At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
March is “The Month of Bad Luck Money” at Film Space.
Due to a mix-up, Danny Boyle’s Millions (2004) was shown last Saturday night instead of the scheduled 6ixtynin9 (1999), so the skipped movie will be shown this Saturday.
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. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. For the roof, you might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, March 14: 6ixtynin9 / Ruang talok 69 (1999) by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang – 118 mins – Thai, Comedy/ Crime/ Thriller.
In this critically-acclaimed Thai comedy, a young woman named Tum finds a mysterious noodle box full of money on her doorstep, shortly after losing her job. The clever beauty attempts to hold on to the loot and soon finds herself at the center of a thrilling, high-stakes caper between Thai Boxing gangsters, corrupt executives, and the bungling authorities. Rated R in the US for violence, language, and brief sexual humor. Generally favorable reviews: 65/66 out of 100.
Twitch, Todd: Without a doubt one of Thailand’s brightest lights is writer / director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. He exploded onto the international scene with the absolutely stunning Last Life in the Universe. . . . In 1999’s 6ixtynin9, Lalita Panyopas stars as Tum, a low ranking employee in a Bangkok financial services firm – an industry sector that has been hit hard by an economic recession. Tum arrives at work one morning to find an impromptu staff meeting in session. The firm has been forced to lay off three employees and, unwilling to single anyone out for termination, the unlucky trio is decided by drawing lots. Tum, of course, is one of the unlucky three sent packing. This places her in a horrible situation. She has been financially supporting her parents and younger siblings and is now a single woman with no support network and little to no chance of finding legitimate work in the midst of the current hard times. Faced with the real prospect of having to turn to prostitution to make ends meet Tum begins shoplifting and fantasizing about suicide. Until one morning she discovers a box left outside her door, a box full of money, and sees a possible way out for herself. Here enters the continual case of mistaken identity brought on by a faulty apartment door number (the film’s title is a play on this), rival gangs, illegal passports, dope smoking youth, over exuberant police officers, nosy neighbors, an amputation and rather a lot of blood.
The summary makes 6ixtynin9 sound like a fairly busy, high energy film but like all of Ratanaruang’s other films it is actually a very quiet, meditative piece. Much like Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Ratanaruang loves to dress his films up in genre convention when they are actually psychological mood pieces. The gangsters are window dressing, what really matters here is that Tum is a woman in an incredibly difficult situation with some harsh moral decisions to make. How will she bear up under the stress? What path will she choose? The obvious point of comparison is Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave – a film that shares several significant plot points – but where Boyle’s film revolves around issues of greed Ratanaruang’s turns on desperation. How far are you willing to go to survive?
Key to making the film work is Panyopas’ performance as Tum and she does an admirable job charting Tum’s progression from a woman caught up by forces beyond her control into becoming one of those forces herself. She is giving very little dialogue to work with and has to rely on body language, frequently carrying her character entirely through her eyes. She has a quiet sense of grace and strength to her, more than enough to allow you to buy into the wildly excessive situation Ratanaruang drops her in to.
Where the film struggles a little bit is in the balancing of humor with the darker, more serious elements. Ratanaruang has a bit of a dreamer in him, as well as a healthy dose of absurdism, and he struggled to mesh those impulses with the ‘real-world’ feeling he also wants to maintain in his films until he finally struck a perfect balance with Last Life. There are some awkward moments here where you can tell he’s aiming for humor but the situation is paced and played just a little too realistically to laugh, and also some character moments that just don’t seem to fit with the tone of the rest of the film. Which is not to say that 6ixtynin9 isn’t a good film – it is, very – but fans of Last Life will need to approach this as an example of a master still learning and experimenting with his craft rather than coming in expecting the degree of balance, polish and subtlety of his most recent work.
At Film Space Saturday, March 21: Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl / Samehada Otoko to Momojiri Onna / 鮫肌男と桃尻女 (1998) by Katsuhito Ishii – 108 mins – Japan, Mystery/ Action/ Thriller/ Comedy.
The film opens in a surrealistic mountain setting as a young, determined Toshiko (Sie Kohinata), executes a daring escape from her sexually abusive, obsessive and oppressive, lunatic uncle Sonezaki (Yohachi Shimada). Speeding away down the road, she notices a man running hastily through the woods, clad in nothing but underwear. Distracted, she does not notice the car from which he is running...until she collides with it head-on. Rated R in the US for violence, sexuality, and brief language. Mixed or average reviews: 44/43 out of 100.
Bruce Fletcher, Hawaii International Film Festival: "...surreal, violent, funny, lovers-on-the-run adventure... striking cinematography, rapid-fire editing and ultra-rich colors that rise from the young director's shooting more than 80 Japanese TV commercials. The colorful cast is clad in a designer style known as hyper fashion gear, except Samehada (Asano) who dons Takeo Kikuchi designer fashions, down to his TK brand underwear...Arguably, the coolest movie of the year."
Janick Neveux, KFC Cinema: "Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl is one hell of a piece of work...[It] contains a rare collection of colorful characters that has yet to be seen in another movie. You have about 20 or so unique characters, each one extremely different and well-drawn. Most...had a pretty cool style while others were plain bizarre."
Dave Kehr, The New York Times: An outlaw-couple-on-the-run story, in a context of harsh social satire and nihilistic despair. Mr. Ishii's background as a hard-working director of television commercials is reflected in his technical facility and flashy compositions, most of which involve gang members dressed in outrageous high-fashion costumes. The adults are rigid, uncool and involved in bizarre sexual practices; the kids are stylish and hot. The picture makes killing look like high-spirited fun and turns violent death into an occasion for giggles and snickers.
At Film Space Saturday, March 28: Adrenaline Drive / Adorenarin doraibu / アドレナリンドライブ (1999) by Shinobu Yaguchi – 112 mins – Japan, Comedy. Generally favorable reviews: 69/65 out of 100.
A parody of popular Japanese teenage girls' romances includes slapstick in a comedy of robbers versus robbers. About money, and a shy guy, and a not-so-shy girl who have the money and a handful of thugs and one real badass Yakuza dude who want it. A busy, fun, and creative little flick, by the director of the very popular Waterboys (2001), which was shown in Chiang Mai, about the travails of a group of teenage boys who seek fame in, of all ventures, the world of synchronized swimming. Generally favorable reviews: 74/74 out of 100.
Shown is Masanobu Ando, one of the two
stars of the movie. [Not from the movie.]
Film Society of Lincoln Center: Director Shinobu Yaguchi's masterful parody of popular Japanese teenage girls' romances, Adrenaline Drive takes slapstick to dazzling Keatonesque delights in this sly comedy of robbers versus robbers. When a gas leak explodes at a yakuza's headquarters, a shy, timid nurse and a meek rental car clerk gain possession of a briefcase of blood-soaked money. The rest is a wild ride of chase and escape, as the nurse is transformed to glamorous heroine and outsmarts the gangsters eager to recover the loot. Joyous and giddy, the story teases its characters and audiences alike in a fresh, unpredictable style.