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April 25, 2012

SuckSeed!

Suckseed Poster.jpg

SuckSeed: Huay Khan Thep
Chayanop Boonprakob - 2011
Cai Chang Region 3 DVD

All I'm going to say about the title is that it reflects the sometimes idiosyncratic usage of English that I've come across while I was in Thailand, and one of the characters also explains why he's chosen it for the name of his rock band.

And while SuckSeed! is not the Thai equivalent to A Hard Day's Night, it is, by turns both funny and charming. At the heart of the film is the unrealized affection between Ped and Ern. The two form a friendship as schoolchildren. Ped, a very shy boy, is challenged to create a song for his class. Ern, with parents who run a record store, introduces Ped to rock music just days before leaving Chiang Mai to live in Bangkok. Jump ahead six years later, and Ern, now an attractive teenager, has returned to Chiang Mai to finish up high school. Ped, more or less on impulse, decides to form a rock band with his pals Koong and Ex. Ern, who has played with high school bands previously, is invited to join the group. Complicating things are Ped's continued shyness around Ern, and Koong's infatuation with Ern and his sibling rivalry with twin brother Kay, a more accomplished musician with his own band.

The film is divided into three time periods of 2000, 2006 - when most of the film takes place, and 2011, when the main characters reunite. There is a break from the live action, given over to an animated section where Koong explains the meaning of SuckSeed. The drawings look pretty much like what you'd expect from a high school age boy, scribbling in his notebook, an indication that some things don't change that much over generations or cultures. Given the opportunity, I would imagine western high school kids enjoying this film.

Suckseed.jpg

One of the funnier recurring motifs is the use of Thai rock bands to act as a kind of Greek chorus. Where most films settle for using a song to express the inner feelings of a character, Chayanop has the singers appear on film for comic effect. Showing up at various points are the bands Bodyslam, So Cool, as well as solo turns by Anon Saisangcharn, and Ekarat Wongcharat, the lead singer from Big Ass. As such, these musical interludes also help serve as an entertaining introduction to Thai rock music. It could be that Chayanop was inspired by the those scenes in Rock and Roll High School where Joey Ramone suddenly appears in the most unlikely places to serenade P. J. Soles.

The film was shot in and around Chiang Mai, with a few setting recognizable from my time there. The battle of the high school rock bands, the Hot Wave Music Awards, is an actual music competition that has served as the launching pad for several popular Thai rock bands. SuckSeed! is also one of the rare Thai comedies that was popular with both critics and audiences. That this is also Chayanop's first feature indicates another reason to pay attention to the future of Thai cinema. Especially at a time when Thai films are little seen, save for a few martial arts films, SuckSeed! serves as a reminder that there is more to Thai cinema than meets most westerners eyes. Few new Thai films are available as subtitled DVDs, and like this, are made for the Chinese language market. Without getting to pedantic about it, this is a film recommended both for the Asian film scholar and the rock film aficionado.

Posted by peter at April 25, 2012 08:00 AM

Comments

Loso and Moderndog are a couple Thai bands that loom large in the movie. It's a Loso song the kid records for the girl.

The band's first number is a punk version of MD's debut hit Busaba. And Pod Moderndog turns up to sing as well.

But the best appearance by far is Pu fom the 90s band Blackhead in the market. It was great to see him again.

Posted by: wk at April 25, 2012 02:04 PM

Thanks, WiseKwai! Of course it took me a little while to realize that the Clash referred to were not the boys calling from London.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at April 25, 2012 03:34 PM

Would you like to perform at our Thai Restaurant on beautiful Jamaica Bay in NYC? This is the only Thai restaurant in NYC located on an open waterway. We have boat docks, jetskis, great Thai food and of course, lots of live music.

Posted by: Robert at April 26, 2012 09:35 AM

Thanks for the invitation, but I neither sing, nor dance, nor plays any musical instruments. I am sure you serve an excellent Pad Thai and delicious Chicken Panang, but any performing I do might cause your customers to lose their appetite.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at April 26, 2012 03:19 PM