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June 16, 2007

Shutter

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Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom - 2004
Tartan Region 1 DVD

The last movie I saw in Thailand was Alone, the second film by the team of Banjong and Parkpoom. I had to wait to see Shutter with English subtitles in the U.S. Shutter is currently being remade, in an English language version, in Japan, with Japanese horror specialist Masayuki Ochiai serving as director. From what little I've been able to glean, the story will not be quite the same as that of the original film. Banjong and Parkpoom's debut film is pretty good, but nowhere near the the achievement of Alone.

If I like Alone better, much of the reason is that the film seemed directed more towards an adult audience, with its casting of Masha Wattanapanich in the lead role. Shutter is more clearly aimed towards the traditional Thai audience of young people who want to see actors about the same age or a little older. Some of the narrative elements are staples of the Thai ghost story including the long-haired female ghost seeking revenge, the students who bonded at college, and the secret that ties seemingly unrelated events together. While Shutter avoids making fun of any fat people, there is a moment given to that other cliche of Thai films, the comic transvestite.

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The initial premise is interesting, about a photographer who discovers a ghost making appearances in his photographs. The best moments in Shutter involve the discovery of strange streaks of light and shadows that appear in the photos. A scene with the photographer caught in his darkened studio, with the lights flickering on and off is effective.

A major plot point hinges on the act of photography. As such, Shutter is something of a critique of the male gaze. What Shutter suggests about how photography is used is addressed superficially, raising more questions than answers, which is to say that there is the hint of seriousness to distinguish Shutter from other Thai ghost movies, but not enough to slow down the film. The scene in question, as I have belatedly discovered, was reused for more offensive effect in Haunting Me, another Thai film I wrote about earlier this year. As may be appropriate for a film titled Shutter the strength of the film is not the story, but some of the imagery. The final shot of the ghost and the photographer offers one very disquieting resolution.

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Posted by peter at June 16, 2007 01:41 AM