Monastic mystery opens.
Chiang Mai movies beginning Wednesday, April 6, 2011
… through Tuesday, April 12
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Naresuan. The King’s Speech. Rango. The Adjustment Bureau.
Murder in the monastery!
This is Issue Number 23 of Volume 6 of these listings, in our sixth year!
The current festivals lineup:
9th World Film Festival of Bangkok: Nov 4 to 13, 2011.
2nd Luang Prabang Film Festival in Luang Prabang: Dec 3 to 10, 2011.
[No Doi Saket Film Festival this year, but planned for 2012.]
Movies this week changed today, Wednesday, April 6, Chakri Memorial Day, commemorating the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty. Except for Vista, which didn’t seem to get the news, or didn’t care; they are changing their films tomorrow, on Thursday, just like always. So you’ll have to check with their website or by phone to see what’s playing tomorrow. Maybe if there’s something substantial I’ll post it here. I wouldn’t be surprised if The King’s Speech left.
And again next week, movies at Major Cineplex will be changing on Wednesday, April 13, the official beginning of the three unholy days of annual bedlam. Don’t know about Vista.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Mindfulness and Murder / Sop-mai-ngeap / ศพไม่เงียบ: Thai, Crime/ Mystery/ Thriller – 1 hr 45 mins – When a homeless youth is murdered in the grounds of a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok, the police do little to investigate, leaving Father Ananda - a former homicide detective - to try and solve the crime. With the help of an orphaned boy named Jak, Ananda travels the canals of the city to unravel the clues and catch the killer. Written and directed by Tom Waller.
This is the Thai language cinematic directorial debut of Tom Waller (full name Thomas de Warrenne Waller) who was born in Bangkok to a Thai Buddhist mother and Irish Catholic father. He spent his formative years at a Benedictine monastery school in Yorkshire, England, before pursuing a career in film and television. After attending the Northern Film School in Leeds, England in 1995, he embarked on producing and directing his first film project Monk Dawson (1998) aka Passion for the Priest (US video title), a made-for-TV movie based on the award-winning novel by Piers Paul Read.
Writer-director Tom Waller
After 5 years in London, Waller returned to his native Thailand in 2002 as a producer of independent feature films, with Butterfly Man (2002/I), Ghost of Mae Nak (2005), The Elephant King (2006) amongst the acclaimed titles produced through his production company De Warrenne Pictures. In 2008, he produced Thomas Clay's Soi Cowboy (2008) which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival in Un Certain Regard.
Since 1996, Waller has been owner and managing director of De Warrenne Pictures Ltd. which is now one of Thailand's leading production companies serving foreign productions based out of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. In 2006, he formed Tiger Entertainment, a pan-Asian film and TV production house. Waller lives in Bangkok with his two sons, Alex and William.
Wise Kwai: The controversially edgy monastic mystery thriller Mindfulness and Murder hits Thai cinemas this week.
The Thai title is Sop Mai Ngeap (ศพไม่เงียบ ), literally "the corpse is not quiet". It's rated 15+, and was passed without any cuts by censors.
Directed by Tom Waller, and adapted from one of the "Father Ananda" mystery novels by Thailand-based writer Nick Wilgus, the hard-boiled tale has an ex-cop-turned-monk investigating the murder of a homeless boy in the Buddhist temple. As Ananda uncovers clues, it's revealed that all is not holy behind those sacred walls.
Vithaya Pansringarm stars as Father Ananda with Thaitanium rapper Way Prinya as a junior monk and veteran actor Jaran "See Tao" Petcharoen as the temple's abbot. "Kaew" Charina Sirisingha of the pop group ZaZa plays a reporter. Late actor "Muek" Abhijati Jusakul, who died last September, portrays Inspector Somchai. And former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova (recently split from her ex-tennis-star husband Paradorn Srichapan) makes a cameo.
Mindfulness and Murder had previously won awards on the festival circuit.
Waller's De Warrenne Pictures secured a release through M Pictures, the distribution arm of Thailand's biggest theatre company, Major Cineplex, which will show it exclusively in the chain's 21 digital "Silver Screen" halls. The indie thriller is positioned as alternative programming to a certain mega-budget Thai movie that's been unspooling on virtually all the screens in all the multiplexes over the past week.
* Ha Zard / ฮาศาสตร์: Thai, Comedy/ Drama – 1 hr 45 mins – When a university of comedians is facing a downfall and all its comedians are on the way down, some remarkable comedy students team up to save the careers of everyone. With Charlie Trairat, the cute kid Fan Chan made a star of (also Dorm and Hormones), directed by Pornchai Hongrattanaporn (Bangkok Loco, My Valentine), who is also known as Mr. Pink (don’t ask!). Rated 15+ in Thailand.
Wise Kwai: Cover your eyes if you don't want to be blinded by the latest hyper-colorful comedic fantasy by Bangkok Loco director Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, better known as Mr. Pink.
Produced by Five Star Production, it's called Ha Zard (ฮาศาสตร์) and has Fan Chan star Charlie Trairat and Boonchu boy Thanachart Tulyachat teaming up to clown around at a comedy school that's in danger of being shut down.
Pimchanok Ponlaboon, Kirk Schiller, Jaturong Mokjok, and Kom Chuanchuen also star. I think I also spotted a cameo by the pantomime trio Baby Mime.
The Legend of King Naresuan Part III: Naval Battle / ตำนานสมเด็จนเรศวรมหาราช 3 ภาคยุทธนาวี: Thai, Drama/ War – 2 hrs 32 mins – The third chapter of the King Naresuan epic, continuing the story of Thai's chivalric king and warrior in the Ayudhya era who fought against the invasion of Burmese troops that aimed to overpower the Ayudhya Kingdom. This is the one the sparked a mini-scandal because of the unbelievable huge amount of money the Thai government gave this film for expenses. The Thai Culture Ministry announced that half of its much-touted new program to encourage film artists, called Thai Khem Kaeng (Strong Thailand) fund, with a budget of 200 million baht. The Ministry announced that 100 million of that fund would be awarded King Naresuan Parts III and IV. What is less known is that that obscene sum of money was actually for only one scene in the movie, the epic elephant battle between the 16th century Siamese monarch Naresuan the Great and a Burmese prince. (The Bangkok Post’s Kong Rithdee wrote: “Even Avatar didn't spend 100 million baht on one scene.”) The other 100 million would be divided among 48 or so film projects (out of 295 submissions). A huge cry of “Foul!” arose among filmmakers, critics, and the public decrying such a lopsided distribution. And the Culture Ministry was forced to admit that it didn’t know that the final two films in the series were already receiving 330 million baht in government funds from the Commerce Ministry. In the end, the Culture Ministry said “sorry” and said it would make matters right by reducing the amount they would give the Naresuan film from 100 million baht to about 46 million baht, and ask for this amount to be returned to the Ministry from profits, when they can.
The Great Elephant Battle is in the final film, and is still to be shot. This time around, we have to settle for The Great Naval Battle. The filming of the story of King Naresuan began in 2002 and is still continuing on the huge set built in Kanchanaburi (and which is open to the public). Nearly the whole army garrison in Kanchanaburi is in the movie as extras, plus hundreds of elephants, horses, and other animals. Sort of a 10-year public works project in the province.
Wise Kwai: With a cast of thousands, including a literal army of extras (actual Royal Thai Army soldiers) and a purpose-built studio in Kanchanaburi Province, the scale of the Naresuan films is like nothing ever attempted before in Thailand. Even Hollywood isn't making movies like this anymore – they just use CGI.
(Click on link for complete review.)
Hop: US, Animation/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy –1 hr 38 mins – Blending state-of-the-art animation with live action, it tells the comic tale of an average semi-lazy guy (James Marsden) who accidentally injures the Easter Bunny’s teen-aged son (voiced by Russell Brand) and must take him in as he recovers. As he struggles with the world's worst houseguest, “both will learn what it takes to finally grow up” – or so it says here. Actually, from the previews, looks like fun. Mixed or average reviews: 41/43 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.)
IMDb viewer: Hop is a beautifully animated, funny, exciting family film. The plot is more sophisticated than Alvin and the Chipmunks, making it much more interesting and enjoyable for adults, and the bunnies and chicks are adorable!
A mom: Hop is a winner. Entertainment literally for the whole family. Not too scary for youngsters, with just enough adult humor to make them chuckle. Some of the snarky dialogue made my cynical teen actually laugh out loud – always a miracle. (The dogs are a little scary for smaller children.)
Village Voice, Nick Schager: Smoothly integrating its cuddly-cute CG protagonists into live-action material, Hop configures its story as a not-too-syrupy, springtime-set holiday (with nods to Christmas) fable of self-actualization and family unity. Despite its scattered frenzy, Hop—thanks to its fondness for smushing together seemingly incongruous elements and Marsden’s goofy, bug-eyed mugging—is just demented enough to deliver a fleeting sugar rush.
Boxoffice, Pete Hammond: Effortlessly blends state of the art CGI with winning animation. This Easter confection is fun for every member of the family, despite marketing that suggests it may be intended for only the youngest of the bunch. The story of the Easter Bunny's teen son and his quest to make a name for himself is richly funny and entertaining. This wonderfully clever, hip hoppin' delight will be loved by believers of all ages.
The King’s Speech: [only at Vista] (Deserves to be seen on a big screen.) UK/ Australia, Drama/ History – 1 hr 58 mins – In my view a beautiful motion picture, with everything you could wish for. Oscar nominations for best picture (and won), best director (Tom Hooper – and won), best actor (Colin Firth – and won), best supporting actor (Geoffrey Rush), best supporting actress (Helena Bonham Carter), original screenplay (and won), art direction, cinematography, costume design, editing, original score (Alexandre Desplat), and sound mixing. Tells the story of the man who became King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George ('Bertie') reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded stutter and considered unfit to be king, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush). Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war. Rated R in the US for some language; 15+ in Thailand. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88/86 out of 100. Only at Vista, and now only twice a day, at 3:30 pm and 9:30 pm – See it while you still can!
The multi-award-winning cast includes Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, and Michael Gambon.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Colin Firth gives a masterful performance in The King's Speech, a predictable but stylishly produced and rousing period drama.
Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern: No screen portrait of a king has ever been more stirring – heartbreaking at first, then stirring. That's partly due to the screenplay, which contains two of the best-written roles in recent memory, and to Mr. Hooper's superb direction.
Sucker Punch: US/ Canada, Action/ Fantasy/ Thriller – 1 hr 49 mins – Most imaginative film since Inception. A young girl (Baby Doll) is institutionalized – locked away in a mental asylum by her wicked stepfather – where she will undergo a lobotomy in five days time. Faced with a horrible reality, she retreats into a fantastical world of her imagination where she and four other female inmates at the asylum plot to escape the facility. Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, but her incredible adventures blur the lines between reality and fantasy as Baby Doll and her companions battle various creatures and enemies to retrieve five items they need that will allow them to break free from their captors. Generally unfavorable reviews: 35/34 out of 100. Now at Vista only, and in a Thai-dubbed version.
Directed by Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300, and, amazingly, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole – a truly brilliant animated film) and starring Abbie Cornish, Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to make fun of Sucker Punch. It may not make a lot of rational sense, but it seems to make emotional and visual sense to me. I think it resonates deeply with a human being’s fantasies and fears. I imagine it’s doomed to be ridiculed for years to come, and yet have an influence on future films that will surprise everyone. It’s bizarre, but ends up being unique and wonderful – a gritty, violent, fantasy-based, primarily female-driven story.
Los Angeles Times, Betsy Sharkey: Sucker Punch, Zack Snyder's violent mash-up of Dickensian dark morality with Moulin Rouge couture is stun-gun gorgeous, psychosexually unnerving, fantasy action-riffic and most definitely not for the faint of heart.
The blurring of reality and fantasy is there in every frame and echoes the grim storybook quality found in the graphic novel world and the fantasy look favored by gothic video games — a sort of "Guernica" of comic-book chaos. The vision is so precise and so specifically rendered.
Snyder is doing his best visual work since the arresting pen-and-ink styling of 2006's 300, joining one of a handful of filmmakers like Tim Burton, whose deep imprint becomes a signature.
SuckSeed / ห่วยขั้นเทพ: Thai, Comedy/ Musical – Approx. 2 hrs 20 mins – Inspired by the rhythm of rock 'n roll, the film tells a story of teenage boys who set up their rock band called SuckSeed just to impress the girls, but things get complicated when a girl joins the group. Wise Kwai’s rating: 4 stars out of 5: “Great!”
Wise Kwai: SuckSeed doesn't suck. In fact, it's pretty awesome.
The romantic comedy about loser Chiang Mai schoolboys who form a rock band succeeds as it celebrates the underdog spirit in framing an enjoyable and entertaining portrait of failed romance, faulty friendships, and shaky musicianship.
Gnomeo and Juliet: UK/ US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Fantasy/ Romance – 1 hr 24 mins – A version of Shakespeare's play, set in the world of warring indoor and outdoor gnomes. Garden gnomes Gnomeo (voice of James McAvoy) and Juliet (voice of Emily Blunt) have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors. Caution, be advised: contains plastic pink flamingos and lawnmower races. Mixed or average reviews: 53/56 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: While it has moments of inspiration, Gnomeo and Juliet is often too self-referential for its own good..
Vanishing on 7th Street: US. Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 1 hr 30 mins – An apocalyptic thriller/ horror about a group of people who must avoid darkness to stay alive. I found the film Irritatingly dark and murky visually, and with characters who engage in some truly nonsensical behavior; the film often seems to me to be laughably maladroit. There are long sections, however, which build a nice sense of dread and mystery. An unexplained blackout plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, and by the time the sun rises, only a few people remain – surrounded by heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars, and lengthening shadows. A small handful of strangers that have survived the night – Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo (one of my most favorite actors – terrific here, given what he had to work with), and 13-year-old newcomer at the time Jacob Latimore – each find their way to a rundown bar, on 7th Street, whose gasoline-powered generator and stockpile of food and drink make it the last refuge in a deserted city. With daylight beginning to disappear completely and whispering shadows surrounding the survivors, they soon discover that the enemy is the darkness itself, and only the few remaining light sources can keep them safe. As time begins to run out for them, the darkness closes in.
Directed by Brad Anderson. Rated R in the US for language. Mixed or average reviews: 50/51 out of 100.
NPR, Jeannette Catsoulis: A highly respectable piece of genre entertainment, one with a little more class than most. Structured like an old Twilight Zone episode or a Stephen King short story, the film follows four survivors of an unexplained global blackout who awaken to discover that most of the population has disappeared — right out of its clothing.
But in a movie where characterization takes second place to chills, it's cinematographer Uta Briesewitz (who also shot Next Stop, Wonderland and the magnificently creepy Session 9) who shines. Working the minimalist story for maximum fright, he manipulates his digital camera to skin-crawling effect, flitting between creeping fingers of blackness and fizzing halos of luminance. Computer-generated effects are used sparingly, so when they appear — a plane tumbling from the sky in swift silence — they are jarringly effective. Add Lucas Vidal's brooding score and the result is a primal journey to a ho-hum destination.
Rango: US, Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family/ Western – 1 hr 47 mins – It’s a delight! I had a great time. Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff. Directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Johnny Depp, it’s the first full-length work of animation created by the special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic. Generally favorable reviews: 75/76 out of 100. At Vista only. Not in 3D!
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Rango is a smart, giddily creative burst of beautifully animated entertainment.
The Adjustment Bureau: US, Romance/ Thriller/ Sci-Fi – 1 hr 45 mins – On the brink of winning a seat in the US Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Matt Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)-a woman like none he's ever known. But just as he realizes he's falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart. David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself – the men of The Adjustment Bureau – who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path...or risk everything to defy Fate and be with her. Mixed or average reviews: 57/61 out of 100. At Vista only, and only once a day now, at 9:30 pm. Likely to be its last day today. See it while you can!
Last minute cancellation
This movie was scheduled for today and at the very last minute was cancelled. I’m thinking it may show up any day. If it does, see it!
Source Code: US/ France, Action/ Mystery/ Romance/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 33 mins – This has the biggest buzz in the movie world of any film in a long time. Everyone seems to be raving about it, and from what I’ve seen in the trailers and in an extended scene, it looks simply terrific in all ways as a thriller and mystery. It stars an excellent Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. A lower-key younger brother to Inception – it has the complex infrastructure of top-tier science fiction cinema while toying with blockbuster formula. Seems to have appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Looks entirely gripping, well directed, well acted. Generally favorable reviews: 73/74 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Finding the human story amidst the action, director Duncan Jones and charming Jake Gyllenhaal craft a smart, satisfying sci-fi thriller.
Scheduled for April 13 - Wednesday
Nang Pee / The Cinderella / หนังผี: (Scheduled to open Tuesday, April 12) Thai, Horror/ Mystery – 1 hr 30 mins – It all started on a movie set where a hot-tempered superstar named Rashane has a quarrel with the movie crew. The quarrel leads to the unexpected death of Rashane and a sequel of horror when Rashane's corpse is summoned back from the grave to get his revenge. The preview shows bloody scenes of the skin being ripped off a man’s back, and the top of a skull removed to get at the brain below. Your move!
Battle: Los Angeles / World Invasion: Battle LA: US, Action/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 1 hr 56 mins – “For years, there have been documented cases of UFO sightings around the world - Buenos Aires, Seoul, France, Germany, China. But in 2011, what were once just sightings will become a terrifying reality when Earth is attacked by unknown forces. As... For years, there have been documented cases of UFO sightings around the world - Buenos Aires, Seoul, France, Germany, China. But in 2011, what were once just sightings will become a terrifying reality when Earth is attacked by unknown forces. As people everywhere watch the world's great cities fall, Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected. It's up to a Marine staff sergeant (Aaron Eckhart) and his new platoon to draw a line in the sand as they take on an enemy unlike any they've ever encountered before.” Generally unfavorable reviews: 37/47 out of 100.
IMDb states that the film is inspired by the real life incident known as the Battle of Los Angeles, during World War II. On the night of 24-25 February 1942, unidentified aircraft were allegedly spotted in the airspace above Los Angeles. Suspecting it to be the Japanese, a blackout of the city was ordered and over 1,440 rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition was fired. Upon finding no evidence of the existence of any enemy aircraft, the incident was declared to be a "false alarm". The event has since been chalked up to as being a result of "war nerves", likely triggered by a lost weather balloon and exacerbated by stray flares and shell bursts from adjoining anti-aircraft batteries.
Very little of the film was actually shot in Los Angeles. Tax incentives brought the production to Louisiana where sets of Los Angeles streets were constructed. Aaron Eckhart broke his arm while filming a stunt. Marines from Camp Pendleton helped train the actors for their roles, educating them in the Marine way of doing things. A number of actual Marines also appear as extras in the film.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Overlong and overly burdened with war movie clichés, Battle: Los Angeles will entertain only the most ardent action junkies.
Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips: Original, it's not. Exciting, it is. This jacked-up B-movie hybrid of Black Hawk Down and War of the Worlds is a modest but crafty triumph of tension over good sense and cliché.
Rio: US, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – 1 hr 36 mins – Set in the magnificent city of Rio de Janeiro and the lush rainforest of Brazil, the comedy-adventure centers on Blu, a rare macaw who thinks he is the last of his kind. With Jesse Eisenberg, late of The Social Network, as the voice of Blu. From the makers of the Ice Age series. Blu is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, living a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota, USA. Blu and Linda think he's the last of his kind, but when they learn about another Macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel, Blu's female counterpart. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers. With the help of street smart Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking and smooth-talking city birds, Blu escapes. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to Linda in Minnesota.
Let the Bullets Fly / 讓子彈飛 [ 让子弹飞 ]: China, Action/ Comedy – 1 hr 28 mins – Set in China during the warring 1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time imposter. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues. Written and directed by Jiang Wen, starring Jiang Wen and Chow Yun Fat. The film is hugely popular in China, and is on the verge of being China’s biggest box-office hit. Rated 18+ in Thailand.
Hollywood Reporter, Maggie Lee: Machiavellian mind games, a twisted vendetta, and high-octane gun slinging among a bandit posing as a governor, his strategist, and a small-town kingpin are the stuff of adventure and trenchant humor in the Chinese western, Let the Bullets Fly. As an allegory on power, corruption and rough justice, it has flashes of intelligence and political acumen.
Actor-auteurJiang Wen directs with a macho, devil-may-care bravadothat expresses the anarchy and rapacious opportunism of warlord-dominated China in the 1920s.
* = 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, April 8, 8 pm: L'Ami de mon amie / My Girlfriend's Boyfriend / Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987) by Eric Rohmer – 102 mins – France, Comedy. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 78 out of 100.
With Emmanuelle Chaulet, Sophie Renoir, Anne-Laure Meury, Eric Viellard.
Blanche has recently moved to Cergy-Pontoise, to work at the town hall. During a lunch break she meets the vivacious and immediately likeable Léa. Although not fond of sports, Léa agrees to go swimming with Blanche, at the local pool. There they meet Alexandre, one of Lea's acquaintances, along with Adrienne, his current girlfriend. Blanche finds herself under the spell of the young engineer. The holidays arrive. Léa leaves while Blanche stays on. By chance, Blanche bumps into Alexandre in the street. She clumsily tries to make a pass at him. Soon she's also bumping into Fabien, Léa's boyfriend...
– Alliance description
Roger Ebert: The movie is essentially about bad timing. Two young women are friends, not deep lifelong soul sisters, to be sure, but friends. They see a handsome young man. One likes him, the other gets him, and then, in a sense, they trade, with an additional boyfriend and a few other friends thrown into the mixture. All of the permutations are unimportant, because we are not dealing with the heart here, but with fashion.
There is a sense in which none of these characters can feel deeply, although they can admittedly experience transient periods of weeping and moaning over their cruel fates. That's because their relationships are based essentially on outward appearances; they choose lovers as fashion accessories. In conversation, they find they have "a lot in common," but that's easy to explain: They all hold exactly the same few limited opinions.
When one girl thinks she has a boy and another girl gets him, there is a sense of betrayal, all right, but it's not the kind of passionate betrayal that leads to murder or suicide. It's the kind of betrayal that leads to dramatic statements like "I'm not ever going to speak to you again!" Rohmer knows exactly what he is doing here. He has no great purpose, but an interesting small one: He wants to observe the everyday behavior of a new class of French person, the young professionals whose values are mostly materialistic, whose ideas have been shaped by popular culture, who do not read much, or think much about politics, or have much depth. By the end of this film you may know his characters better than they will ever know themselves.
Reelviews, James Berardinelli: Throughout his long, respectable career, French auteur Eric Rohmer has been known for three qualities: a gentle touch, a simple style, and the ability to craft some of the most delectable dialogue ever to grace the screen. The magic of Rohmer's films is that nothing is allowed to get in the way of people talking to one another. In fact, many of his best efforts are little more than several lengthy conversations strung together. Through such seemingly banal interaction, Rohmer surprises us by revealing more about his characters and their motivations than many filmmakers get across through lengthy scenes of exposition.
Throughout his career, Rohmer has worked with themed sets of movies. During the '60s and '70s, he made a series of movies that, when grouped together, formed "The Moral Tales." In the '80s, he moved on to "Comedies and Proverbs". And, during the '90s, he worked on "The Tales of Four Seasons." Boyfriends and Girlfriends, released in 1987, was the final installment of Rohmer's "Comedies and Proverbs". As its jumping-off point, it used the following adage: "The friends of my friends are my friends." Through his consummate skill as an observer of human interaction, Rohmer finds a way to apply this common phrase to the minutiae of everyday living - meeting new people and embracing some attractions while fighting others.
The characters in Boyfriends and Girlfriends are all self-centered and shallow. They rarely speak or think about anything deeper than their feelings, and never seek anything more substantial than transitory satisfaction. They are four young yuppies - twenty-somethings who have embraced the age of materialism and self-gratification that characterized the '80s. They live in a new, sleek Parisian suburb that has none of the old world charm of the ancient city. It's modern and sterile, and the closest it gets to Paris is a distant view of the Eiffel Tower peeking up over the horizon.
In the hands of another director, Boyfriends and Girlfriends might have turned into a biting satire, but Rohmer [shown at right] is a sympathetic filmmaker. He never condemns his characters - he merely presents them as they are and lets the viewer decide whether or not they are deserving of affection. In this case, he shows that, despite their superficialities, they are flesh-and-blood individuals, not comic contrivances or caricatures. The little touches that make them come alive also make them compelling individuals. Ultimately, this film isn't really about much, but we are drawn into it because of the way in which the artist sketches his subject. Many important aspects of their portraits are left out, but the intriguing details incorporated are what make them fascinating.
On Friday, April 15, 8 pm: [No showing – Holiday – Songkran!]
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
April is “The Month of Tremble with Terror” at Film Space.
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, April 9, 7 pm: Funny Games (1997) by Michael Haneke – 1 hr 43 mins – Austria, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller. A psychological thriller about an innocent family as they stumble upon a holiday in hell: Anna, George, and their son arrive at their lovely lakeside home on vacation and meet a strange and demanding young man -- a guest of their neighbors – who turns out to have rather violent tendencies. This original German-language version is unrated. The nearly exact copy made by the director in English in 2007 was rated R in the US for terror, violence, and some language. Mixed or average reviews: 41/63 out of 100. In German, with English subtitles.
Film Scouts, David Sterritt: Sadistic, insufferable, clever, and relentlessly compelling.
San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: Just because it's a conscious commentary on other vile, useless, pointless cinematic exercises doesn't make it any less vile, useless, and pointless.
New York Post, Lou Lumenick: The joke is on arthouse audiences who show up for Funny Games, which is basically torture porn every bit as manipulative and reprehensible as "Hostel," even if it's tricked out with intellectual pretension.
ReelViews, James Berardinelli: From a strictly cinematic standpoint, this is a valid motion picture that tells a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It pushes buttons, develops characters, and generates tension. As I indicated above, the only argument I have with Haneke's approach is when he chooses to address the audience directly. That is unnecessary and distracting. While I would stop short of calling Funny Games brilliant, I think it's forceful, unforgettable, and thought-provoking. In terms of the extremity of reaction it provokes, it reminds me of the equally disturbing Hard Candy. This isn't for everyone (and some viewers will feel ambushed), but those for whom it does work will find themselves challenged and stimulated. Funny Games is not entertainment but it is an experience.
New York Times, A.O. Scott: It is customary to describe film directors who keep a tight rein on their audience’s responses, who coldly and meticulously manipulate emotion, as sadists. Not necessarily in a bad way; filmmaking is to a large degree an art of control. Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Steven Spielberg can all, with some justice, be accused of sadism, a charge that hardly detracts from — indeed, that helps to explain — the way they provide entertainment.Michael Haneke, an Austrian auteur who has worked for many years in France, has always been more interested in punishing his audience than in entertaining it. His scrupulously constructed, skillfully made films, many of which have won prizes at leading international festivals, are excruciatingly suspenseful and also, more often than not, clammy and repellent.
It is likely that Mr. Haneke would take the last two adjectives as praise — it’s fine with me if they show up in advertisements — or at least as the acknowledgment of fulfilled intentions. His is an especially pure and perverse kind of cinematic sadism, the kind that seeks to stop us from taking pleasure in our own masochism. We will endure the pain he inflicts for our own good, and feel bad about it in the bargain.
Funny Games, Mr. Haneke’s first English-language film — and a compulsively faithful replica of his notorious 1997 German-language feature of the same title — subjects its viewers to a long spectacle of wanton and gratuitous brutality. So, of course, do countless other movies, though few of them can claim this one’s artistic pedigree or aesthetic prestige. And indeed, the conceit of“Funny Games is that it offers a harsh, exacting critique of vulgar, violent amusements, a kind of homeopathic treatment for a public numbed and besotted by the casual consumption of images of suffering. That the new version takes place in America is part of the point, since Americans — to a European intellectual this almost goes without saying — are especially deserving of the kind of moral correction Mr. Haneke takes it upon himself to mete out.
Our problem is that we think violence is fun. Well, the fun stops here, people. ...
At Film Space Saturday, April 16, 7 pm: Oldboy / Old Boy (2003) by Chan-Wook Park – 2 hrs – South Korea, Drama/ Mystery/ Thriller. An average man is kidnapped and imprisoned in a shabby cell for 15 years without explanation. He then is released, equipped with money, a cell phone and expensive clothes. As he strives to explain his imprisonment and get his revenge, Oh Dae-Su soon finds out that his kidnapper has a greater plan for him and is set onto a path of pain and suffering in an attempt to uncover the motive of his mysterious tormentor. Rated R in the US for strong violence including scenes of torture, sexuality, and pervasive language. Mixed or average reviews: 74/73 out of 100. In Korean, with English subtitles.
Film Scouts, David Sterritt: Sadistic, insufferable, clever, and relentlessly compelling.
Salon, By Stephanie Zacharek: A grand, gritty, indelible experience, the sort of picture that mimics great literature in the way it envelops you in a well-told story while also evoking subtle but strong gradations of emotion. Oldbo begins as a revenge fantasy and evolves into something much more complex and redemptive. It's a thrilling picture, and in places a funny one, yet it can't be classified as an action picture or a comedy -- it's too infused with tragic poetry to be so conveniently buttonholed. Oldboy is a viscerally charged picture, and an exceedingly beautiful one, but its beauty springs directly from its anguish. It's like a flower watered with blood.
The hero and the victim of Oldboy is Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), who is, when we first meet him, a gregarious but average Seoul businessman who's gotten a little drunk after a night on the town. He's arrested for his disorderly conduct, detained briefly, and released into the custody of a friend. That's when his nightmare begins: Before he can return home to his wife and young daughter (it's her birthday, and he's bought her a pair of white-feather angel wings as a gift), he's abducted mysteriously. Oh Dae-su doesn't know who has kidnapped him, or why. But whatever he's done, his tormentor has gone to inhumane lengths to make him suffer: He's confined to a seedy hotel room, furnished with a TV set, a bed and a "Night Gallery"-style clown painting, and fed a diet of nothing but fried dumplings -- for 15 years.
And then one day Oh Dae-su -- toughened up from exercising regularly in his room, his knuckles permanently callused from using the wall as a sparring partner -- is pitched back out into the real world, without ever having learned why he was confined for so long, or the identity of his captor. He has nowhere to go (during his imprisonment, he learns from watching TV that he has been framed for his wife's murder). He has, however, been provided with a cellphone and a wallet full of cash. The phone rings, and he answers it: The mysterious voice on the other end challenges Oh Dae-su to find out what his crime was. This isn't the beginning of Oh Dae-su's freedom; it's merely a new and more cruel type of confinement. ...