Now that the Bangkok International Film Festival seems forever doomed, or at least for the foreseeable future, the sole sanctuary for cine-lovers in the city is the World Film Festival, now in its 10th edition. For a decade it has lurched along, showing steadfastness despite limited budget and resources.
Every year, festival director Kriangsak "Victor" Silakong manages to bring at least a handful of current hits _ hotly debated films making the rounds on the international film-festival circuit _ and fills the rest of his 50-film rosterwith smaller yet eclectic titles _ with hits and misses. And most importantly, it has often proved a friend of independent Thai film-makers by highlighting new works by young, little-known talents.
This year, the festival runs from Nov 16-25 at Esplanade Cineplex. The tickets are priced at a modest 100 baht, generous, given the average price of admission these days.
The festival opens next Friday with Mekong Hotel, a 60-minute film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul that premiered in Cannes last May. The surprise of the event and its biggest guest, however, is going to be a man who is very guarded about his privacy, French director Leos Carax, who'll screen his much-admired new film Holy Motors along with two older works, Les Amants Du Pont Nuef and Mauvais Sang (see list below). Carax _ the name is an anagram of his real name, Alexander Oscar _ has in the past 20 years inspired a kind of nervous following among cinephiles who dig his grand, spiralling, mad vision that attempts to construct a new language for cinema. Holy Motors, a movie that almost defies description yet engages every minute, certainly merits top billing at the festival.
Besides that, the menu is varied, teasing and has something for everyone. The only absence this year, unfortunately, is independent Thai titles from new directors. Still, Kriangsak has brought us a seemingly solid line-up _ and on a side note, the festival director will also be honoured by the French government with an Ordre des Arts et Lettres decoration at the opening ceremony at Paragon Cineplex.
We pick out some highlights of the festival below. Please visit www.worldfilmbkk.com for details, updates and a complete line-up of films. Enjoy!
PICKS OF THE FESTIVAL
Nov 17 at 3pm and Nov 22 and 1.20pm
- He's called Monsieur Oscar. The glamorously gnomic hero of this film by Leos Carax was born in the womb of cinema, or cinema history, and once he's let loose he grabs us by the collar and takes us through a mind-warping trip that seems like a hallucinatory dream of cinema itself. Basically in each sequence of the film, Oscar, chauffeured around Paris in his stretch limo, changes his costume and plays a different "role" for a mysterious reason we'll later find out (sort of). Denis Lavant is Oscar, and the film also stars Kylie Minogue.
Two other films by Leos Carax will also be screened: Les Amants Du Pont Neuf (The Lovers On The Bridge), starring Juliette Binoche and Lavant as vagabonds in crazy love; and Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood), a futuristic heist movie starring, again, Lavant and Binoche.
Nov 21 at 8pm and Nov 25 and 11am
- Don't be daunted by the 160-minute run time, the new film by Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan (who directed his first and went to Cannes at 20) is a journey of an unlikeliest romance that will move you: the story spans 10 years in the life of Laurence (Melvil Poupard), a man who becomes a transsexual and continues to have a stormy, emotionally complex affair with his female lover. In the past, Dolan's florid style gets in the way of his story-telling, but this time the cocktail feels right _ and more, rapt.
Post Tenebras Lux
Post Tenebras Lux
Nov 20 at 8.30pm and Nov 23 at 3.40pm
- A strange Mexican beast that will keep friends awake all night arguing it over. The film _ its Latin title translated as "after darkness, light" _ concerns a couple and their children living in an idyllic ranch and their relationship with their workers. That's an over-simplification, for the narrative warps back to a dreamy adventure in a sex spa and a visitation of a phosphorescent red devil. At Cannes this year, the film proved one of the most contentious, and the director, Carlos Reygadas, rightly won the best director prize.
You Are The Apple Of My Eye
Nov 18 at 8.30pm and Nov 20 at 8.30pm
- This is a Taiwanese smash hit on the theme of adolescent pains and inevitable romance. Ko Ching-teng claims to be immune to the charms of Shen Chia-yi, the girl all his classmates have a crush on. But when Shen is ordered to tutor Ko, their friendship blossoms into something more. The story follows the two until they've grown up and realise what they've found and lost along the way.
Nov 20 at 6pm and Nov 23 at 1pm
- A poor shoeshine in a drab port town rescues a black boy from a washed-up human smuggling container and contrives a scheme _ humourous and heartwarming _ to ship him off to England. It's pure joy to watch any Aki Kaurismaki movies on the big screen _ and this is your chance. Wit, warmth and a pineapple, they all come through in Le Havre the same way an eccentric uncle, half-drunk on Finnish vodka yet fully in control of his craft, would regale you with a modern-day European fairy tale.
Nov 18 at 6pm and Nov 25 at 2.30pm
- In this documentary concerning a Japanese village, German director Ulrike Ottinger leads us into the reality of the snow landscape with its beauty and austere living conditions. In the Echigo region of Japan, locals live with and under heavy snowfall half the year. Because of this, they have developed their own customs, reflected in their everyday life, festivals and religious rituals.
Nov 21 at 3.40pm and Nov 24 at 3.40pm
- Another documentary film worth checking out, Dear Fukushima is photographer Kengo Otake's personal journey in search of a solution _ and perhaps some sort of closure _ to the nuclear disaster that struck Fukushima last year, and he does that by travelling to Chernobyl, the site of the massive radiation leak in Ukraine in 1986.
Thursday Till Sunday
Nov 18 at 1pm and Nov 19 at 6pm
- From young Argentine director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo, the film tells the story of a four-day trip, from Thursday to Sunday, of a family marred by the anxiety of an imminent separation. The scenery is forlorn, and tension is mounting; the film is told through the eye of a 10-year-old daughter of the estranged couple as she tries to understand the complexity of the adult relationship happening before her.
The Elephant Shaman
Nov 23 at 6.30pm and Nov 24 at 3.40pm
- The only feature-length Thai film in the programme (besides Mekong Hotel), The Elephant Shaman is a documentary directed by Shane Bunnag. It tells the story of Miw, the last elephant shaman who was once the most skilled elephant handler in the region. Miw stopped working in the 1960s, but in 2011 when villagers threatened to kill a marauding elephant, the 85-year-old was asked by the government to help them one final time.
Nov 18 at 1pm and Nov 25 at 7.30pm
- Director Carlos Saura has made several documentary films about music (Flamenco and Tango among them), and here he turns his scrutinising and perceptive eyes and ears to fados, the soulful, haunting Portuguese music that often evokes long lost glory. Saura structures his film into sections of performances, volumes up the spectacular setting, resulting in a heady, intense and dramatic documentary full of great, heartbreaking music and memorable moments.
About the author
- Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Deputy Life Editor