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August 29, 2007

Citizen Dog

citizen dog 1.jpg

Mah Nakorn
Wisit Sasanatieng - 2004
Tai Seng Region 0 DVD

While pondering my list of favorite foreign language films, Citizen Dog looks like a candidate for future favorite. While as much of a celebration of movie fakery as his debut, Tears of the Black Tiger, Wisit Sasanatieng's Citizen Dog might be more easily embraced by those who were put off by the violence of the previous film. A film about the magic of the world, of finding love in a candy colored environment, Citizen Dog is like the contemporary version of the kind of film one might have seen from Jacques Demy or Vincente Minnelli.

Even if some of the satirical aspects of life in Thailand, especially Bangkok, may be lost on western viewers, one can still identify with a story about romantic love at its most intense and misguided. The film is a fantasy where a young girl, who may or may not actually be twenty-two, has a talking, cigarette smoking teddy bear for a best friend. At the same time, Wisit pokes fun at both the consumerism of Thais and their muddled attempts to be environmental activists. And while for the most part Citizen Dog is a romantic comedy, it is also a film that recognizes that relationships are often fragile, breaking apart sometimes more easily than coming together.

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Pod is a young man who decides to explore life in Bangkok where he first has a job in a sardine factory. Later, as a security guard in an office building, he meets Jin, a maid who is compulsive about cleaning. Pod's infatuation for Jin is such that while other people would see Jin wearing a maid's uniform, for Pod what Jin wears is a pretty blue dress. Wisit's film is about how love is often informed by how we see people, whether or not how we envision someone is actually true. In the same way, Jin believes a white book that fell out of the sky, written in an unfamiliar language, will provide answers to her life. Jin also, for a time, has her life wrapped up in a magazine romance novel, upset when it seems like the two lovers may not unite. Pod and Jin seem a bit too naive, often failing to connect the dots. In one scene, Jin realizes that in order to read the mysterious white book, she needs to go to a foreign language school. She does, to work again as an office cleaner, somehow not realizing that she actually would need to attend the classes.

Gorgeously photographed in Hi Def Video, Wisit's film is of a world with intense pastel colors. There are no choreographed performances, but instead some musical numbers such as one with Pod rhapsodizing about Jin's blue maid uniform, seen by the cast members, male and female, surrounding Pod. The warm narration is done by Wisit pal, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. The subtitles are superior, having been done by Film Comment contributor Chuck Stephens and Bangkok Post film critic Kong Rithdee. For myself, there is a bit of irony that I had to wait until I returned to the U.S. to see Citizen Dog with English subtitles. Citizen Dog combines the heart and soul of a classic MGM musical with the digital technology of the early 21st Century.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 29, 2007 12:38 AM


I can't wait to see this...

I bought "Tears Of The Black Tiger" blind after seeing a few screenshots and hearing its description (kudos to Neil at The Bleeding Tree for making me aware of it) and thought it was just gorgeous (and fun).

I've already got "Citizen Dog" pre-ordered...I'm now officially salivating.

Posted by: Bob Turnbull at August 31, 2007 01:27 PM

Wow, that show with the window alone is simply amazingly cool!

Posted by: RC of strangeculture at September 2, 2007 03:04 PM