Bling and blitz

Bling and blitz

I resisted the urge to moan about the social networking habits of the young and decided instead to go for a more pressing issue of global significance.

The red carpet glitz.

Thai stargazers were agog late last week with the appearance of some stellar Thai personalities on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.

Despite the absence of Thai films being screened at the festival this year, Thailand was represented by the presence of actor Vithaya Pansringarm and actress Ratha "Yayaying" Phongam, both of whom are featured in the film Only God Forgives directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. They shared the marquee with such big names as Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Even before the big day, there were rumours that the two would be dressed in Thai costume for the red carpet appearance at their premiere. And so the social networks _ Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, fashion blogs, news networks, you name it _ were clogged with fans clicking in to check on what Yayaying was up to since her arrival at the glamorous resort town, and what she would wear.

And she didn't disappoint. For her first appearance at an afternoon photocall, she appeared beside her co-stars in a white "Momo" jumpsuit by Vatanika. With her hair drawn up in a tight ponytail, she looked sleek and sophisticated. As her long fingers pressed together in a traditional wai, the cameras clicked furiously.

And the rumour of Thai costume for the red carpet event was not off the mark. Yayaying appeared at the premiere of Only God Forgives in a peacock green sabai draped over one shoulder, covering a single-sleeved fitted top by Joe Surface.

It was matched with a glittering black maxi dress that was slit up the thigh, adding a very contemporary twist to the overall Thai look.

Her hair was pulled up into a high chignon reminiscent of Apasra Hongsakula's Miss Universe hairdo.

Once again she presented the best of Thailand with her respectful wai, accompanied by an Instagram message saying in essence that being born a girl, and not being able to defend her country as a soldier, the best she could do as an actress was to bring love and respect to the red carpet in gratitude for being born under the reign of His Majesty the King.

It was a bit of an irony _ would the term anti-climax be too harsh? _ that her red carpet appearance was blitzed by another Thai star. Araya A. Hargate, better known as Chompoo, also made her appearance at Cannes, not to promote any film, but in her role as L'Oreal ambassador, one of the major sponsors of the festival.

For the premiere of Behind The Candelabra (or was it Cleopatra, or both?) she wore a fairy-tale gown by Zac Posen with a satin bodice and full tulle skirt, which fashion blogs described as a "princess look".

This was accompanied by a Devi Kroell clutch and a huge smile, as she posed with fellow L'Oreal ambassadors Milla Jovovich, Barbara Palvin and Li Yuchun.

The next day she appeared at the premiere of All Is Lost in Salvatore Ferragamo, in a slate-grey, beaded fringe halter gown with jewel accents and Boucheron jewellery that would not look out of place on the set of The Great Gatsby.

Images of Chompoo in the green Zac Posen were splashed all over the local newspapers the next day, somehow obscuring Yayaying and Vithaya.

I suppose the power of sponsorship has that affect on the media.

But the entire irony of this playful tirade is the fact that Thailand's fame in the film industry was proven a few years back, with the red carpet appearance, to say the least, of director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and the screening of his film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

His feature Sud Sanaeha (Blissfully Yours) won the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, while his film Sud Pralad (Tropical Malady) won a Jury Prize from the festival in 2004.

Last year, his film Mekong Hotel was screened in the Special Screenings section at the festival.

Yet if you ask the man on the street if he knows Apichatpong, you'd probably get a blank stare.

That's probably because his films are not the box office flicks produced for the mass audience. They are artistic, surreal and sensory, and audiences are prone to leave the cinema with question marks above their heads instead of the kind of emotional fulfilment and dopey smile you get from the ever popular romantic comedies.

His ongoing conflict with the Thai Censorship Board _ they demanded he cut a number of "inappropriate" scenes like drinking liquor in a hospital or monks playing guitars from a feature film _ has not helped his popularity.

So Mr Apichatpong, next time you appear at Cannes, you might consider wearing a bling-bling gown by Zac Posen or Salvatore Ferragamo. That'll make people sit up and notice for sure.


Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the Features Editor of the Bangkok Post.

Usnisa Sukhsvasti

Feature Editor

M.R. Usnisa Sukhsvasti is Bangkok Post’s features editor, a teacher at Chulalongkorn University and a social worker.

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