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December 28, 2005

Some short films from Thailand

My significant other is currently in Thailand, primarily in Chiang Mai. She's gotten to know some of the younger filmmakers there and was directed towards a selection of short films available on VCD. My own knowledge of Thai film is spotty. U.S. distribution for the couple of Thai films shown theatrically is still rare. Most Thai films that I have seen have been on DVD. While I can't claim that any of the filmmakers on the VCDs that I received will be as well known as Apichatpong Weerasethakul or even Wisit Sasanatieng, there is some definite nascent talent. For those who are particularly interested in Thai film or Asian film should go to Thai Short Film. The shorts I received all have English subtitles. The translations may be a bit incorrect but the gist is there. For those who do understand Thai, the VCDs also include interviews with the young directors.

One of the better shorts is Colorblind by Banjong Pisanthankul. Somewhat similar in tone to Wong Kar-Wai's Chunking Express, the film follows a couple days in the life of a colorblind young man. Working as a freelance television repairman in spite of his inability to see red, Tum finds himself pursued by an unknown and unwanted paramour who leaves red roses at his door. To somewhat match Tum's view of the world, the color is desaturated, with reds washed out to be more gray.

Noraput Pundutecha's film Cursed Money bears some resemblance to Robert Bresson's L'Argent. The film is about money and karma. A baht bill flies out of the pocket of a young man into a small convenience store. The store owner insists that as the bill was in her store it is her money. Subsequently, she finds herself without customers, and is the victim of thief. The film follows the money and people getting karmic punishment for their ill-gotten gains. If Cursed Money gets obvious and a bit heavy-handed, Pundutecha shows a flair for visual story telling, composing shots for the best dramatic effect. Even though the VCD indicated that there were English subtitles, none were seen. The lack of subtitles in no way hindered following the narrative.

Manussa Vorasingha shows different techniques with three shorts on one VCD. Post-It follows the dialogue of a couple who communicate solely with Post-It notes on the refridgerator. Intersection mostly depend on split screen story telling with some shots that are set up to look like mirror images in an exercise in parallel narratives. Stereo has something of an O. Henry twist at the end in the story of a man who loves his old, malfunctioning boom box.

Taveepong Pratumwong's A Little Dad is a vignette about a dwarf and his young son, who is about to surpass his father in height. Look at Me by Chawalit Khanawutikarn is of a woman who does piece work to support herself and her husband and nephew. While not strongly dramatic, the films are worthwhile in showing sides of Thai life that usually ignored in commercial films.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 28, 2005 01:56 PM