The Tourist – underrated, most enjoyable!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, January 6, 2011
… through Wednesday, January 12
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: The Tourist. Millennium 3: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. TRON.
Star quality, dressed
to the nines
This is Issue Number 10 of Volume 6 of these listings, in our sixth year!
My apologies for most likely misleading you about The Tourist. Having now seen it, I can tell you that it is a thoroughly enjoyable espionage caper/ romance. Highly recommended, if you don’t go expecting an action-packed film with Jolie kicking butt. Here Angelina Jolie is demure, however deadly, and we don’t see her tattoos. She and Johnny Depp come on as two stars doing a bit of fun together in an absolutely enchanting story and script, deceptive on several levels. There is much more here than meets the eye. See it! (Take a moment now to enjoy that fantastic dress she is wearing in this picture, and the way she carries it off. Pure glamour.)
2010 Top Ten
Two more contributions to the Top Ten Lists for a total of three. Care to share yours?
BEST FILMS OF 2010
1 The Social Network
The Social Network
Millennium 1 - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
2 เจ้านกกระจอก Mundane History
The Social Network
3 Toy Story 3
5 Millennium 1 - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Millennium 3 – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
7 The American
8 Harry Potter 7.1
10 บ้านฉัน..ตลกไว้ก่อน The Little Comedian
South East Asian Film Festival
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Sun. 6 February, 7:00pm
At Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, Cinema 7
The showing of this prize-winning film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a part of the Payap University Lifescapes Festival running from February 3 to 6 at Payap University, organized by the South East Asian Institute of Global Studies 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. See list of all films planned later on in this newsletter.
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.
The organizers of the festival expect tickets to be available on Monday or Tuesday, January 10 or 11. Check their website for latest information.
Tickets: 100 baht (normal seat); 120 baht (honeymoon seat); 300 baht (Opera Chair – 2 persons)
Tickets will be available for purchase from 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.)
Website for the festival: http://filmfestival.payap.ac.th/?page_id=56
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Megamind: 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. (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.)
In 3D at Airport Plaza, 2D and Thai-dubbed at Vista.
Note on the 3D aspect of the film: you’ll likely find it worth the extra cash for the 3D experience. Unlike many films that use 3D as a way to inflate ticket prices, there was a legitimate effort here to make an effective extra-dimension film, and it’s a worthy attempt. Making a 3D movie actually requires quite a bit of work on the part of the filmmakers. Movies like Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender looked terrible in 3D because it was done haphazardly and at the last minute in order to make a quick cash grab. On the other hand, projects that are conceptualized with the technology in mind tend to benefit from the dedicated time. Megamind falls into the latter category. Director Tom McGrath states that the movie was planned in 3D from its inception and was always on the mind of the animators while developing the film. “We designed the sets to be 3D, worked really hard on the camera choreography to be more dimensional, keeping the camera alive.”
When you put on a pair of 3D glasses you essentially end up wearing sunglasses in a dark theater. As a result, if the movie you are watching doesn’t compensate, you are stuck spending two hours of murky darkness. This typically is an affliction of movies that didn’t spend the appropriate amount of time preparing for 3D, but, as mentioned above, that’s not a problem facing Megamind. Thanks to the extensive planning, the movie is actually quite vivid, as Dreamworks animated movies are wont to be, according to reviewers who specialize in evaluating 3D films. They say that while the movie may have its issues in other areas, brightness isn’t one of them.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: It regurgitates plot points from earlier animated efforts, and isn't quite as funny as it should be, but a top-shelf voice cast and strong visuals help make Megamind a pleasant, if unspectacular, diversion.
The New York Times, Stephen Holden: I When at a certain point in the movie Metro Man is accidentally vanquished and is presumed dead, Megamind faces an existential crisis. Without an opponent he has no purpose in life. The movie’s central joke — that good and evil are meaningless unless both exist in continual opposition — is unusually sophisticated for an animated movie. And the screenplay by Alan Schoolcraft and Brent Simons plays that insight every which way.
Megamind, directed by Tom McGrath (both Madagascar movies), has a lot more in its head than the typical aspiring animated blockbuster. Nurture versus nature is one theme. Both Megamind and Metro Man were conceived on a dying planet and simultaneously sent to Earth. Megamind lands in a Metro City prison, where he learns evil, while Metro Man is coddled in upper-middle-class comfort.
To borrow a concept from psychotherapy, the essential selves of Megamind and Metro Man are neither all good nor all bad. The film has a lot riding on how much ambiguity audiences accustomed to more clear-cut personifications of good and evil can tolerate.
* Hor Taew Taek 3 / หอแต๋วแตก แหวกชิมิ: Thai, Comedy/ Horror – 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. Both the title and the advertising posters have run afoul of the Thai censors at the Ministry of Culture, and have been toned down.
Wise Kwai: Seems cinematic kathoeys are in the crosshairs of the public-morality minders at Thailand's Ministry of Culture.
Along with banning the release of transvestite director Tanwarin Sukkahapisit's Insects in the B
ackyard, the Culture Ministry has also cracked down on controversial director Poj Arnon, ordering him to change the poster and title for the third film in his Hor Taew Taek (หอแต๋วแตก) cross-dressing horror-comedy series.
On the original poster for Hor Taew Taek Waek Chi-Mi (หอแต๋วแตก แหวกชิมิ), lead actor "Tack" Paranyu Rojanavudtitham was pictured in just a pair of skimpy white briefs, surrounded by hefty male comedians who are wearing elaborate wigs and revealing women's bathing suits.
No longer the poster
Tack was ordered to put on more clothes by cultural authorities, I guess for the sake of public order and morality.
So now Tack appears shirtless, in a pair of jeans, in a pose that is reminiscent of members of the Wolf Pack in Hollywood's Twilight Saga films. He's still surrounded by the bathing-suit-clad comedy drag queens.
The outspoken Poj had this to say, according to the Bangkok Post's Mae Moo on Sunday:
"I don't understand what's come over Thailand ... what a strange place," he said last week. "A guy appears in a pair of swimming briefs and falls foul of the censor. Yet women can appear in skimpy bikinis and get away with it.
"Seeing a woman in a bikini could motivate a guy to commit a crime. But how many women who see a man in a swimsuit will do bad deeds?"
As for the film's title, it was originally Hor Taew Taek Haek Chi-Mi (หอแต๋วแตก แหกชิมิ), with Mae Moo saying waek is "a more polite version" of haek, meaning to force or spread apart.
The movie's title is actually pretty hard to translate to English, with most pundits I know saying they won't even attempt it.
The new proper version
Apparently, according to the Thai Audience Network, even the change from haek to waek isn't really making the Culture Ministry happy.
Also at issue is the chi-mi tag at the end of the title. That's a slang phrase that's cropped up in colloquial Thai in recent years. It's added to the end of a sentence when someone is trying to get a point across or make sure their facts are straight. It loosely means "is that right?" or "yes or no?"
Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankhiri recently took issue with the chi-mi phrase and lamented what he sees as the general deterioration of the Thai language.
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.
Movie Line, Stephanie Zacharek: The Tourist is 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, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. But 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.
In the opening scene of The Tourist, an undercover type hunched in the cockpit of a surveillance vehicle announces, “The target is leaving the apartment.” And what a target! It’s Angelina Jolie as Elise, the movie’s mystery woman, setting out into A.M. Paris for tea and a croissant. She’s dressed, as if by Hitchcock himself, in a creamy sheath dress and elbow-length suede gloves the color of a fawn’s tummy; her eyes, cold and glittering, might have been plucked from Nefertiti’s tomb. When she reaches her local café, she receives a note from what we presume is a lover, instructing her to board a train to Venice and, en route, find a companion whose shape and build is similar to his, someone who could easily be mistaken — by the police, by the authorities, by anyone — for him. As Elise reads the letter — it’s been written, on pristine stationery, in aristocratically precise block letters, and it’s signed “Alexandre” — her eyes flash unreadable signals suggesting determination, anticipation, apprehension. She burns the letter in her teacup saucer (causing a great kerfuffle among the surveillance dweebs), leaves the café and goes directly to the train station, boarding with nothing but a tiny clutch purse that could hold little more than a hankie and a tube of mascara. Then again, what else does a woman like this need?
Once aboard, Elise coolly scans every seat for a suitable victim. One handsome gent after another meets her appraising gaze with a lost-puppy look that veritably cries out, “Pick me! Pick me!” (The lady friend of one of these potentials shoots Elise a death-ray look that sums up the way many women I know feel about Angelina Jolie.) But none of these fellows is right. At last she finds her mark and sidles into the seat opposite him: He’s an unassuming gent with his nose buried in a paperback spy thriller. She ascertains, with an IRS agent’s precision, that his name is Frank and he’s a math teacher from Wisconsin, traveling through Europe as — you guessed it — a tourist, looking to repair his broken heart.
They share a dining-car dinner together. When they arrive in Venice, she lures him first into her water taxi and then into a luxe, marzipan-colored suite at the Danieli. They share another dinner and exchange minimal secrets; they kiss; she makes him sleep on the couch. In the morning he finds her gone, and worse yet, he finds himself being pursued across a corrugated landscape of Venetian rooftops by a gang of Russian baddies. Who is this woman?
Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
That’s for her to know and us to find out, but not before more secretive official types, like an ultra-efficient Paul Bettany and his older-and-smarter boss, Timothy Dalton — as well as Rufus Sewell, as a gorgeously dressed mystery interloper, and Steven Berkoff, as a multizillionaire thug — enter the picture. And if I’ve dwelt too obsessively on some of the early details of The Tourist, it’s only because I’m still drinking them in: The movie is delicious, sensual and light in a way that mainstream entertainments almost never are these days.
Which means, of course, it’s sure to tank, at least in the United States. The studio behind The Tourist, Columbia, arranged only a rather small, last-minute critic’s screening. They don’t seem to know how to market this picture, which means only that they can’t square it with audience expectations, whatever the hell those are. What’s more, the picture churned through several stars and directors, Sam Worthington, Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron among the former and Lasse Hallström and Bharat Nalluri among the latter. Everyone wants to be the first to predict that a troubled production is going to be bad — why bother even to see it first?
But movies are bizarre, complex little organisms, and even troubled productions can sometimes right themselves. The very oddness of The Tourist in the contemporary movie landscape is what makes it special. The director is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose last (and first) movie was the extraordinary 2006 pre-German reunification drama The Lives of Others. The Tourist is, admittedly, a whole different kettle of sardines. But to anyone who might wonder why a filmmaker capable of making an intimate, exquisitely made picture like that one would want to segue straight into a Hollywood blockbuster, the only reasonable answer is, Why not? The chance to work with big stars, to shoot in two of the world’s most breathtaking cities, to mount extravagant set pieces with lots of extras, to do crane shots and speedboat chases and, yes, even one restrained, underplayed explosion: Not all filmmakers yearn to do these things, but then again, so few human beings even get the opportunity to work on such a grand scale.
Von Donnersmarck has used his considerable powers for good, not evil. He worked on the script with Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park); it’s based on Jérôme Salle’s 2005 French thriller Anthony Zimmer. And even if you’re not that surprised by the story’s surprise twist, there’s plenty to enjoy along the road: The way cinematographer John Seale (the eye behind big-time prestige pictures like The English Patient and Cold Mountain) captures, in burnished visual shorthand, the fragile, sun-baked beauty of Venice, complete with Canaletto clouds drifting through the sky; the way James Newton Howard’s swirly-wallpaper score at one point echoes the clattery, percussive heartbeat of Henry Mancini’s main theme for Charade.
And what about the movie’s stars? The truth is that what passes between them isn’t traditional romantic chemistry — it’s more like a friendly accord struck, with great precision and planning, between two great nations. Jolie’s an icy presence here, but that’s intentional: She’s a caryatid bearing weighty secrets, as well as the occasional cashmere capelet, on her shoulders. Depp’s character is warmer and sexier by design. With her injection-molded clavicle and dulcet GPS voice, Jolie is like a cyborg built to exacting specifications; Depp is her designated human.
That’s part of the movie’s joke, and part of what makes it fun. Elise is the inscrutable dream girl, the woman you think you ought to want but who really scares the hell out of you. Frank is the bumbling, slightly rumpled American who thanks Italian hotel clerks in Spanish — but, charmingly, he’s not the least bit afraid of Elise. He pursues her as if she were the pig-tailed girl next door, refusing to disappear when she tries to send him packing. She may be terrifying, but he’s a terrier, and you know who’s going to win in that game.
The director at work
Even so, it would be a mistake to demand textbook character development from a movie like The Tourist. This is a movie where style rules the day. You can see it even in the way Elise checks the time: She nudges the wrist opening of her long glove just enough to glimpse the face of her tiny tank watch, which she wears on the inside of her wrist instead of out front. In The Tourist, no one but the suits ever barks into a cell phone. Depp’s character doesn’t immediately Tweet to his friends that he’s just met the hottest woman ever, Penthouse Forum-style, on a Venice-bound train. In that respect, The Tourist is a fantasy, and more’s the pity. The private details of Frank’s and Elise’s lives are kept, until the movie’s end, quite private. If Elise and Frank are opaque to each other, they’re opaque for a reason, as, sadly, lovers sometimes are. (Come to think of it, this picture has more in common with The Lives of Others than you might expect.)
But when Elise and Frank’s final reckoning rolls around, The Tourist asks the same question that Preston Sturges and other directors of golden-era romantic comedies used to ask: How do you know who’s right for you? And can that person survive your cruelty? Elise and Frank put each other through the paces in The Tourist and barely live to tell the tale — yet they come out on the other side looking great. To wear a battle scar as if it were a dinner jacket: That’s something the movies no longer show us how to do. But The Tourist, a stranger in its own landscape, still believes in the importance of dressing for dinner.
More About the Director
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck was born in 1973, in Cologne, Germany. He is 6' 8¾" – and that is going some! During his childhood he lived in New York, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Brussels. He is a graduate of Oxford University with a degree in philosophy. After studying in St. Petersburg, Russia for two years, he taught Russian for a while. Speaks German, English, Italian, French and Russian fluently.
He studied at the School of Television and Film in Munich, where he broke the student record for the number of short film awards won at festivals. Upon finishing all of his course work in 2001, he decided to make a feature film instead of another short as a graduation movie. The result - five years later - was Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others (2006), the terrific film which won the Oscar for best foreign film that year, and shown here in Chiang Mai as a part of the EU Mini-Film Festival in March of 2008 . Moved to Los Angeles in 2007.
TRON: Legacy (2D as of today): US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 2 hrs 7 mins – Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Oscar- and Golden Globe-winner Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world's leading video-game developer. Looking into his father's disappearance, he finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 20 years. Along with Kevin's loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.
In this film, the 3D is an integral part of the experience, so yes, see it in 3D if you can. In fact, go to Bangkok and see it in IMAX 3D. It’s a trip that’s worth the trip! They used an updated version of the 3D camera system that James Cameron used to make Avatar, and I can tell you, the 3D version that was shown here in Chiang Mai is spectacular and cutting-edge. Maybe they’ll bring back the 3D version next week, after excitement over Megamind has died down a bit. Keep checking! It’s a true visual and aural experience, and needs to be seen in 3D and in a theater. Mixed or average reviews: 49/56 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Tron Legacy boasts dazzling visuals, but its human characters and story get lost amidst its state-of-the-art production design.
Roger Ebert: Tron: Legacy, a sequel made 28 years after the original but with the same actor, is true to the first film: It also can't be understood, but looks great. Both films, made so many years apart, can fairly lay claim to being state of the art. This time that includes the use of 3-D. Since so much of the action involves quick movement forward and backward in shots, the 3-D effect is useful, and not just a promiscuous use of the ping-pong effect. It is also well-iterated. (A note at the start informs us that parts of the movie were deliberately filmed in 2-D, so of course I removed my glasses to note how much brighter it was. Dimness is the problem 3-D hasn't licked.)
The artificial world is wonderfully well-rendered, building on the earlier film's ability to bring visual excitement to what must in reality, after all, be slim pickings: invisible ones and zeroes. I soon topped off on the thrill of watching Frisbees of light being hurled, but some of the chases and architectural details are effective simply because they use sites and spaces never seen. And the soundtrack by Daft Punk has such urgent electronic force that the visuals sometimes almost play as its accompaniment. It might not be safe to play this soundtrack in the car. The plot is another matter. It's a catastrophe, short-changing the characters and befuddling the audience. No doubt an online guru will produce a synopsis of everything that happens, but this isn't like an opera, where you can peek at the program notes.
I expect Tron: Legacy to be a phenomenon at the box office for a week or so. It may not have legs, because its appeal is too one-dimensional for an audience much beyond immediate responders. When 2001 was in theaters, there were fans who got stoned and sneaked in during the intermission for the sound-and-light trip. I hesitate to suggest that for Tron: Legacy, but the plot won't suffer.
Movieweb, Julian Roman: TRON: Legacy is flawless technically. The visual and aural elements are tremendous. The world of the grid is rippling with detail. The action scenes, particularly the light cycle races, are awesome. Factor in the 3D and IMAX aspect and you're in for an event.
Millennium 3: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes: Sweden/ Denmark/ Germany, Crime/ Drama/ Thriller – in Swedish, with Thai and English subtitles – 2 hrs 27 mins – The third and final episode in the “Millennium” series of three films widely popular throughout the world. In this final episode, two seriously injured people arrive at the emergency ward of the Sahlgrensa hospital in Gothenburg. One is the wanted murderer Lisbeth Salander who has taken a bullet to the head and needs immediate surgery, the other is Alexander Zalachenko, an older man who Lisbeth has attacked with an axe. In this third novel in the Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth is planning her revenge against the men who tried to kill her, and even more importantly, revenge against the government which nearly destroyed her life. But first she must escape from the intensive care unit and exculpate her name from the charges of murder that hangs over her head. Rated R in the US for strong violence, some sexual material, and brief language; 15+ in Thailand. Mixed or average reviews: 60/58 out of 100. At Vista only, with thanks for bringing this series to Chiang Mai.
IMDb viewer: The best of the bunch!
After watching Hornets’ Nest, you'll want to go back to Dragon Tattoo and experience all three films again in sequence. Like coming to the end of an exceptional book, you'll hope for more, surely another way to eke out a Lisbeth Salander film to enjoy. She has become with this trilogy one of the strongest female characters in 21st century film. No wonder actresses were battling to play her--she is the equivalent to Jason Bourne in any regard. (I can't imagine Hollywood doing a better job of these films--can you?)
I believe Hornets’ Nest is best of the bunch. Salander is cornered, in hospital and under arrest, in danger of being recommitted to the institution that held her under guardianship. Despite her uncommunicative nature, Salander has friends, true friends who'll stick their necks out to protect her. But Salander is always willing to fight for herself, and she finds ways to do battle.
Hornets’ Nest gives us a better film than the other in terms of suspense and dramatic flow. The pieces assemble, the foes are distinguished from the good guys, there is conflict and threat launched in surprising ways. Of the three, Hornets’ Nest is the most suspenseful and best executed of the films in my opinion, a superb finish to a wonderful series.
Excuse me while I start reading the books.
Yogi Bear: US/ New Zealand, Animation/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Family – 1 hr 20 mins – A live-action film but with its two main characters animated. Reviewers have remarked about the delightful voice work done by Dan Aykroyd as Yogi Bear and Justin Timberlake as Boo Boo but forget that, as the version here is Thai-dubbed only! The outdoor sequences were filmed in New Zealand’s Woodhill State Forest – and they make up the movie’s most stunning moments, especially in the 3D version which is shown elsewhere, but not here. Generally unfavorable reviews: 35/33 out of 100. At Airport Plaza only.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Yogi Bear's 3D effects and all-star voice cast are cold comfort for its aggressively mediocre screenplay.
San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle: A story about uncaring politicians and ravenous developers out to wreck Yogi and Boo Boo's habitat. They don't care about trees or animals, just profit and power.
This is a cute movie, a kid's movie, and a rather good one. The computer-generated bears are adorable - it's come to this: Computer creations can be adorable - and the movie packs a lot of amusing incidents into a nice, trim 79-minute package. But don't be surprised if in a few days right-wing bloggers start denouncing the movie as a feature-length propaganda piece to indoctrinate children with liberal values.
สาระแน...เห็นผี / Saranae Hen Pee: Thai, Comedy – 1 hr 30 mins – Ghosts, mayhem, and Mario Maurer. Two guys run afoul of a mobster and hide out at a Buddhist temple, which, wouldn’t you know, turns out to be haunted.
Sud Khet Sa Let Pet / Sud Kate Salade Ped / สุดเขตเสลดเป็ด: Thai, Comedy – 1 hr 30 mins – Kohtee Aramboy and Tukkie are among the ever-present Thai comedians in this film, engaged in comic antics much like all that has gone before in Thai comedies.
Scheduled for January 13, 2011
Burlesque: US, Drama/ Musical/ Romance – 2 hrs – A small-town girl ventures to Los Angeles and finds her place in a neo-burlesque club run by a former dancer. With Cher, Christina Aguilera, and Stanley Tucci. It seems to be an attempt at a hybrid between Cabaret and Chicago, with mixed results. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Mixed or average reviews: 48/48 out of 100.
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.
... and looking forward
Jan 27: The Fighter: US, Biography/ Drama/ Sport – 1 hr 55 mins – Highly praised film likely to be a serious contender for many Oscar honors. 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. Rated R in the US for language throughout, drug content, some violence, and sexuality. Generally favorable reviews: 79/79 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
Among the films planned to be shown are:
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Sun. 6 February, 7:00 pm at Major Cineplex Airport Plaza, Cinema 7.
Agrarian Utopia (สวรรค์บ้านนา)
Facing seizure of their own lands, two families found themselves farming together on the same field, hoping to get through just another rice-farming season like every year. But no matter how much the world is evolving, how much the country is going through economic, political, and social changes, they still cannot grasp that ideology of happiness.
How can we dream of utopia while our stomach is still grumbling?
Burma in Pieces
Shot illegally and often covertly in Burma and Thailand over 2 years, Burma in Pieces is a poetic sound and visual metaphor of life under a military dictatorship, pieced together from 150 hours of original material, interviews, and archive footage. Filmed on bustling city streets and in remote mountain villages, in trains and markets, guerrilla resistance compounds in the landmine infested Burmese jungle, refugee camps on the Thai border, Buddhist temples, schools and kickboxing tournaments, the film offers intimate and unique observations of life in Burma under the shadow of the military dictatorship that controls it.
This Prison Where I Live
A feature length documentary about two comedians. Maung Thura, better known as Zarganar, is Burma’s greatest living comic. Relentlessly victimized by the Burmese military junta, he is now in prison. Michael Mittermeier, in stark contrast, is free to practice his art of humor and provocation as one of Germany’s leading stand up comedians. In 2007, Zarganar was interviewed by the British documentary filmmaker, Rex Bloomstein, despite being banned from all forms of artistic activity and talking to foreign media. The footage remained unseen. Two years later, hearing that Zarganar had been sentenced to 35 years in jail, Bloomstein teamed up with Michael Mittermeier and together they travelled secretly to Burma to make a film about this courageous man, who describes himself as the “loudspeaker” for the Burmese people, and to investigate humor under dictatorship.
Who Killed Chea Vichea?
A highly charged murder mystery, a political thriller, and a documentary like no other. Director Bradley Cox shot Who Killed Chea Vichea? over five years, covering events as they happened and tracking down witnesses in a country where knowing too much can cost you your life. Since the completion of the film in 2010, the police in Cambodia have stopped two attempts to screen it and the Cambodian authorities announced that it is “forbidden” to screen it publicly there.
In the Middle of the Bridge
Shortly after the defeat of the September Revolution in 2007, hundreds of monks tried to flee to foreign countries. Some of the leaders landed in Mae Sot in Thailand, a trading center on the border of Burma, where they remained hidden underground. The starting point for our film is based on the consequences of the Safron Revolution that each of our protagonists has experienced in a different way. We focus on the one hand on the personalities and motivation of these men, who take responsibility for one of the biggest democratic movements of our times. On the other hand we try to find out more about the situation and life in Burma, a country that because of its closed border policy does not allow any access to show the reality.
“Our children don’t believe us. They’re too young to know. In 1975, many of us were too young to understand when the Khmer Rouges revolutionaries, managed by Pol Pot, took over our country. War, Khmer rouges, landmines: we should have died. But instead we went astray. We’re not dead. Today, we live in Cambodia. We’ve lived in the village of Chamkar Samrong for the last 15 years, or rather in a couple of rows of houses away from the village, a place better known as “the camp.” We are Cambodian. We always have been. And yet, it was slightly accidental that we ended up here.”
People Living with Stories
‘People Living with Stories’ is a unique film project featuring eight people from a cross section of Vietnamese society specially commissioned for World AIDS Day 2010. In a series of short cameos, the eight participants reveal intimate moments about their lives such as love, bereavement, a first kiss, a wedding day, a memory of a lost love or a friend’s loyalty. The central theme of the film is one of universal humanity – by telling their stories the participants reveal that we all share similar experiences. Thus the film attempts to tackle stigma and discrimination by defining people according to the stories that they tell and not through the labels that people give them.
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 7, 2011: La Grande illusion / The Grand Illusion (1937) by Jean Renoir – 114 mins – France Drama/ War. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 92 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Erich von Stroheim, Pierre Fresnay.
During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain de Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Maréchal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Maréchal and Rosenthal still want to escape.
– Alliance description
Calling on his own experiences as an aviator in WWI as well as those of his comrades, this is Jean Renoir's antiwar masterpiece.
Roger Ebert: It's a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization. Perhaps that was always a sentimental upper-class illusion, the notion that gentlemen on both sides of the lines subscribed to the same code of behavior. Whatever it was, it died in the trenches of World War I.
Ozu’s World, Dennis Schwartz: Jean Renoir's subdued masterpiece is perhaps the greatest anti-war film ever made (some might prefer All Quiet on the Western Front). Uncannily, "Illusion" never showed one battle scene as it reflects on the first Great War in Europe. The first foreign film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar is framed around a simple WWI POW escape narrative, but it suggests a more careful look – it's also a pointed study of how upper class backgrounds, even in warring armies, offers a stronger bond of sympathy than even nationality. This is brought out through the deep regard the German commandant, Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), had for his captive, the senior French officer, Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), also an aristocrat and career professional military man.
The film offers a call for universal brotherhood and a plea for sanity in a world that doesn't know how to settle things without going to war. There never has been a time of a lasting peace. The Grand Illusion title, one that can mean many things, most likely is derived from the illusionary nature of the war's slogan that this was "The War to End All Wars." It's based on a true story of men Renoir knew when he was in the French Resistance, who told him of their escapes.
Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels considered this film cinematic enemy number one, and tried to destroy all copies. Fortunately he didn't succeed. The negative was taken during the German occupation of France in WWII and retaken when the Red Army seized Berlin. The Reds stored it in a hidden archive; several prints over the years were released. But it wasn't until recently that it was put together as it was originally intended by Michel Rocher and Brigitte Dutray, who upgraded it through use of modern technology.
On Friday, January 14: Le Quai des brumes / Port of Shadows (1938) by Marcel Carné – 91 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Romance. Black and white. Generally favorable reviews: 79 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan, Pierre Brasseur.
A deserter encounters in a harbor a poor girl. They fall in love but he kills his girl-friend's tutor who wanted to rape her. At last he's killed himself by a hooligan and the ship he wanted to go aboard to escape goes away without him...
– Alliance description
TV Guide: This marvelous distillation of the prevailing mood in prewar France was the first feature to win critical acclaim for the directing-writing team of Marcel Carne and Jacques Prévert (who had collaborated on Jenny and Bizarre, Bizarre, and who would later create the beloved Children Of Paradise). Gabin plays a deserter who comes to the port of Le Havre looking for passage to a distant country. In a local dive he becomes attracted to Morgan, ward of the owner of a shop that is a front for illicit dealing. When Gabin comes to Simon's shop to buy a gift for Morgan, the evil Simon promises Gabin a passport and money if he will kill one of Simon's enemies. Gabin refuses. But hope for Gabin's escape comes when visionary artist Le Vigan gives the deserter his own passport before walking out on the quay and drowning himself.
At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
January is “The Month of Coming of Age” 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, January 8, 2011, 7 pm: Fish Tank (2009) by Andrea Arnold – 2 hrs 3 mins – UK/ Netherlands, Drama. Mia, a foul-mouthed, stroppy fifteen-year-old, lives on an Essex estate with her tarty mother, Joanne, and precocious little sister Tyler. She has been excluded from school and is awaiting admission to a referrals unit and spends her days aimlessly. She begins an uneasy friendship with Joanne's handsome, extrovert Irish boyfriend, Connor, who encourages her one interest, dancing. What could go wrong? Winner of the BAFTA award for Outstanding British Film, 2010. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81/79 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: Cannes Jury Prize-winner Fish Tank is gritty British realism at its very best with flawless performances from newcomer Kate Jarvis, and Michael Fassbender.
At Film Space Saturday, January 15, 2011, 7 pm: Empire Records (1995) by Allan Moyle – 1 hr 30 mins (unless it’s the “special extended edition” in which case it’s 1 hr 47 mins) – US, Comedy/ Drama/ Music. A day in the life of the employees of Empire Records. Except this is a day where everything comes to a head for a number of them facing personal crises - can they pull through together? And more importantly, can they keep their record store independent and not swallowed up by corporate greed? Generally unfavorable reviews: 30/43 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: This story about a day in the life of an independent record store, truly a threatened species, screeches with the sound of teenagers falling apart... This story about a day in the life of an independent record store, truly a threatened species, screeches with the sound of teenagers falling apart emotionally every five minutes. The script, which feels like an old guy's idea of how kids talk and think, concerns the young employees of a Delaware music shop faced with imminent extinction. While the ship is sinking, the staff indulge in tantrums, depressions, and run-ins with low self-esteem. There's a lot of noise in this thing, but not a lot is really said. Rory Cochrane has the best part as a secretive guy who loses the store's proceeds one night while gambling, Anthony LaPaglia is the adult boss and unofficial dad to the others, Renée Zellweger plays a promiscuous girl, and Liv Tyler is OK as a lovestruck sweet thing trying to get up the nerve to express her feelings to a fellow employee.
Los Angeles Times: David Kronke: The sun can't set too soon on this Empire.
At the Gay Film Series
Next showing January 9, at 7 pm: Happy Endings (2005), an American film directed by Don Roos and starring Lisa Kudrow, Tom Arnold, Steve Coogan, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. 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.firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.”