The end of September is when countries submit their representatives for the Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film, the only category the rest of the world can take part in for Hollywood's mostly self-celebratory awards show.
The big news of the past week is that Iran, whose film Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (Nader and Simin: A Separation) won last year's the Best Foreign Language statuette and showed that maybe art could trump politics, has boycotted uproar over the Oscar after the anti-Islam video. And while the announcement of the shortlist in still months away, and Oscar night itself is set for Feb 26, we take a first look at some of the contenders and the possibility of their release in Thailand.
Chile. Directed by Pablo Larrain
- This is one of the best movies of the year on my list _ at this point in the year. No completes director Pablo Larrain's Pinochet trilogy that began with Tony Manero and Post Mortem, both trenchant and powerful. The latest film stars Gael Garcia Bernal as an ad executive hired by an opposition campaign to use the modern tool of television to rally Chilean citizens to vote "No" in a referendum that's largely seen as a rubber stamp for the dictatorial rule of General Pinochet.
It's unlikely that the film will open in Thailand.
Austria. Directed by Michael Hanake
- The Palme d'Or winner from director Michael Hanake is set in Paris _ precisely in a spacious apartment of an ageing couple played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. After the wife suffers an attack and spirals down the irrecoverable path towards death, the husband faces the ultimate test on that elusive and sometimes exasperating subject: love. Isabelle Huppert plays their rancorous daughter who pops into the apartment on a few scenes.
The good news is that the film will open in Bangkok soon.
France. Directed by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
- The review is mixed (I find it bogged down by cliches) but this is the biggest cultural sensation in France last year. The film follows an unlikely friendship that develops between two individuals from opposite ends of the social pyramid. Philippe, a wealthy man whose limbs are paralysed, hires an impoverished young ex-con called Driss as his carer.
The film is still showing now at SF CentralWorld and House RCA _ and it is drawing a very strong turn-out.
South Korea. Directed by Kim Ki-duk
- When Pieta won the Golden Lion from the recently wrapped Venice International Film Festival, the world of film criticism lit up like a fireball from hell. Kim Ki-duk has as many fans as he has detractors (I belong immovably to the latter). The new film consists of sadistic torture and obvious machinations calculated for shock and awe, and judging from the prize it received, that worked. The story concerns a violent debt collector and a woman, young and pretty, who claims to be his mother.
At the moment, the film has no Thai distributor. But my guess is it will be released here _ perhaps straight to DVD.
Germany. Directed by Christian Petzold
- One of my favourite films from the Berlin International Film Festival, Barbara, quietly elegant in its construction, tells the story of an East German doctor who's booted out to a small village after her belligerence upsets the authorities. Nina Hoss plays the lead with a fine mix of sorrow, defiance and Socialist appeal. How I wish the film could somehow be shown here.
Mexico. Directed by Michel Franco
- An intimate drama about a father-daughter relationship, school bullying and the heartbreaking cruelty that teenagers inflict among one another. It's highly unlikely that the film will arrive on our shores.
A Royal Affair
Denmark. Directed by Nikolaj Arcel
- A Danish royal comedy featuring a young queen who gets married to a nutty king, the film won the best screenplay prize at Berlin and garners a generally positive reception. No news about a Thai release.
Fon Tok Kuen Fah (Headshot)
Thailand. Directed by Pen-ek Ratanaruang
- The entry from Thailand is a crime noir involving a hitman who wakes up from a coma and sees everything upside-down _ a great inconvenience in his line of work. He joins a secret band of assassins specialising in whacking corrupt politicians, but the red dot from a rifle is soon pointing at him.
The film was released in Thailand last December. The DVD of the film is now available.
About the author
- Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Deputy Life Editor