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August 25, 2008

Bangkok Love Story

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Pheuan... Guu rak meung waa
Poj Arnon - 2007
TLA Releasing Region 1 DVD

For those paying attention to Thai cinema, one of the bigger surprises was the commercial success of Bangkok Love Story, one of two Thai gay love stories that did well at the box office and with Thai critics. The additional surprise of Bangkok Love Story is that it was written and directed by Poj Arnon, who only half a year earlier released one of the critically least respected films of 2007. Of course audiences flocked to Haunting Me anyways. Still, who would have thought that the guy who made Thai audiences scream with laughter about fat middle aged ladyboys chased by a chubby ladyboy ghost would also make a sentimental love story about a hitman and his would-be victim.

Bangkok Love Story actually begins with the time honored first person narration of the hitman, who of course is an alienated loner. Normally Cloud's job is to shoot to kill. For what he thinks will be his last job, he kidnaps a guy named Stone. It's never clearly explained how Stone got his information or what he does exactly, but as a person who has the goods on a mob boss, he is to be eliminated. Why Stone is kidnapped instead of murdered immediately like Cloud's other victims isn't clear either. What Cloud finds out is that Stone is a person of honor, unlike the criminals that Cloud is usually after. Cloud's sense of ethics forbids him to shoot Stone, and the two make a run for it. The gangsters that Cloud works for have a warehouse full of Buddhist statues, an unusual location for a shoot out. What makes the scene even stranger is that this is a commercial Thai film, released without problem by the same censorship board who went apoplectic over a guitar playing Buddhist monk in Sydromes and a Century.

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Stone nurses the the wounded Cloud back to health in Cloud's hideout, a penthouse in an abandoned building. The man who was introduced with his cutie pie wife looks longingly at Cloud, taking advantage of the illness to undress Cloud and wash his naked body. Cloud gets healthy enough to bathe himself but Stone offers to wash Cloud's back. Of course Stone washed more than Cloud's back, and the two start smooching before doing the hibbidy dibbidy. Cloud soon sends Stone away, to walk home to his mansion wearing nothing but his form fitting tighty whities. Stone's wife, Sand, can not understand why Stone has been distant with her. It isn't until she see Stone and Cloud get up close and personal in the rain that she knows the truth about her husband. In the following scene, Sand wonders how she was so oblivious to the wedding videos of Stone holding hands with his best man.

What struck me about Bangkok Love Story is that the man who got some cheap laughs from a parody of Brokeback Mountain made a film that has succeeded with audience and critics, a gay love story that will probably be parodied by other Thai filmmakers, if it hasn't been already. The mawkishness of Bangkok Love Story is stressed by the gushing strings. Imagine, if you will, a vintage Warner Brothers weepie, with Leslie Howard leaving Bette Davis for Humphrey Bogart, to the musical accompaniment of Max Steiner. The effect is an overload of melodrama and beefcake. I could be very wrong about this, but I think the real audience for Bangkok Love Story is actually girls who like to see man on man action. As a sometimes chronicler of Thai films, I do find it encouraging that a new Thai film that is neither a ghost story nor martial arts adventure has a DVD release in the U.S. Now if only Love of Siam, Me . . .Myself and Ploy will follow . . .

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Posted by peter at August 25, 2008 12:00 AM

Comments

Stone is supposed to be a police officer, but the Royal Thai Police objected to that - not that the cop was gay, mind you, but that he would consort with a known criminal!

So that element of the story was toned down, which is why it seems so vague.

Shoot-outs in Buddha factories are no deal, when there's the honor of the Boys in Brown at stake.

Posted by: wisekwai at August 25, 2008 02:10 AM

I mean "no big deal".

Posted by: wisekwai at September 1, 2008 01:15 PM

As a gay girl who digs that hitman-on-victim action, I'd like to say thanks for this post--I caught the DVD last weekend and loved the first third. The rest of the movie is utterly preposterous. Is that typical of Thai movies? Of coures, Hollywood is not the home of the world's clearest thinkers either.

I'm mad crushed on Rattanaballang Tohssawat and waiting to see what else he does.

Posted by: greenvincentine at September 6, 2008 09:45 AM

Hey, this movie was just introduce to me last week by a friend. I was quite hesitant in watching it as I am not into so called "liberate" films, however, was forced to watch it. Good thing I was able to watch it as it opened my eyes to the reality of man-to-man relationship. It strengthen my belief that "true love" can exist in a gay relationship.

Good Job to Poj Arnon, Chaiwat Tongsang, Rattaballung Toesawat and to the rest of the team as the movie is really a BIG SUCCESS.

THANK YOU FOR SUCH A GREAT MOVIE!!!

Posted by: fickle at November 5, 2008 07:50 PM

a fantastic melodrama, heart-felt and real. Chaiwat is convincingly romantic compassionate and down right sexy.Maec was a real romantic assasine with great sense of presence and sensitivity. I bought the dvd and wash the clips on internet several times on all counts. My god fantastic depiction of love courage and compassion.

Posted by: davidakira at March 5, 2009 01:47 PM

It was an absolute good movie for me.I was able to relate to the story of this two man.I appreciate the way the story was done includng the settings, the character, and the whole story.There was the brother of Cloud who was an AIDS victim because of their foster father.Which might be true to some people around us.Hes was so brave.I cried at the end of the story specially when the brother of Cloud killed its own self and hang on.

Posted by: DON MELENDEZ at March 8, 2009 08:26 PM

I was impress.Good character,good casting,perfect settings.

Posted by: Don Melendez at March 11, 2009 10:42 PM

grabeeeeeeeee! this is also the best movie for me...like shelter...i like the way they kiss each other...and the story so good...congrats!

Posted by: andrew at July 23, 2009 05:14 AM