Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Thai Films

Thai filmmaking is reaching a level of recognition and distribution that hasn't been seen since Bruce Lee did "The Big Boss" (aka Chinese Connection) there for his first feature film. Their martial arts movies have a level of gritty excitement reminiscent of Hong Kong movies from 25 years ago. Two recent offerings stand out; catch them if you can!

The first is "Ong Bak", which means Buddha Head. This was a love-it-or-hate-it smash success at the Cannes festival a couple of years ago. It may not be polished to Hollywood standards, but it has an honest sincerity that carries it through, and some pretty darn cool fights and stunts starting from the opening scene. You couldn't do this movie in the U.S.! It just came out in theaters here. I haven't seen it yet on the big screen or in English, as I was given a VCD from Thailand last year. I've been making up my own dialog, but the movie is pretty self-explanatory. Aside from the action, it has a strong spiritual theme of good overcoming evil through purity and piety. I haven't been this excited over a martial arts film in years.

Next is "Bang Rajan," an historical epic. I haven't seen this, only trailers a year ago, and I just heard from some students that it briefly passed through some local theaters a couple of months ago. Heads should roll! I even wrote to the distributor for info awhile back and got no response ... Presented by Oliver Stone, it's a bit of a jingoistic plug for Thai nationalism that also got critical acclaim in film festivals. From what I saw in the trailers, it's probably the closest thing to authentic native jungle warfare ever shown on film, pretty graphic stuff. Thai or not, this has to be THE movie for escrimadors interested in historic roots. Now I'll probably have to wait a couple of years for them to release a DVD, unless my Thai connection can come up with some domestic offerings over there ....

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