no doubt about it: Will Smith has a lot of charisma for a majority of moviegoers, including me. Here he plays an unsympathetic character, much against type, and has to work to gain our good will. Reviewers have widely diverse views on this one. I was only minimally amused. Smith plays a different kind of superhero: edgy, conflicted, sarcastic, and misunderstood. He gets the job done and saves countless lives, but he also seems to leave an awful lot of collateral damage as well. The people of Los Angeles have had enough. So did studio executives according to reports, who after seeing the original cut immediately ordered big changes and several scenes reshot, because the hero was such a drunk — and downbeat, disreputable, and even disgusting. His costume seems to be stolen off the back of a homeless person, and we’re introduced to Hancock as he wakes up on the sidewalk, reeking of alcohol, and then leaps into the sky to save someone, destroying everything in sight in the process. The result of all the frantic last-minute editing and newly shot scenes is a mess, frankly, but a mess with much to enjoy for fans of Will Smith. Also starring Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman. Not kid-friendly: There's a lot of bad language, some graphic violence, and more. Mixed or average reviews: 49/51 out of 100.

* Friendship / เฟรนด์ชิพ...เธอกับฉัน: Thai Comedy/Romance – 82 mins – With Mario Maurer (of Love of Siam fame) and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (of Ploy fame), in a high-school romance directed by Chatchai Naksuriya. I was less than enchanted – it seemed to me unrelated to the real life of people, either young or mature, and somewhat amateurish in writing, acting, and directing. But fans of Thai romances may well take to the unrealistic happenings between the two likeable leads.

Wanted: US Action/Thriller – 110 mins – If you think you’ve seen it all in violent and bloody action films, you haven’t yet seen this one: it raises the bar to a whole new level! Visually I think it’s fascinating – there are scenes which I really could not believe I was seeing – and I would say it’s about as exciting as a movie can get. This fast-paced thrill ride, with its dazzling mix of state-of-the-art visual effects, adrenaline-fuelled action sequences, and nail-biting terror, is the first American film by the Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, best known for Night Watch – a stylish horror fantasy film that has pretty much revolutionized Russian cinema.

A young man (James McAvoy) discovers his father is an assassin, and when his father is murdered, the son is recruited into his father's organization and trained by a man named Sloan (Morgan Freemen) to follow in his dad's footsteps, and in the process is transformed from a drone into a dark avenger. Also starring Angelina Jolie and Terence Stamp. Rated R in the US (and richly deserved) for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexuality. Generally favorable reviews: 64/66 out of 100.

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

On Friday, July 11, 8 pm: Le Roi danse / The King Is Dancing (2000) by Gérard Corbiau – 110 mins – France/ Germany/ Belgium Drama/History. English subtitles. With Benoît Magimel, Boris Terral, Tchéky Karyo, Colette Emmanuelle, Cécile Bois.

This lush portrayal of the court of Louis XIV at Versailles traces the evolution of Versailles from swamp to pleasure garden, and focuses on the relationship between the young king and his court composer Lully. Lully, played with mad intensity by Boris Terral, is an impassioned dancer, composer, and conductor who worships his sovereign as man, god, and muse. The film examines Louis XIV not as statesman but as consummate artist and obsessive visionary, who maintains his hold on his courtiers – allies and enemies alike – via the splendor of the world he has created at Versailles.

With its emphasis on intrigue, sexual diversity, music, and self-delusion, the film turns the world of baroque music into kinky melodrama, as we watch the bisexual Lully oscillate between debauched hedonism and his platonic love for the King. We observer Louis the XIVth's changing allegiances between Molière, the court dramatist, and Lully, the court composer, in a series of off-color vignettes with a vaguely homosexual subtext, complete with scenery-chewing, bodice-ripping drag-queen-on-a-rampage mad scenes. One reviewer: “Truly cinema by hairdressers for hairdressers.”

Lully's music is expressively performed by Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln. Ravishing to the eye and ear (the look is from Caravaggio), the performances bathe in the aura of The Sun King – arrogant, beautiful, glowing with life.

Friday, July 18: The Alliance theater is dark! Holiday!

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

During the month of July, Film Space will present four DVD film collections from Britain’s premier cutting-edge animation and short film enterprise, the organization known as One Dot Zero, which is dedicated to exploring new forms of the moving image. For information on them go to and for a complete listing of the films included in each of the four programs, go to and click on “select dvd1” through “select dvd4.”

At Film Space on July 12, 7 pm: One Dot Zero 2 – Select DVD2 – Twenty eclectic and “vibrant” short films, pop promos, animation, and motion graphics. Two thirds of this material originally screened at the flagship onedotzero festival in May 2003 and is now touring internationally. For titles, go to

At Film Space on July 19, 7 pm: One Dot Zero 3 – Select DVD3 – Twenty creative works from directors at the forefront of the new wave of the moving image. For titles, go to

Scheduled for Chiang Mai on July 17

The Dark Knight: US Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – The first Batman movie without “Batman” in the title. I’m looking forward to this; the previews and photos I have seen of Heath Ledger in the role of the Joker show clearly the amazingly intense insanity he brought to this role. I’m convinced it caused his death. The role, as he played it, was so disturbing to him that he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax – so started taking pills, the overuse of which, most people think, led to his death by drug overdose. There’s much talk of his being nominated for best actor Oscar.