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October 10, 2013


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Kongkiat Komesiri - 2009
MVD Visual Region 1 DVD

It took a while for Slice to appear as an English subtitled DVD. It took a little while longer before I was able to verify that this was the complete version, 99 minutes long, when several listings suggested a shorter, ahem, cut. For those following Thai cinema in all its forms, this was not only critical success, but also one of the more prominent releases of 2009. The top nominee for the 2010 Subhanahongsa Awards, the Thai equivalent to the Oscars, in fourteen out of sixteen categories, Slice won for Best Director, Score and Make-up. Since the bottom fell out of the "Asian Extreme" market, it's good to know that the film found its way stateside on a very obscure DVD label.

In some ways, I'm not surprised that Kongkiat's film might have have trouble finding an audience. The film is by turns perhaps too arty for the gorehounds, while the some of the art house crowd would undoubtedly be disturbed by some very graphic violence. The story is by Wisit Sasanatieng, best known for his Tears of the Black Tiger. Unlike that film or Citizen Dog which played on imagery from classic Thai movies, Slice has moments recalling Dario Argento and Gaspar Noe. Reversing their roles from The Unseeable which Kongkiat wrote, and Wisit directed, both that film and Slice share a common theme about the inability to escape one's past.

Tai is a prisoner, later revealed to be a former cop who has worked for a detective, Chin. Chin has been investigating a series of murders. The victims have been men, with their penises removed. Tai thinks there might be a connection between his recurring nightmare involving a large red suitcase, and the discovery of one of the bodies. The son of a top politician is one of the victims. Tai is released from prison to hunt for the killer, with clues suggesting the person was a childhood friend, one the condition that he solves the mystery by a specific date.

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The narrative alternates between the present day hunt for the serial killer and Tai's memories of growing up in a small rural town, kicked off when he returns in search of the friend in question. The memories are primarily centered on adolescence, when hormones kick in, and boys attempt to deal with their budding sexuality. There is homosexuality, both real and perceived, with Tai coming to grips with his friendship with Nut, a smaller boy tauntingly addressed as "faggot". Joining with a quartet of boys who beat up Nut, Tai eventually foregoes being part of the gang. Tai and Nut run away from their small village after killing Nut's abusive father, only to be caught up with some sleazeballs in the notorious Walking Street area of Pattaya.

There is the recurring use of red throughout the film. The opening shot seems like nothing special, a simple shot horizontally divided between sea and sky, until you not a small dot of red in the ocean, what is revealed to be a large, red suitcase. The killer wears a red hooded cloak. There are also red boots, windows, reflecting light. The red cloak of the killer appears iridescent, especially in a scene of mass murder in a sex club. While red is associated with the devil, the killer is seen standing in front of a large, illuminated ferris wheel, almost like a halo, with the cloak spread out suggesting that the mystery person might be more of an avenging angel.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 10, 2013 08:16 AM