In case you haven't heard, the Chinese film that has just broken the all-time box-office record in mainland China, surpassing even Avatar and all those swashbuckling nationalistic epics, is a small comedy set mostly in Chiang Mai called Lost in Thailand. Released on Dec 12, it has hurtled past the 1 billion RMB mark. (4.8 billion baht). Featuring _ from what we've seen and from what our reporter in Beijing reports _ two odd buddies on a madcap trip, a lot of beautiful temples, ladyboy gags, Muay Thai vs kung fu (no panda), a couple of elephants and one particularly hissy cobra, the slapsticky film has been a surprise phenomenon in China and has reportedly spurred a rush of Chinese tourists to the northern Thai city.
We'll have a full report on the film, straight from Beijing, next Friday. For now, let's say that the film skirts the lurid pitfalls of Siamese stereotype into which a number of movies shot here fell _ Lost in Thailand has all those superficial "Thai icons", from monks to elephants and temples and showgirls, and yet it sticks steadfastly to the two Chinese characters and their Journey to the West-like quest _ not to obtain a sacred text but a business contract (after all, this is 21st century China!).
It's a coup de theatre for the filmmakers no doubt, but also for the policy to promote Thailand as a movie set. When The Hangover 2 came here, we made quite a big deal about it, and here's a smaller flick, perhaps even crazier, with no marquee stars, but one that's done the same if not more to capture Thailand in its variety, bad and good.
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