Saturday, March 31, 2007

A candy-colored cowboy cult confection. Yes. That really does work.

I did something last night that I never thought I would do. I drank beer. Ok, I knew I would do that, and that's not all that noteworthy. The location was. I drank beer in a museum! I went to the Detroit Film Theater at the Detroit Institute of Arts to see a movie. And I had a beer. Samuel Adams Winter Lager. It's good stuff. If you're a fan of beers, check it out.

Like I said, I was at the DFT. To see a movie. And not just any movie, one of them classy flicks. Tears of the Black Tiger. A movie from Thailand that I've been wanting to see since...well, since I first heard of it in December. Basically, it was the DFT's description that sold me on seeing it...

After dazzling audiences at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, this demented, surrealistic, fever-dream of a movie, which is perhaps best described as a candy-colored cowboy cult confection from Thailand, was passed from distributor to distributor in America. They all loved it, but had no idea how to even describe it, let alone market it. Understandable, since it’s not every day that audiences get to revel in a lush, wildly melodramatic Thai western about betrayal and forbidden love, in which cowboys brandish not only six-shooters, but also bazookas. Suggesting a mix of Sergio Leone, John Woo, Douglas Sirk, and George Romero—all under the influence—the one undeniable fact about this insanely entertaining, violently rollicking yarn is that it is quite literally like nothing you have ever seen, or even imagined, before.
And, you know what? They weren't far off. Though, I describe it this way: Imagine if Tarantino made Romeo & Juliet with cowboys. Also, imagine that he shot it in technicolor. That, I think sums it up.

The story itself is about two people in love. However, one is a peasant, the other is a rich girl. It's kind of like Billy Joel's Uptown Girl. Except more Thai and less Brooklyn-y.

This is a pretty typical shot. Look at the color. Look at the framing. The composition of the shot itself is just beautiful.

Dum and Rumpoey met as children. Dum was the son of a farmer who worked for Rumpoey's father. Due to their social status, Rumpoey starts off by being kind of mean and bossy to Dum by bossing him around and breaking his flute. However, when Dum gets beat with oars to protect her, and then gets savagely beaten by his father for the whole ordeal, she falls in love with him (isn't that always how it goes?) and replaces his broken flute with an engraved harmonica. She, however moves away.

Years later, Dum goes to college where he once again runs into Rumpoey. Once again he must defend her honor and once again gets punished for it. This time, he gets expelled. Rumpoey feels terrible, and fulfills a childhood promise to take him to the ocean. After this, Dum returns home to find his father murdered, so Dum goes seeking revenge and joins the circus. I mean a group of bandits run by Fai.

It's here that Dum meets Mahesuan, another bandit. And while Dum is out banditing it up, Rumpoey is getting engaged, to her dismay, to a young police officer. Dum has to then fight off the police officer and Mahesuan to protect Rumpoey.

Real people, fake set.

It's not, however, the story that sets this movie apart. Don't get me wrong, the story is fantastic and lots of fun, but it's the style that the film has that makes it so unique. Just the use of over saturated colors and painted backdrops. Everything looks so bright, even Dum's black shirts. Everything just pops off the screen.

I made a Tarantino comparison earlier. And I don't think I was mistaken. The movie is a bit violent. And bloody. There are guns and cowboys and knives and grenades and midgets and bazookas. People die. But, even death has style in this movie.

And the music! The music is very 50's western movie. Like Hollywood western. That kind of style. It's great and feels funny. Maybe less 50's western, and more 50's romantic comedy. But, the music is almost out of place, but perfect at the same time.

It really was like nothing I had seen before. To call it surreal is an understatement. It would be like calling the Eiffel Tower tall. Or calling the Sahara dry. Or calling Godzilla a lizard. Yes, it describes it, but it gives you no sense of tall, dry, lizard-y or surreal it really is.

A trailer. To give you some idea.

I can only recommend that you see this. If the opportunity should arise, just do it. Just, if nothing else, to do, to SEE something like nothing else. This might be the easiest 8 bullets ricocheting intentionally off of household items to shoot a dude in the head out of 10 that I've ever given.


Nik! said...

I really like we can see the same movie and see it really similarly, but communicate our interpretation differently. It's like I never want to see another movie ever that you don't tell me what you think on it. It's almost as good as watching the movie, which is saying something.

Also, midget, just one midget cowboy. :P