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March 23, 2007

The Sperm


Taweewat Wantha - 2007
Sahamongkol Film International 35mm Film

Is it possible to make a comedy that's too smart for its audience? I had to wonder as I was the only person at the theater where The Sperm was playing. A couple of days ago, I saw Taweewat's nutty debut, SARS Wars, about zombies on the loose in Bangkok. His new film plays as both a satire of science fiction films and Thai popular culture, and a look at the male id, with humor trumping any questions of bad taste. Adding to the overall silliness is an aesthetic that combines the wizardry of computer generated graphics of Michel Gondry with the cobbled together look of a film by Bert I. Gordon.

The basic story is about a struggling rocker, Suthin, who accidentally creates a crisis in Bangkok following his disasterous encounter with Lammy, the girl of his dreams. The basic plot could be read as a parody of John Wyndham or even a send-up of David Cronenberg's The Brood. What is funnier than the hundreds of children that resemble their unwitting father is that these boy-monsters brief lives personify the French expression "La Petite Mort.

While Suthin's band is first seen creating atonal noise, the rock music, leaning towar heavy metel, might be somewhat dated by American standards, but is more credible than most Thai pop. Somlek Sakdikul plays an eccentric scientist, first introduced snorting some kind of substance. I'm not sure if I could declare Somlek the axion of Thai cinema, but his presence in so many films suggests that there is a law regarding the frequency of his appearances. As the would-be rock star, Leo Put(t) (Puttipong Sriwat) is unafraid to put himself in embarassing situations. Pimpaporn Leenutapong plays the object of Suthin's dreams.

That there was no one else in the theater enjoying Taweewat's delirious vision of adolescence should be of concern. Based on other critical writings, as well as my own observations, the general consensus is that Thai audiences aren't interested in Thai films that fall outside familiar conventions. I am hoping to read analysis of The Sperm from Thai critics. My own reaction may be an indication that the humor of The Sperm may be relatively sophisticated for a Thai audience that can be counted on for fits of laughter over shrieking fat men in women's clothing. I would at least hope that one of the better Thai films of this year finds an audience somewhere, if not in Thailand.

Posted by peter at March 23, 2007 05:23 AM


Sayew, an earlier film starring Pimpaporn Leenutapong, is in bargain bins at your local video dealer, with English subtitles. And Taweewat's SARS Wars is likely there, too, also with English subs.

I tried to get my GF to go see this today, and she was embarrassed at the suggestion. I guess the name itself is off putting. Can't imagine why. So we saw Ghost Rider and and sat there bored as Nicholas Cage turned into a flaming skeleton aboard a burning chopper and vanquished the spawn of Mephistopheles. Ho hum.

Hope to see The Sperm tomorrow.

I'll be surprised if any Thai critics weigh in on it.

Posted by: Curtis at March 24, 2007 02:20 PM

I'll look into Sayew the next time I can get to Airport Plaza. The Mangpong store in the basement specializes in discount DVDs. I got SARS Wars there along with every subtitled DVD available of films by Prince Chatri.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at March 24, 2007 07:56 PM

(Sorry I don't know how to arrange a paragraph in the comment box, so it might be a little bit difficult to read.)

I just discovered your blog today by reading Girish Shambu's blog.

Thank you very much for writing about THE SPERM. My friends and I really love this film a lot. We also wish this film find more audience.

One interesting thing about THE SPERM is that it paid tribute to SIN SISTERS (2002, Sukij Narin, B), a Thai film which is a 'cult classic' in my point of view. In THE SPERM, the film that was shown in the theatre is SIN SISTERS. Many people called SIN SISTERS one of the worst films of all time. My friends and I think SIN SISTERS is classic because it might be one of the worst films of all time. (I have never seen a film by Ed Wood, so I don't know if I can compare this film to his films or not.)

You can take a look at some photos from SIN SISTERS here:


THE SPERM also reminds me of another Thai film. It is BANGKOK LOCO (2004, Pornchai Hongrattanaporn, A+) . BANGKOK LOCO is as funny and as surreal as THE SPERM, and it got the same fate. It found little audience.

Some photos from BANGKOK LOCO can be viewed here:


Posted by: celinejulie at April 10, 2007 10:35 AM

I'll have to look into those films. Now that I'm no longer in Chiang Mai, I can't take advantage of buying cool DVDs for 100 baht in the basement of Airport Plaza.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at April 10, 2007 04:05 PM