Fair Game continues! Do try to see it.
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, January 27, 2011
… through Wednesday, February 2
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Fair Game. The Tourist. Monsters.
To avoid like the plague: Fockers.
Far-out fighting in a fantasy land - “Warrior’s Way”!
This newssheet is also online! Go to:
This is Issue Number 13 of Volume 6 of these listings, in our sixth year!
South East Asian Film Festival, Payap University: Feb 3 to 6. Info at http://filmfestival.payap.ac.th/?page_id=56.
French Cinema Week, Alliance Française: Feb 7 to 11.
(Use slider on the right of the site to view film information.)
Here is a list of the ten films nominated for best picture of the year for the Academy Award ceremony coming up on February 27, with notes as to whether we might see each here in Chiang Mai. We’ve already seen three. [The Oscar show is Feb 27 in the US, but Feb 28 early morning here in Thailand.]
“Black Swan” – not scheduled for Thailand yet.
“The Fighter” – opened today at some Major Cineplex theaters, but not here. May pop up any time.
“Inception” – already played here.
“The Kids Are All Right” – not scheduled for Thailand yet.
“The King’s Speech” – Feb 3 only at APEX, Siam Square.
“127 Hours” – Mar 31 for Thailand.
“The Social Network” – already played here.
“Toy Story“ - already played here.
“True Grit” – Feb 24 for Thailand.
“Winter’s Bone” – not scheduled for Thailand yet.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Meet the Parents: Little Fockers: US, Comedy – 1 hr 38 mins – Must we really? In this third installment of the series, the test of wills between Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller escalates to new heights – or would that be depths? At Airport Plaza only. Generally unfavorable reviews: 27/34 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.) To be fair, the cinemas here have to serve a wide constituency, and they have to have a certain number of actioners, rom-coms, Thai patriotic films, films for kids, and films for people who like this kind of film. Let’s just hope this fulfills their quota for a while now.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: Watching Little Fockers is a depressing experience. Rarely does a comedy bring such an overpowering sense of sadness.
The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy: Clearly nothing but a paycheck project for all concerned, this is definitely the least and hopefully the last of a franchise that started amusingly enough a decade ago but has now officially overstayed its welcome.
St. Petersburg Times, Steve Persall: A comedy abomination, tasteless and useless to a stunning degree, with storied actors smugly collecting paychecks for sullying their careers.
* Shaolin / New Shaolin Temple / เส้าหลิน 2 ใหญ่ / 新少林寺: Hong Kong/ China, Action/ Drama/ Comedy – 2 hrs 11 mins – “In a land torn by strife, the righteous monks of Shaolin stand as a beacon of hope for the oppressed masses.” Starring Jackie Chan and Andy Lau. Rather than risk damaging the famous temple, now a World Heritage Site, the producers of this film built their own "Shaolin Temple" that cost 10 million yuan (US$1.47 million). It’s a life-size copy of the actual temple, only with less restoration. Founded in the 5th century, the monastery is long famous for its association with Chinese martial arts and particularly with Shaolin Kung Fu. This is an updated version of Jet Li's 1982 movie debut, The Shaolin Temple. Distinguishing his film from the previous version, producer/director Benny Chan sets the new "Shaolin" in the early 20th century, and tells a story of Shaolin monks who protect and shelter civilians during war. Unfortunately it’s shown here only in a Thai-dubbed version, at least that’s what they say, and for this week.
Jackie Chan and temple boys
A Nutshell Review, Stefan S: Superstars aren't lacking in this update of Shaolin Temple which promises spectacular action sequences, but what's surprisingly excellent here isn't the action, but the spirit of Buddhism and themes that come along with it.
It isn't a remake per se of the old Shaolin Temple movie given a fresh set of characters and a premise that's remotely similar, set after the fall of the Qing dynasty with warlords battling it out for supremacy and territory in China. In what I thought was quite a stark message in warning of any future infighting amongst the Chinese if they do not stand united, that foreign powers are more than willing to wait for an opportunity to exploit. Economic advantages offered should also be scrutinized beyond immediate gains, where corruption of the few in power would mean severe losses on a national scale.
That aside, this film centers itself squarely on the central character of the ruthless and cunning warlord Hao Jie (Andy Lau), who has no qualms in constantly gaining upper hands amongst enemies and allies even. In a wrongly calculated move to take on his sworn brother in an ambush, his protege Cao Man (Nicholas Tse) probably had understood his mentor's philosophy that no man is indispensable to quash his insatiable appetite for power and glory, and through the ceaseless indoctrination in the Hao-Jie-School-of-Thought, it is no wonder that Cao Man ultimately decides to betray his master. Think of it as striking when the iron is hot to become top dog and making decisions, rather than taking them.
In a tale about retribution and karma, Shaolin doesn't deviate very far from the themes of how evil intentions can lead one astray only for religion to point one back to the path of righteousness and all things good..
But most of the co-stars were severely under-utilized, as the story, with responsibility coming from no less than five writers, didn't pay the others too much attention. Fan Bing Bing was a complete waste as the token female amongst the cast.
Action direction came from Cory Yuen, with choreography courtesy of Yuen Tak and Li Chung Chi, all veterans in their field, so quality is almost assured when the combatants take on each other, although I must say that most fights ended as soon as they began, which is a pity. Quality also goes toward the art direction, with production values culminating in the recreation of the Shaolin Temple, made to resemble a bastion of compassion open to all and sundry displaced by warring factions seeking refuge at its doorsteps in tumultuous times.
Benny Chan's filmography may have blown hot and cold in recent years, but Shaolin establishes him back at the top of the game able to handle a big budgeted spectacle that doesn't necessarily rely on star power and action to deliver the goods, but actually is a thinking man's film on the philosophical aspects of Buddhism, and the balance of Martial Zen. Recommended!
Movie exclusive: Ultimately, the strength of Benny Chan's Shaolin lies in how surprisingly intellectual and deeply moving it is- intellectual in its Buddhist leanings of the vicious cycle war, hatred and greed perpetrates; and moving in its portrayal of one man's redemptive journey to free himself from his sinful past. It is a blockbuster in every sense, from spectacle, to emotion, and most of all spirit.
* The Incite Mill – 7 Day Death Game / インシテミル: Japan, Horror/ Thriller – 1 hr 47 mins – Ten people gather for a short term job paying about $1,200 USD per hour. They are informed they will be monitored 24 hours a day for 7 days straight in a psychological experiment. They are then sent to individual rooms with a different weapon located in each room. Once they are locked in they learn more of the rules of the psychological experiment. 1) Each person must return to their room by 10 PM. 2) At the end of 7 days or when there are only two members left alive the experiment will end. The next day a person is found shot to death. The “dream job” turns into a nightmare.
I saw this yesterday, and was quite amused by it. It is over-the-top Japanese horror with all the traditions and trappings that go along with the genre, so if you’re not willing to give it plenty of slack, you won’t enjoy it much at all. If you take it on its own terms, you’ll be entertained by their attempts to tell a frightening story, using acting techniques that haven’t been seen outside this genre since the days of the silent screen. There’s a certain naiveté about it that is quite charming. For example, to indicate that one strand of the film reworks Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, there are ten little wooden Indian dolls on a table who watch the proceedings, and even talk and cackle maniacally!
I saw it at Airport Plaza, where it had the original Japanese soundtrack, with Thai and English subtitles. Now it’s playing only at Vista, and they tell me that their version is Thai-dubbed with no English subtitles. But they weren’t too sure, so you will need to check.
The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young: Reality shows have already spawned their fair share of movies; in The Incite Mill – 7 Day Death Game, Japanese horror veteran Hideo Nakata (who directed both the original Ring and one of its U.S. remakes, The Ring Two) gives the genre a coldly classy treatment that is gripping, if not terribly original. Smart and well-acted by an all-star cast, the film vaunts appealing, stand-out production design.
Adapted from Honobu Yonezawa’s popular novel The Incite Mill (ergo the unwieldy hyphenate title), the film is given a very Japanese feel via local characterizations. Western audiences will find it a bit of a stretch to empathize with self-abasing women and hyper-assertive males, not to mention a hero who wears his emotions on his sleeve and often expresses them in shrieking tones.
* Monsters: UK, Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 34 mins – Six years ago NASA discovered the possibility of alien life within our solar system. A probe was launched to collect samples, but crashed upon re-entry over Central America. Soon after, new life form began to appear and half of Mexico was quarantined as an Infected Zone. Today, the American and Mexican military still struggle to contain "the creatures." Our story begins when a US journalist agrees to escort a shaken tourist through the infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border. Rated R in the US for language. Generally favorable reviews: 63/66 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: It doesn't quite live up to its intriguing premise, but Monsters is a surprising blend of alien-invasion tropes, political themes, and relationship drama.
Salon.com, Andrew O'Hehir: However you slice it, Monsters is a dynamite little film, loaded with atmosphere, intelligence, beauty, and courage.
Empire, Dan Jolin: An amazing achievement for a 'first-time' filmmaker, which measures up to the finest indies for performance and character-work, and the biggest blockbusters for jaw-dropping effects. And it has the year's best sex scene, too.
Roger Ebert: Monsters is a rather special achievement. It's based on characters, relationships, fear, and mostly unseen menace, and although the movie's special effects are important, it's not about special effects.
The story, set some years in the future, explains that a probe was sent to Europa to search for life. On its return, it crash-landed in Mexico. Whatever was on board found the conditions here suitable. The Beings have occupied a wide swath of northern Mexico, known as the Infected Zone, and travel through it is forbidden. The two nations are connected only by boats and airplanes. A massive wall has been constructed to keep the creatures out of the United States, and Air Force planes fire missiles at them.
Whoops. I just hopped over one allegory and tripped on another one. There's an obvious parallel with our current border situation and the controversy over undocumented aliens. And another one with our recent wars, where expensive and advanced aircraft are used to fire missiles at enemies who are mostly invisible. A process of demonization is also going on: Are these beings actually a threat? ...
Monsters holds our attention ever more deeply as we realize it's not a casual exploitation picture. We expect that sooner or later, we'll get a good look at the aliens close up. When we do, let's say it's not a disappointment. They're ugly and uncannily beautiful. We've never seen anything like them. And their motives are made clear in a sequence combining uncommon suspense and uncanny poetry.
Director/ writer Gareth Edwards is brilliant at evoking the awe and beauty he has been building toward, and at last we fully realize the film's ambitious arc. I think the lesson may be: Life has its reasons. Motives are pretty universal. Monsters are in the eye of the beholder.
* Bangkon Care / บางคนแคร์ แคร์บางคน: Thai, Drama/ Romance – 1 hr 55 mins – A girl is separated from her first true love, and then desperately tries to find him again using today’s modern tools: Facebook and Twitter.
Fair Game: US, Action/ Biography/ Drama/ Thriller – 1 hr 44 mins – Director Doug Liman’s exciting fact-based drama of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson; his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson; and the events of 2003, when her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by the White House after her husband wrote an op-ed piece criticizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Generally favorable reviews: 69/71 out of 100. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this important and rousing film to Chiang Mai.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Williams: For a nation at war with its own values, Fair Game is a compelling, pertinent, and scrupulously true political thriller in the honorable tradition of All the President's Men.
New York Observer: Rex Reed: Fair Game, with Naomi Watts as the suburban housewife with twins who was also a covert intelligence operative playing a big role in the outbreak of the war in Iraq, clears up the murky facts and shines a klieg light on the dark, shadowy corridors of the George Bush White House. The story takes on a vital new importance.
Plame, the attractive blond secret agent who made a fool out of Dick Cheney after disclos
ing the truth about the fact that there were no "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, and her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), a former ambassador to Niger under President Clinton who dispelled the false rumors circulated by the State Department that Niger was selling uranium to Saddam Hussein to build a nuclear bomb, were labeled traitors. When the White House declared war on Iraq and ignored Joe's investigative reports that no uranium purchase ever took place, he wrote a New York Times editorial about the lies the Bush-Cheney administration was feeding the American public and all hell broke loose. Retaliating against her husband's disagreement with the government, the Bush gang leaked Valerie's secret C.I.A. status to the Washington press, destroying her career, endangering her life, and nearly wrecking her marriage.
Roger Ebert (November 3, 2010): It seems to come down to this: The Bush administration had decided to go to war in Iraq. Scrambling to find reasons to justify the war, it seized on reports that the African nation of Niger had sold uranium to Iraq. Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador to Niger, was sent to seek evidence. He found none. In fact, he found such sales would have been physically impossible.
His report was ignored. We went to war. The non-existent uranium sales were cited. He wrote an article in the New York Times reporting on what he found, or didn't find, in Niger. In an attempt to discredit him, someone in the administration leaked the information to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent.
Cheney's aide, Scooter Libby, was tried and convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury, sentenced to prison, and his sentence quickly commuted by Bush. Cheney was angry he wasn't pardoned outright. In the film, we see that Plame, under a variety of aliases, ran secret networks of informants in Bagdad and other Middle Eastern cities. When the administration blew her cover, several of her informants were killed; some reports say 70. Then the Bush spin doctors leaked the story that she was only a CIA "secretary."
The spinning is still going on. Doug Liman's Fair Game, based on books by Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson and starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, is unusually bold for a fictionalization based on real events. Using real names and a good many facts, it argues: (1) Saddam Hussein had no WMD; (2) the CIA knew it; (3) the White House knew it; (4) the agenda of Cheney and his White House neocons required an invasion of Iraq no matter what, and (5) therefore, the evidence was ignored and we went to war because of phony claims.
Well. That's what the film says. There will no doubt be dissent. Few people are happy to be portrayed as liars and betrayers. What amazes me is that Fair Game doesn't play the game of using fictional names. They're all right there, including Cheney personally ordering the intelligence to be falsified.
Naomi Watts looks uncannily like the real life Plame, but that's beside the point; what I related to was the serious, workmanlike tone of her Plame, who doesn't see herself as a heroine but as a skilled operative. She has scenes where she devastates other characters with what she knows about them and how she can use that information. Sean Penn plays Ambassador Wilson, more combative than his wife, outraged by the way administration leakers try to destroy them. The film is realistic about the ways the Plame-Wilson marriage almost failed.
What's effective is how matter-of-fact Fair Game is. This isn't a lathering, angry attack picture. Wilson and Plame are both seen as loyal government employees, not particularly political until they discover the wrong information. The implication is that if the Bush administration hadn't suppressed their information and smeared them, there might have been no Iraq war, and untold thousands of lives would have been saved.
This topic has been so poisoned by misinformation that a rational discussion seems impossible. I suppose the question becomes, how well does Fair Game work as a movie? I suspect it will work better the more you walk in agreeing with it. The portrait it paints of the Wilson-Plame marriage is a very personal one, based on conflicting personalities under pressure. Penn plays Wilson as a hotheaded idealist, fueled by outrage. Watts makes Plame an ideal spy: secretive, concealing, under the radar. Perhaps she would rather her husband had bitten the bullet like a good soldier. They're surrounded by press attention, and she finds her CIA work belittled by Bush administration spin doctors and her contacts overseas trashed. Joe obviously didn't prevent the war. If he'd kept quiet, her own CIA work would not have been destroyed.
One interesting element in the movie's version is the cluelessness of George W. Bush. In this version, it's possible he didn't fully realize how flawed his information on Niger was. The svengali is Cheney. That's the collective narrative that emerges from a group of similar films, like Rod Lurie's Nothing But the Truth and Oliver Stone's W. The implication was that he wanted Scooter pardoned because Scooter was acting on his orders. It's unlikely Scooter would have been acting on his own.
Burlesque: US, Drama/ Musical/ Romance – 2 hrs – A big, bold, brassy retelling of the old show-business story: A small-town girl ventures to Hollywood to become a star. She finds herself starting off in a burlesque club run by a former dancer. With star turns by Cher and Christina Aguilera, refereed by the stable and sane Stanley Tucci. Terrific music and dancing, and if that’s what you’re in the mood for, this will do very nicely indeed. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Mixed or average reviews: 48/48 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes, Consensus: Campy and clichéd, Burlesque wastes its talented cast (including a better-than-expected Christina Aguilera) on a movie that wavers uncertainly between "bad" and "so bad it's good."
The Onion A.V. Club, Nathan Rabin: Burlesque is a terrible film that will delight nearly everyone who sees it, whether they're 12-year-old Christina Aguilera fans or bad-movie buffs angling for a guilty pleasure.
The Warrior’s Way: New Zealand, Action/ Fantasy/ Western – 1 hr 40 mins – Certainly not for everyone, but for sure it will be either a delight or a torture, depending on how you react to surreal and over-the-top filmmaking. I loved it! It is visually stunning, and extraordinarily violent, with the violence lovingly photographed and choreographed. I don’t usually like this much violence, but it’s actually rather distanced and refined here. This modern martial arts western stars Korean actor Dong-gun Jang playing an Asian warrior-assassin forced to hide in a small town in the American Badlands. With Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth, and Danny Huston. Rated R in the US for strong bloody violence. Mixed or average reviews. I say: fantastical! Mixed or average reviews: 45/46 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes, Consensus: Perfectly, thoroughly divisive, The Warrior's Way will either be delightful or unbearable, depending on your tolerance for surreal, shamelessly over the top collisions of eastern and western clichés.
Variety, Joe Leydon: A visually inspired multi-genre amalgamation, a borderline-surreal folly that suggests a martial-arts action-adventure co-directed by Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini.
The Tourist: US/ France, Action/ Drama/ Thriller – 1 hr 33 mins – Johnny Depp stars as an American tourist whose playful dalliance with a stranger leads to a web of intrigue, romance, and danger. With Angelina Jolie, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others – a very fine film!). This one is delicious, sensual, and light in a way that mainstream entertainments almost never are these days. It’s one of those movies that “will leave some viewers scratching their heads, wondering why there isn’t more action, more snazzy editing, more obvious crackle between its stars.” But those who like it will love it: It’s a kind of espionage caper that’s visually sensuous, made with tender attention to detail, and an elegant, understated sense of humor. In style and construction, I think it’s quite superb. But it’s received generally unfavorable reviews: 37/41 out of 100. Nevertheless, I suggest you give it a try. Surprisingly, one of the more popular Hollywood movies in Thailand these day. At Vista only.
Movie Line, Stephanie Zacharek: I suspect the people who get The Tourist will simply adore it: It’s the kind of espionage caper that doesn’t get made anymore, a visually sensuous picture made with tender attention to detail and an elegant, understated sense of humor. In style and construction, its spiritual godfather is Stanley Donen’s Charade; thematically, its fairy godmother is Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve. If it were a drink, it would be a Bellini, fizzy and sweet and dry all at the same time.
Megamind (2D): US, Animation/ Action/ Comedy/ Family – 1 hr 35 mins – Actually, believe it or not, I found this rather cute and funny. But you do have to like animation. About the unhappiness of the most brilliant supervillain the world has ever known ... and the least successful. Over the years, he has tried to conquer Metro City in every imaginable way. Each attempt, a colossal failure, thanks to the caped superhero known as "Metro Man,” until the day one of Megamind’s evil plans actually defeats him. Some hilarious bits of comedy. Generally favorable reviews: 63/67 out of 100. Now at Vista only, in 2D, and Thai-dubbed, with no English subtitles.
Sud Khet Sa Let Pet / Sud Kate Salade Ped / สุดเขตเสลดเป็ด: Thai, Comedy – 1 hr 55 mins – Kohtee Aramboy and Tukkie are among the ever-present Thai comedians in this film with an untranslatable title, engaged in comic antics much like all that has gone before in Thai comedies. Except that, well, it seems to be exactly what a great segment of the population wants to see. It is an ungodly hit. In Thai only at Vista, English subtitles at Major.
Lud See Lud / The Four / หลุดสี่หลุด: Thai, Action/ Drama – 2 hrs 15 mins – Anthology of four stories, a combination of action, thriller, comedy, and drama, but it looks to focus on the horror with some action and comedy thrown in. Ananda Everingham (Shutter, The Red Eagle) stars in the more action-oriented segment.
Hor Taew Taek 3 / Oh My Ghost 2 / หอแต๋วแตก แหวกชิมิ: Thai, Comedy/ Horror – 1 hr 55 mins – More of this dreadful story that is so popular here, about the haunted dorm and its unfortunate owners. After defeating the wicked ghost in Part 2, the three owners face a new wave of horror and horrible comedy when they visit a mysterious fraternity house and meet a handsome vampire. Oh, and werewolf. Another Poj Arnon directorial effort focusing on cross-dressing and gay characters and the laughs that can be got from them.
Scheduled for February 3
The Green Hornet: US, Action/ Comedy/ Crime –Christof Waitz, Cameron Diaz, and Seth Rogen as the Hornet. Apparently only sporadically entertaining, but of special interest to Asians because the role of Cato is played by superstar Jay Chou. Generally unfavorable reviews: 39/45 out of 100.
Miami Herald, Rene Rodriguez: A big, boisterous action-comedy - a funny, exciting, and intentionally goofy summer movie that just happens to arrive in the middle of January.
Roger Ebert: An almost unendurable demonstration of a movie with nothing to be about.
The Child’s Eye: Hong Kong, Horror – 1 hr 37 mins – Written, produced, and directed by the Pang twins, Danny and Oxide, this is touted as Asia's first digital 3D horror film! Stranded in Thailand by the political uprising and airport closure (surely not in Thailand!), a group of friends are unable to return home. Unwillingly, they stay in a shabby hotel (the film was shot in Bangkok), and came across three odd children and a puppy. Soon, strange supernatural encounters begin to occur. The Child's Eye premiered on September 4, 2010 at the Venice Film Festival, and has received negative reviews for the films perceived low-quality script.
This film, The Fighter, is a Major Cinema exclusive in Thailand, opening January 27 (but not here), and may pop up at any moment in Chiang Mai. Keep an eye out for it, it’s one of the year’s best.
The Fighter: US, Biography/ Drama/ Sport – 1 hr 55 mins – Highly praised film nominated for a best-picture Oscar, best director, best supporting actor (Christian Bale), best supporting actress (Amy Adams and Melissa Leo), best original screenplay, best editing. The Fighter is a drama about boxer "Irish" Micky Ward's unlikely road to the world light welterweight title. His Rocky-like rise was shepherded by half-brother Dicky, a boxer-turned-trainer who rebounded in life after nearly being KO'd by drugs and crime. With Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, giving two outstanding performances. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Generally favorable reviews: 79/79 out of 100.
... and looking forward
Feb 10: The Rite: US, Drama/ Horror/ Thriller – 1 hr 52 mins – An American priest travels to Italy to study at an exorcism school. Directed by Mikael Håfström, with Anthony Hopkins. Generally unfavorable reviews: 32/37 out of 100.
Feb 17: Black Swan: (At one time this was the release date for Thailand, but for Chiang Mai? Very uncertain) US, Drama/ Romance/ Thriller – 1 hr 48 mins – Follows the story of Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who exerts a suffocating control over her. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Nominated for best picture of the year, best direction, best actress (Natalie Portman), best cinematography (Matthew Libatique), and editing. Rated R in the US for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language, and some drug use. Generally favorable reviews: 79/82 out of 100.
* = Coming soon (hopefully)
AF = Alliance Française FS = Film Space
South East Asian Film Festival
The South East Asian Institute of Global Studies at Payap University presents “Lifescapes” – a festival running from February 3 to 6 at Payap University.
Opening and closing receptions, film screenings, discussion panels, and presentations will take place on the Payap University main campus. All films will be subtitled in English (and hopefully Thai also). All activities are free and open to the public.
The organizers write that Lifescapes will screen contemporary films – documentary, docu-drama, dramatic – to showcase thoughtful work with a social conscience. They hopes to raise awareness while celebrating the film culture and filmmakers of Southeast Asia who make meaningful social commentary with their work – showing the “beautiful” without flinching from “grim reality.”
They go on to say they hope to show films that explore regional issues and human rights struggles within mainland Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The festival will screen films and give audiences and directors the opportunity for discussion. Directors and film-makers are invited to speak, and representatives from NGO’s will host a cross-country forum.
Website for the festival: http://filmfestival.payap.ac.th/?page_id=56
One of the more interesting of the films is:
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Sun. 6 February, 7:00 pm
At Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, Cinema 7
This showing of Uncle Boonmee is really quite an event for Chiang Mai, and may be your only chance to see this mysterious film which won the Palme d'Or at the last Cannes Festival.
Tickets: 100 baht (normal seat); 120 baht (honeymoon seat); 300 baht (Opera Chair – 2 persons)
Tickets are now available for purchase at the following places:
Payap University, Mae Khao Campus
Pentecost Building, Room 115
Raan Lao Bookshop
Nimanhaemin Rd, near Soi 2
Cup A Book Cafe
Nimanhaemin Rd, opposite Soi 13
DVD Film & Music
Wing 41 T-junction (off Suthep Rd.)
Tickets will also be available at a booth in front of the Major Cineplex boxoffice staffed by students of Payap on January 29th and 30th from 2 until 5 pm.
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, January 28: Quai des Orfèvres / Jenny Lamour (1947) by Henri-Georges Clouzot – 95 mins – France Crime/ Drama. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 89/85 out of 100.
With Louis Jouvet, Bernard Blier, Suzy Delair, Simone Renant, Rene Blancard, Charles Dullin.
Suzy Delair stars as Jenny Lamour, an ambitious music hall singer who wants to be a star and is willing to befriend the lecherous old men who ogle her act, inspiring the jealousy of Jenny's husband Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier). One particular fan of Jenny's is a wealthy financial backer who extends repeated invitations to the entertainer to join him at fine restaurants and his expansive mansion. Armed with a gun, Maurice goes to the estate to confront his rival one night but discovers that the master of the house is already dead, his wife having smashed a bottle of champagne over his head to stave off a sexual advance. Soon, a gruff but dedicated detective, Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet) is on the case, with Maurice taking the heat for Jenny...
– Alliance description
A thriller full of rich complex characters and a dark world view, perhaps attributable to Henri-Georges Clouzot's own experience with Le Corbeau, his previous film which was banned by both Nazi Germany and his French homeland. Brilliantly transforming a classic whodunit plot, the Gallic “Master of Suspense” takes us from the wings and dressing rooms of the Parisian music hall and circus worlds to the drab, airless corridors and holding cells of the Quai's Criminal Investigations Department, in a blend of social realism and psychological cruelty that became his trademark. One of the uncontested masterpieces of the postwar French cinema.
MovieMail, Peter Wild: A classic French film noir set around the dancehalls of 1940s Paris. Singer Jenny meets lecherous movie financier Brignon in order to further her career. Her jealous husband disapproves. When Brignon is murdered, hawk-eyed Inspector Antoine is confronted with three potential murderers and has to try and prise apart all the alibis with which he is confronted.
All of which may sound like a fairly standard crime of passion flick. What makes Quai des Orfèvres special is the relationship between Jenny and Maurice – in many ways this is the crux of the film. Writer-director Henri-Georges Clouzot (these days most famous for helming the mighty Les Diaboliques) turns in an exceptional movie with an interesting twist. On the surface of things, Quai des Orfèvres can be viewed, wrongly, I think, as a conventional story in which a social-climbing woman does her man wrong. Jenny and Maurice do, however, genuinely love each other – and there are tender scenes that go some way toward demonstrating this. What we have here is a crime of passion wrought by a woman who gets herself in a situation as the result of attempting to better her life and the life of her husband.
Shot through with Clouzot's typically morbid humor. Fans of vintage Hitchcock and Pickpocket-era Bresson should make sure they don't let this one slip by.
On Friday, February 4: Ascenseur pour l'échafaud / Elevator to the Gallows / Frantic (1958) by Louis Malle – 88 mins – Drama / Crime / Thriller. 16 mm film, B&W. English subtitles. Music by Miles Davis.
With Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin, Jean Wall, Elga Andersen, Sylviane Aisenstein, and Micheline Bona.
An industrialist is assassinated, but an elevator breakdown prevents a perfect crime.
– Alliance description
Louis Malle's 1957 masterpiece of suspense and film noir starring Jeanne Moreau, in the role that catapulted her to international stardom. A wonderful original score by the legendary Miles Davis. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 93 out of 100.
It's a tightly structured thriller with a brilliantly moody performance by Jeanne Moreau, and depending on your point of view, it's either one of the few genuine French noir films or an early entry in the New Wave.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
January is “The Month of Coming of Age” at Film Space. February, “The Month of Musical.”
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the Chiang Mai University (CMU) Art Museum (at 239 Nimmanhemin Road, corner of Suthep Road), 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, January 29, 2011, 7 pm: Lords of Dogtown (2005) by Catherine Hardwicke – 1 hr 47 mins – US/ Germany, Biography/ Drama/ Sport. A fictionalized account of extreme skateboarding's birth in 1975. Poor teenagers from Dogtown, an area of Venice Beach, California, emerged from relative obscurity to become superstars and make skateboarding into a true counterculture. The Z-Boys, as they come to be known, perfected their craft in the empty swimming pools of unsuspecting suburban homeowners, pioneering a thrilling new sport, and eventually moving into legend. With Emile Hirsch and Heath Ledger. Mixed or average reviews: 56/60 out of 100.
IMDb viewer: This was a great movie on friendship in the '70's, and a look at how the sport of skateboarding took off. I'd wanted to see it for awhile, so with Heath Ledger's death, didn't hesitate anymore. I didn't recognize him as the surf shop owner Skip, for the first several scenes. I think he added poignancy to his role, as did others who, in the film, fought their way to who they are. Interesting to know this is based on lives of people still in the skateboarding business, including the man who started off Tony Hawks career. It's good to have work out there yet to see Heath Ledger's talent shine.
February is “The Month of Musical” at Film Space.
At Film Space Saturday, February 5, 7 pm: The Wizard of Oz (1939) by Victor Fleming – 1 hr 41 mins – US, Adventure/ Comedy/ Fantasy. An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant now as they were in 1939. A must-see film for young and old. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 92 out of 100.