2006/Feb/05

PACHYDERMS AND PROSTITUTES

Elephants and prostitutes may inspire many foreign visitors to Thailand to write stories and make movies. But Thai writers and moviemakers have long used their arts to reflect on the reality of these two national "symbols". Here are some examples.

Thep Thida Rongram (Motel Angel), 1974

One of Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol's social-realist masterpieces, Thep Thida Rongram pitches the feisty Wiyada U-marin, playing a northern girl sold to a Bangkok brothel, with the imcomparable Sorapong Chatree, playing a sadistic pimp who eventually falls for her.

Phuying Kon Nan Chue Boonrod (Her Name Is Boonrod), 1985

Wijit Kunawut's gritty take on the phenomenon of "rental wives" following the arrival of American GIs during the Vietnam War is one of the best Thai feminist movies. Linda Kharthancharoen plays Boonrod, a dark-skinned rural woman who tries to prove to society that she's not selling herself to a farang, even though most other women around her are doing just that in order to survive.

Thep Thida Bar 21, 1978

Euthana Mukdasanit's musical drama tells the story of a bargirl tricked by a young man she loves and later scandalised by a murder case. More a showpiece than a social study, the film is nevertheless remembered for its undaunted subjects.

Prachao Chang Puek (The King of the White Elephant), 1941

Statesman Pridi Banomyong made this pro-peace epic to showcase the virtue of moral leadership, spiced with lavish Orientalism and a thundering herd of war elephants. With all characters speaking English, the film was made for both Thai and Western audiences to oppose the looming shadows of World War II.

Khon Liang Chang (The Elephant Keepers), 1990

Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol's sombre, reverential drama about the trials and tribulations of elephant keepers of the North is one of the director's most cherished work of the 1990s.

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