Millennium: “History as a living, malevolent presence.”
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, December 16, 2010
… through Wednesday, December 22
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The Social Network. Aftershock. Millennium 1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Millennium 2: The Girl Who Played With Fire.
“A movie star unlike any other." Noomi Rapace as Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander in The Girl Who Played With Fire.
This is Issue Number 7 of Volume 6 of these listings, in our sixth year!
I think it’s really a shame that such a terrific film as Let Me In was received with so little enthusiasm here in Chiang Mai, at least to judge by the attendance. Just a handful of people at the one showing each day, for what is really one of the finest films to come along recently. Half a sweet story about the agonies of being 12 years old, half rumination on what it’s like to live the life of a vampire. Half touching, half exciting and bloody. I really enjoyed it. It’s not hard to see why Major Cineplex is loathe to bring out films that are not immediately identifiable as being of popular interest. Or, in the case of Thai movies, in a known genre with familiar actors. They would argue: Nobody comes!
There is something to be said about seeing a film like Let Me In in a cinema and not on DVD in your home, but I’m afraid more and more that choice will not be available.
If you missed it you missed a very good experience, with an unusual story, fine performances – especially by the two young actors, and an excellent music score/sound design. A good spooky and sweet film. With superlative cinematography.
Meantime, however, we do get to see the excellent film, The Social Network, as it continues here, though I’m puzzled by the number of people I talk to who seem to have no interest in seeing the film, and keep asking me what it’s about. Maybe they’ll be more impressed now that the film’s subject matter, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, has been named Time Magazine's Person of the Year.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* BKO: Bangkok Knockout / Kod Su Kod So / โคตรสู้ โคตรโส: Thai, Action/ Drama – “Directed by Panna Rittikrai (the director of Born to Fight and fight coordinator for Ong-bak and Chocolate), a legend in Thai action cinema, this film features a range of martial art disciplines. The story centers on a group of fight club pals, whose styles vary from Muay Thai and Capoeira to Kung Fu and Tai Chi, must fight for their lives when one of their friends is kidnapped.”
Wise Kwai: Stunt guru Panna Rittikrai, the mentor of Tony Jaa, directs this one, and he's seeking to outdo all the insanely dangerous-looking action he displayed in the 2004 stuntfest Born to Fight.
Among the notable setpieces is a truck stunt that Panna has said was way more complicated to put together than the truck stunt from Born to Fight – you remember the one where the dude almost had his head crushed under a truck's wheel in the final take?
Bangkok Knockout is the story of a college "fight club" whose members are together for a reunion when one of their number is kidnapped. So they have to combine all their mad skilz – Muay Thai, kung fu, capoeira and other forms of badassery – to rescue their friend.
The cast of fighters are mainly guys who've been playing stunt doubles in movies choreographed by Panna and his crew at Prachya Pinkaew's Baa-Ram-Ewe studio. But among the recognizable names, there's Kazu Patrick Tang, the French-Vietnamese martial artist who co-starred with Jija Yanin in Raging Phoenix. Other marquee draws for Thai fans include comedian Kiatisak "Sena Hoi" Udomnak, actress "Kratae" Supaksorn Chiamongkol and veteran action star Sorapong Chatree.
* Yes or No / อยากรัก ก็รักเลย: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – “Pie is a sweet girl who has moved into a new dorm where she finds out that Kim, her new roommate seems to be a tomboy. While their friendship is developing, Pie and Kim begin to wonder if the feeling they feel for one another is just an ordinary friendship or a real love.”
Wise Kwai: The poster really says it all.
In Yes or No (Yak Rak Kor Rak Loei) a college girl named Pie (Sucharat Manaying) has a tomboy named Kim (Supanat Jittaleela) as a roommate They have their differences at first. The girl thinks the tomboy with the Korean pop-star hair is a guy. They divide their room in half with a line that shall not be crossed.
But they eventually become friends.
And perhaps it will be more than friendship?
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: US, Adventure/ Family/ Fantasy – 1 hr 55 mins – I found this an excellently-crafted movie, and quite superlative for its type. It’s a detailed fantasy about a magical land, and if you like that sort of thing, or your kids do, then you will love this.
And I have to say that I could find no fault with the 3D processing, which was of the post production conversion type. I will have to re-think my stand on post-production conversion, because this was quite okay. Overall, the special effects and the magic were just exceedingly well cone, and the animated characters excellent. The digital 3D version is playing only at Airport Plaza in English with Thai subtitles. Airport Plaza also has a 2D version, and a 2D Thai-dubbed version. Vista has only a 2D Thai-dubbed version, with no English subtitles. Mixed or average reviews: 54/58 out of 100. (The scores, on a basis of 100, are from two web sources. The first, in bold, is from Metacritic.com, and the other is from RottenTomatoes.com. Movies released in the US only.)
SBS, Simon Foster: Over the interminable 112 minute running time of Michael Apted’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, not a single discernable artistic reason emerges as to why 20th Century Fox would have wanted to adopt the third installment of Disney’s jettisoned franchise.
And from Sweden, the second in the Millennium series, along with the first.
* Millennium 2: The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden: Sweden
/ Denmark/ Germany, Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller – in Swedish, with Thai and English subtitles – 2 hrs 9 mins – The second in the “Millennium” series of three films widely popular throughout the world. Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, Blomkvist immediately throws himself into the investigation. But Lisbeth is then accused of three murders, causing her to go on the run while Mikael works to clear her name. Rated R in the US for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity, and language; 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews: 66/64 out of 100. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this series to Chiang Mai.
The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern: These are the Swedish-language screen adaptations of the late Stieg Larsson's remarkable crime novels, starting with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Now the second film has arrived with a grittier sensibility, thanks to a different set of filmmakers, but with the same sensational star, Noomi Rapace, who continues to redefine our notions of a contemporary heroine.
The Girl Who Played With Fire, which was directed by Daniel Alfredson from a screenplay by Jonas Frykberg, doesn't have the nuances of its predecessor. It's more of a straight-ahead action saga, although straight ahead is a better description of the hurtling pace than the convoluted plot, which takes all sorts of twists and turns in the present while delving further into the tortured past of its heroine, Lisbeth Salander. If you're resistant to extravagant melodrama, or flat-out horror tropes, you may find the film inferior to "Dragon Tattoo. For my own part, I confess to enjoying the lurid stuff just as much as the dramatic intricacies that reflect the texture of the source. (At least some of the texture; what's decreasingly present in the screen adaptations is Mr. Larsson's moral outrage at what he saw as modern society's pervasive corruption.)
This time there's plenty of opportunity for lurid developments because Lisbeth, suddenly accused of two murders, is desperate to exonerate herself, and she's up against some desperate characters. (One of them, a brutal monster with bleached blond hair, has a rare disease called congenital analgesia; he can feel no pain.) The shadowy connections between her various adversaries, or torturers, can be difficult to keep straight. Still, everything makes sense, apart from a few giddy leaps of logic, and the commanding figure of Ms. Rapace always fills center stage.
Just think of what she's asked to do—keep us constantly connected to a seethingly angry, chain-smoking, kick-boxing, foul-mouthed, bisexual Goth hacker with a history of violence that she frequently and ferociously updates. The actress gets immeasurable help from the writing: Lisbeth's anger is matched by her intelligence and her physical prowess, which enables her to administer as well as absorb pain in megadoses. But none of it would register without Ms. Rapace's singular combination of eerie beauty and feral intensity. She's a movie star unlike any other.
Salon, Andrew O’Hehir: There's way too much plot here getting in the way of the story, which makes it tough for Alfredson and cinematographer Peter Mokrosinski to focus on the series' strongest elements. Of course it's the character of Lisbeth that has made these books and movies into a worldwide phenomenon, and Rapace gets to ride motorbikes, steal cars, and do some paramilitary, weapons-based action sequences. But Lisbeth is more a cog in a big, grinding engine in The Girl Who Played With Fire, which at its best captures both the beautiful but lugubrious Swedish landscape and the existential mood of contemporary northern Europe, trapped between the info-capitalist future and the ideological prisons of the past.
People of Lisbeth's generation, and even Blomkvist's, aren't personally implicated in the crimes of World War II (the specter in Dragon Tattoo) or the soulless gamesmanship of the Cold War (referenced here). But even in the Internet age they still have to live in the world those events created, and Larsson's genius was to suggest a connection between those cruel but supposedly dead ideologies and a continuing legacy of misogyny, rape and violence against women. This sense of history as a living, malevolent presence is largely alien to Americans -- William Faulkner aside -- and is just one of two or three dozen reasons why the Hollywood version of this story, if it ever gets made, is likely to get it all wrong.
Millennium 1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women): Sweden/ Denmark/ Germany/ Norway, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery – in Swedish and English, with Thai and English subtitles – 2 hrs 32 mins – Studio synopsis: “Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, ruthless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vanger's are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves." Rated R in the US for disturbing violent content, including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity, and language; 18+ in Thailand. Generally favorable reviews: 76/72 out of 100. At Vista only.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Its graphic violence and sprawling length will prove too much for some viewers to take, but Noomi Rapace's gripping performance makes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an unforgettable viewing experience.
With the showing of the second in the series beginning today, one is led to hope that t
he third film will be shown at Vista next week! All three novels and all three films have a large following world-wide.
Philadelphia Enquirer,Steven Rea: Rife with nightmarishly violent and horrific behavior. It's intense, graphic, frightening. And, yes, exhilarating.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, Colin Covert: A densely plotted 2 1/2-hour saga, with enough mutilation, serial homicide, S&M rough stuff, cold-blooded violence, and frank nudity to spice up the saggy bits.
Related News Item
From the Examiner: Swedish actress Noomi Rapace made an international splash in the Swedish film versions of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. As the Hollywood version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo gets ready to lens in Sweden, with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara starring, Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth Salander, will take on the female lead in a Hollywood franchise of her own.
Deadline Hollywood reports that Rapace, who won the Swedish equivalent of the Academy Award for playing punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, will take on the female lead in Sherlock Holmes 2, about to get underway in the UK. The uber-busy Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson, and Guy Ritchie will again take the director's chair.
One Piece Film: Strong World: Japan, Animation/ Fantasy – 1 hr 53 mins – Hugely popular animation from Japan, setting several boxoffice records, the tenth and final but uniquely excellent feature-film episode in a series based on a popular manga, Eiichiro Oda's 56-volume pirate manga, One Piece. Oda personally supervised the production of Strong World, created the film's original story, and contributed over 120 pages of rough drawings. Furthermore, he placed his own name on the film's credits to indicate that this film that is entirely different from its nine predecessors. At Vista only, shown with the original Japanese soundtrack and Thai subtitles.
Aftershock / Tangshan dadizhen / 唐山大地震: China, Drama/ History – 2 hrs 15 mins – By Feng Xiaogang. We know of one film for sure that will be up for Best Picture at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards on 27 February (Hollywood time – Monday 28 February here in Thailand). It’s this one! Though, to be sure, this is in the best foreign film category. It’s China’s official entry, released in China on July 22 of this year, and is considered to be the first "big commercial IMAX film" created outside the US.
Based on the Tangshan Earthquake in 1976, the story concerns Li Ni who returns home only to find out that her 7-year-old twins are buried under the debris. She's left with a dilemma on deciding whom she chooses to save, her son, Fonda, or her daughter, Fan Teng. She chooses to save her son in the end without knowing that Fan Teng overheard the decision being made. Miraculously, the little girl manages to survive but suffers from the painful memory of her mother’s decision. Later, a young couple adopts her but she remains traumatized by this childhood experience. Generally favorable reviews: 64 out of 100. At Vista only, with the original Chinese soundtrack, and Thai and English subtitles – the way movies like this should be presented!
The Social Network: US, Biography/ Drama/ History – 2 hrs – By David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac, Panic Room). In only a few short years, Facebook has morphed from a campus-wide phenomenon to revolutionizing the way that we communicate with each other. Studio synopsis: “On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history... but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.” Reviews: Universal acclaim: 95/95 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
See this mesmerizing film for its portrayal of the type of person you apparently have to be to make it in the world of internet marketing. You won’t be pleased, but you will be gratified at some of the turn of events. Excellent performances, and a very unsettling one from the lead.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, and filled with fine performances, The Social Network is a riveting, ambitious example of modern filmmaking at its finest.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I: UK/ US, Adventure/ Fantasy/ Mystery – 2 hrs 26 mins – The first of the two-part conclusion to the series; Part II due in July of 2011 – both directed by David Yates, who has directed the last two Harry Potter films. You know you’re going to have to see it, so why fight it. And you know what you’re in for: a superbly told tale, with some of the finest British character actors. NGenerally favorable reviews: 68/71 out of 100.
Lulla Man / Lunla Man / Poo Chai Lunlla / ผู้ชายลัลล้า สูตร 3G ซ่าส์ ซ่าส์หากิ๊ก: Thai, Comedy/ Romance – 1 hr 50 mins – “Three fun-loving married guys always sneak off to have affairs with girls. With sophisticated skills to avoid being caught by their wives, the guys are reckless and never realize that their wives have now teamed up to give them a bitter lesson.” Extended TV comedy show, with Mum Jokmok and the usual Thai comedians.
Kapi / กะปิ ลิงจ๋อไม่หลอกจ้าว: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 1 hr 30 mins – An orphan boy lives with a mischievous monkey in his coconut field by the sea, working in the traditional manner of coconut growers using trained monkey coconut pickers. When his coconut field is intruded by some selfish villagers, the boy and his monkey team up to compete in a monkey contest to save their territory from being occupied. English subtitles only at Airport Plaza.
Samurai Ayothaya / Yamada The Samurai of Ayothaya / ซามูไร อโยธยา: Thai, Action/ Drama – 1 hr 30 mins – Based on a true historic figure during Ayothaya Era, the film depicts the life of Yamada Nagamasa, a Japanese adventurer who gained considerable influence in Thailand and became the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat province in southern Thailand. At Airport Plaza only.
Watch out for this one! I haven’t seen such violence in a long while, and this was just in the trailer. Way too much breaking of bones for my taste, seemingly photographed in loving detail, with sounds of snapping and crunching that leaves nothing to the imagination. Too violent for me, and should be for you.
Cool Gel Attacks / Kra Deub / กระดึ้บ: Thai, Comedy/ Sci-Fi – 1 hr 30 mins – Pa and Maow are neighbors who have hated each other for a long time. But, when an unidentified gel-like object falls from the sky in their neighborhood, and it turns out to be a deadly creature from outer space, the two foes abruptly team up to get rid of the alien one-eyed slug. Directed by and starring Jaturong Mokjok. No doubt with the usual Thai light comedic touch. Oh, and of course, with the ever-present Kohtee Aramboy. With its usual assortment of TV comedians talking dirty, Kong Rithdee of the Bangkok Post calls it one of the worst films of the year. English subtitles only at Airport Plaza.
* = Coming soon (hopefully)
AF = Alliance Française FS = Film Space
At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon." A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.
On Friday, December 17, 8 pm: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot / Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953) by Jacques Tati – 1 hr 54 mins – France, Comedy. In Black and White. No English subtitles, but you don’t really need them. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 90 out of 100.
With Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Michèle Rolla, Valentine Camax, Louis Perrault.
Mr. Hulot goes on a holiday to a seaside resort, but accidents and misunderstandings follow him wherever he goes. The peace and quiet of the hotel guests don't last very long with Hulot around, because although his intentions are good, they always turn out catastrophically...
– Alliance description
Monsieur Hulot comes to a beachside hotel for a vacation, where he accidentally (but good-naturedly) causes havoc.
Variety: Tati is the semi-articulate, blundering, but well-meaning clown, reminiscent of the early Mack Sennett types. Whether he is being chased by dogs, setting off a cabin full of fireworks, or blundering into a staid funeral, he is a very funny man.
Roger Ebert: The first time I saw Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday, I didn't laugh as much as I thought I was supposed to. But I didn't forget the film, and I saw it again in a film class, and then bought the laserdisc and saw it a third and fourth time, and by then it had become part of my treasure. But I still didn't laugh as much as I thought I was supposed to, and now I think I understand why.
It is not a comedy of hilarity but a comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness, and good cheer. There are some real laughs in it, but Mr. Hulot's Holiday gives us something rarer, an amused affection for human nature--so odd, so valuable, so particular.
The movie was released in 1953, and played for months, even years, in art cinemas. It was a small film that people recommend to each other. There was a time when any art theater could do a week's good business just by booking Hulot. Jacques Tati (1908-1982) made only four more features in the next 20 years, much labored over, much admired, but this is the film for which he'll be remembered.
On Friday, December 24, 8 pm: No film showing – Christmas Eve!
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
December is “The Month of Animation” at Film Space.
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. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting. All films not in English are shown with English subtitles.
At Film Space Saturday, December 18, 7 pm: Tekkonkinkreet (2006) by Michael Arias – 1 hr 51 mins – Japan, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Crime. Rated R in the US for some violent and disturbing images, and brief sexuality. Generally favorable reviews 65/66 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: Black and White, two street urchins, battle an array of old-word Yakuza and alien assassins vying to rule the decaying metropolis of Treasure Town - where the moon smiles and young boys can fly in this adaptation of Taiyo Matsumoto's beloved manga. This is the first Japanese manga to be written and directed for the screen by Americans.
Film Threat: If anything, it’s a mournful poem about childhood and adulthood. White and Black may be tough and they may jump around and fight like Samurai in the best tradition of Anime, but they are just children after all. When their home is threatened and they have to battle the forces of Snake, the cost of winning the fight means losing their innocence, something that White isn’t prepared to do and that Black is all too eager to accept.
Director Michael Arias has made a beautiful looking kinetic film that’s always in movement. It’s a bit slow at times and the plot has a tendency to meander, but other than that it’s hard to find fault. This is the sort of film that’s so profound that I wouldn’t have any objection about showing it to children despite the violence and adult situations. It would speak to them in ways that their parents never could.
At Film Space Saturday, December 25, 7 pm: Paprika / Papurika (2006) by Satoshi Kon – 1 hr 30 mins – Japan, Animation/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi – A machine allows therapists to enter patients' dreams. When it's stolen, all hell breaks loose, and only a woman therapist (nicknamed "Paprika") seems able to stop it. Following its own brand of logic, Paprika is an eye-opening mind trip that rarely makes sense but never fails to dazzle. The film weaves in and out of dream worlds seamlessly and presents an offbeat puzzle of a fantasy. Rated R in the US for violent and sexual images. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81/73 out of 100.
San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: A highly sophisticated work of the imagination, a journey into a labyrinth of dreams and an exploration of the line between dreams and reality. It's not a film for children, and it's not even something children would like. It's challenging and disturbing and uncanny in the ways it captures the nature of dreams -- their odd logic, mutability and capacity to hint at deepest terrors.
The story surrounds the invention of a device meant to be used therapeutically. A dreamer is hooked up to a machine, making it possible for doctors to see a dream on a screen, record it and understand its unconscious meaning. As the film begins, the device -- known as the DC Mini -- has not yet been approved, but young Dr. Chiba is using it already to help her patients. Moreover, she is entering her patient's dreams, in the guise of an alter ego known as Paprika.
But then several of the DC minis are stolen from the office, and this becomes a problem, as the scientists find out that it's possible for people, using the DC mini, to enter the dreams of other people. And if they have malicious intent, they could easily trap victims inside these tortured dreams, so that they never can escape. If that doesn't sound like a description of psychosis or hell, what does?
Over the course of the film, we become acquainted with the running dream motifs of several characters, including a police detective who harps on that he doesn't like movies and yet keeps dreaming of being inside an elevator, in which each floor represents a different movie genre: suspense, romance, etc.
As Paprika, Dr. Chiba is forced to go inside the dreams of powerful adversaries in order to pry her patients loose from their invaded dreams. And so the film grows and becomes more layered, more frightening and more fascinating. At a certain point, characters escape from dreams only to realize that they haven't escaped at all, that they've only dreamed of escaping. Thus, the line between the two states begins to blur.
Meanwhile -- this touch is downright astonishing -- a collective dream begins to form, one that's gaining in strength and that's so powerful that it threatens to obliterate reality altogether. The collective dream is depicted as a parade of toys, which at one point goes over a red bridge that looks very much like the Golden Gate Bridge. But it's not quite the Golden Gate Bridge; it's more like a dream about it. Individually, the toys look innocent, haunting and menacing, in the way that dreams can often be. A recurring dream figure is that of a gigantic baby girl, a monstrous child going around like King Kong, laying waste to a city.
This is easily one of the most insightful and enjoyable films about the unconscious that you're likely to find, full of images that echo through the mind in eerie ways. Paprika maximizes the virtues of anime, and although anime's limitations can be frustrating -- the jerky body movements, the limited detailing of faces -- this is without question a unique and superior achievement.
At the Gay Film Series
Next showing December 26: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Films with a gay theme shown generally every two weeks, with very limited seating, in a private home. Reservations a must to attend films in this series. To reserve: send email to: Chiangmai.email@example.com, mark in subject area “reserve” with the number in your party. To be placed on the mailing list for advance notice of movies just put in the subject line: “mailing list.”