2006/Feb/05

KUEN RAI NGAO (One Night Husband)

 

Perhaps Nicole Theriault, who makes her acting debut in this film and is freshly engaged to her rock-star honey in a high-profile tabloid splash, wouldn't find the premise of the film all that rosy and encouraging. In this introverted drama about a romantic mishap, pop-tart Nicole plays a bride whose groom mysteriously disappears on their wedding night while the sheets are still moist with the blissful sweat of their young bodies. Happiness turns sour, then dark and confusing, as she sets out on a search for her runaway beau.  (literally "night without shadow", though the English title is One Night Husband) is a movie in which females refuse to play second fiddle. It's written and directed by former short filmmaker Pimpaka Towira, a well-known talent in the independent/experimental circle who aspires to push her vision into the mainstream with this feature-length debut. Her story co-written by Prabda Yoon centres in the psychodrama between two women who quietly realise that their lives have thus far been dictated by men.

Kuen Rai Ngao

Nicole plays the one-night wife Sipang, and carries the movie as the lead character. Her counterpoint is Siriyakorn "Oom" Pukkaves, who plays Busaba, the pathetic wife of Chatchai (Pongpat Wachirabanjong), Sipang's hot-tempered brother-in-law. As the two women unravel the clues to the disappearance, they also discover that love hurts, life has many hidden crooks, and the confounding values of femininity are a force that sometimes even women can't fully understand.

PROVINCE 77

 

Thailand's 77th province is not a geographical extension of the existing 76th province. Rather, it's a cultural, numerical, and metaphorical play on the fact that there are so many Thai immigrants in Los Angeles, both legal and illegal, that the American city is in effect an appendage of the Kingdom. Now, one famous resident offers to tell the tale of these dislocated citizens on film.  is in every sense a bi-cultural movie. Most credit definitely goes to Pete Thongchua, a Thai actor who was born in the USA and has lived most of his years on the sun-baked west coast of America. Pete, who serves as the film's executive producer, came up with the story; hired an American screenwriter; recruited his Thai-American friends for assistance; financed the 60-million-baht pic, and shot the entire film on the streets of LA, mostly with professional American crews. Eighty percent of the dialogue is in English, and the cast are mostly luk-krueng (Thais of mixed parentage). The spirit of the film, with its hip-hop kicks and mean-street style, couldn't be more in line with independent American films.

Province 77

The action-drama revolves around a Thai family in LA and the cultural dilemma they confront when their father's restaurant business faces collapse. The burden of redemption falls on his three children, played by supermodel Methinee "Luk Ked" Kingpayome, Mike Kingpayome and newcomer Charlene Amatavanich. The children are dragged into the mayhem of a gangster environment and struggle to define their identity as their "Thainess" melts away in the Californian heat.

From the teaser, the film resembles an orgy of neon-gods, with a splash of harsh colours, a pounding rap soundtrack, street violence and illicit racing. Pete is trying to concoct his own version of a gangster's paradise.

SURIYOTHAI (The Legend of Suriyothai)

  

Two years ago the fever of Suriyothai swept across the nation. Its classical gargantuanism, pomp and pachyderms, elevated its status into a kind of national phenomenon, with audiences pouring into theatres generating a staggering 600-million-baht revenue. And although critics expressed mixed opinions, the importance of the film to local viewers remains irrefutable.

This August it's the return of Suriyotha i shorter, clearer, and reportedly with better subtitles. It all began last year when American film-maker Francis Ford Coppola, a long-time friend of director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol, agreed to supervise the re-editing of the film and flew to Bangkok for the remastering. His intention was to create an international version of Suriyothai, a more streamlined, concise saga that would appeal to a non-Thai audience unfamiliar with the convoluted layers of Siamese history.

In June, Sony Classics released the re-titled The Legend of Suriyothai at 60 theatres in major American cities. The film bears the credit "Francis Ford Coppola Presents", and is now re-edited not just "chopped" from its original 190 minutes to 142, with all its gold-gilded opulence intact.

Some new scenes have been shot, at Coppola's suggestion, to punctuate dramatic fortissimo that had initially been drowned in the lushness of palace intrigue. MC Chatrichalerm premiered his film at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and is eager to see the audiences' reactions when his most ambitious film makes a comeback in Thai theatres.

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