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Saturday, Nov 30, 2013 10:31AM / Standard Entry
- Written and directed by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
- Produced by Aditya Assarat
- Starring Patcha Poonpiriya, Chonnikan Netjui, Krissada Sukosol Clapp
- Released in Thai cinemas on November 28, 2013
- Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5
It's the world's first Twitter movie – Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy – a fancifully weird comedy about teenage angst by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit.
The inventive writer-director took 410 consecutive messages from the Twitter feed of a Thai schoolgirl named Mary Malony (@marylony) and created a story around them.
The result is a dense narrative that is repetitive and sometimes hard to follow. Mary’s tweets are displayed as intertitles, accompanied by the click of a computer keyboard’s return key. Sometimes they will quickly be followed by Mary pretty much repeating the message. Other times, what’s happening will be completely different.
And if you’re stuck reading the subtitles, good luck at keeping up.
But Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy is the kind of movie you might want to see two or three times, just to get feel of it.
And it’s fun to watch, for Nawapol has succeeded in creating an intriguingly bizarre world, a place that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere.
Mary (Patcha Poonpiriya) is an often-depressed, accident-prone high-school senior. She’s constantly in need of encouragement from her more-level-headed friend Suri (Chonnikan Netjui). They are assigned to work on the school’s yearbook.
Their boarding school seems to be in a warehouse, which is stacked up with old computers and dusty school desks. They walk to school along a railroad track, often stopping along the way to hang out by a pancake vendor, whose cart is right by the tracks.
It’s the same kind of insular universe Wes Anderson creates for his movies, and of those, Mary is most like the schoolboy comedy Rushmore. And the comic-strip nature of a film formed by 140-word snippets also reminds me of Charles Schulz’ Peanuts and by extension the Charlie Brown animated TV specials.
The cartoon-character feel is enhanced by the girl’s uniforms – they wear the same 1983 school sport day T-shirts and red shorts everyday, just like Charlie Brown has his zigzag shirt.
The school’s faculty are a bunch of oddballs, especially their first yearbook sponsor, played by SEA Write Award-winning author Prabda Yoon. His nose is bandaged for some reason. And then he abruptly announces he’s quitting to become a movie stuntman.
His replacement is the quietly intimidating singer-actor Krissada “Noi” Sukosol Clapp, whose awkward intensity is harnessed for laughs. He’s always invoking the name of the school’s headmaster, a man who never actually appears, but is filling the classrooms with the canned coffee and soup his factory makes and forms the basis of the student body’s diet. His picture is on the cans. Turns out it’s Noi’s brother, musician Sukie.
Several Thai indie film figures make cameo appearances, including director Kongdej Jatruranrasmee as a drama coach. Veteran filmmakers Pimpaka Towira and Boonsong Nakphoo are Mary’s mother and father. Musician, photographer and actor Apichai “Lek” Tragoolpadetgrai has a crucial role as head of the audio-visual department. And there’s a chuckle to be had when producer Soros Sukhum’s name comes up in the credits – he plays “Uncle Boonmee”.
Seems relevant at this point to mention the teachers’ uniforms look like something a prison guard or security guard might wear.
Mary’s tweets are often a launchpad for fantasy sequences, including a whirlwind trip to Paris, which mopey Mary sleeps through because she is so jetlagged.
Other moments are repeated, such as Mary’s insistence at taking photographs only during the “magic hour” when the light is just right at the end of the day at a certain location of the school’s roof.
It seems that the yearbook will never be finished.
There’s Mary’s fleeting romance with a boy who hangs around the pancake cart.
But mostly the stories are about the friendship between Mary and Suri. Until one day Suri is no longer there. Her absence leaves Mary rudderless, and the story also suffers a bit because Suri isn’t there to propel things along.
Nawapol made his feature directorial debut last year with 36, an experimental effort that constructed a story out of 36 static camera setups with a story that involved a movie location scout losing her digital images when a hard-drive fails. She then tries to reconstruct the memories of those photos. It shared Busan’s Currents Prize in 2012, and won praise for creating a new cinematic language.
Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy continues that experiment in creating new ways to tell cinematic stories out of our fleeting, digital consciousness. It’s much more complex than the stripped down 36, and also almost twice as long, running 127 minutes.
But, as it turns out, that’s exactly the time needed to make a story out of 410 tweets.
(Cross-published in The Nation)
ATTENTION: This is a post from Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal. The url for the source blog is http://thaifilmjournal.blogspot.com. If you're seeing this post anywhere besides your personal feed reader or a couple of social-networking sites, then it might be being misused against the spirit in which it is made freely available.
- Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy rides acclaim into Thai cinemas
- Mary is sweary, Mary is sweary
- Nawapol happy twice over with Venice premiere
- Nawapol's Year of June selected from Venice Biennale College
Saturday, Nov 30, 2013 10:30AM / Standard EntryLuang Prabang Film Festival, which has completed its schedule.
With all the other Asean countries involved in filmmaking – Laos stepped up production in just the past few years – only Brunei has been left out of the spotlight.
But now the sultanate on the island of Borneo has produced its first feature film since 1968 – Ada Apa Dengan Rina, aka What’s So Special About Rina?
“This is the first time we have ever been able to showcase films from all of the Asean countries, as Brunei never had anything to submit,” festival director Gabriel Kuperman says.
Rina, the first feature in the Brunei Malay dialect, is a romantic comedy about a 30-year-old man named Faisal who is still searching for his true love. Turns out the perfect girl is a work colleague, but winning Rina’s heart won’t be easy.
Featuring an all-Brunei cast and crew, Ada Apa Dengan Rina was shown Brunei cinemas in February. It also screened at this year’s Asean International Film Festival and Awards in Kuching, Malaysia, and won a special jury prize.
Directed by Harlif Haji Mohamad and Farid Azlan Ghani, it’s among the highlights of the Luang Prabang Film Festival’s screenings at the Amantaka, a five-star hotel that is back as the festival’s daytime venue.
There were persistant technical problems with the daytime screenings last year, but Kuperman says it’ll be better this year with the movies projected from a file on a hard drive that will be looked after by the festival staff. It should be a vast improvement over the previous unreliable method, which involved a balky DVD player attached to a TV and no one around to fix things when it broke, which was often.
What Kuperman is really excited about is the number of filmmakers and celebrities who will be coming to the festival.
“More than half of our feature-length films will have filmmakers in attendance, more than we have ever had,” he says.
Among them will be Thailand’s Chookiat Sakveerakul, who has two films in the fest, the teen comedy Grean Fictions, which is showing in the home of the festival’s now-iconic blue plastic chairs – the big outdoor screen in the 1,000-person-capacity Handicraft Market. It’s where the popular crowd-pleasing films are shown. Meanwhile, Chookiat’s three-segment family drama Home, which covers several thorny topics, will be featured indoors, where the audience is smaller, with around 40 seats.
Joining Chookiat on his Lao sojourn will be his Love of Siam star Witwisit Hiranyawongkul, who also appears in Home, and Kittisak Phatomburana from Home and Grean Fictions.
Chookiat will take part in “Distribution Methods in Southeast Asia”, talking about getting his films out there with Indonesian director Dwi Sujanti Nugraheni, whose documentary Denok and Gareng is featured this year. Others panellists will be Lao director Anysay Keola, Hong Kong film critic Clarence Tsui and Vietnamese producer Tran Thi Bich Ngoc.
Another panel talk will cover a subject that's near and dear to the hearts of Southeast Asian film folk, “Fund-raising for Low-Budget Filmmaking”, with Thailand’s Nontawat Numbenchapol taking part. His Thai-Cambodian border documentary Boundary is another “indoor” movie. Others joining the talk will be Filipino critic Oggs Cruz, Vietnamese director Siu Pham, whose Here ... or There? is showing, Cambodian producer Fatily Sa and Lao filmmaker Vannapone Sittirath.
And Phil Jablon, the American scholar behind the Southeast Asia Movie Theatre Project, will show his photos and give a talk about the cultural significance of saving what remains of the region’s landmark single-screen cinemas, such as the Scala in Bangkok.
The world premieres of two Lao movies take centerstage at this year’s fest. The boxing drama Big Heart directed by Mattiphob Douangmyxay is the opening film. The other is I Love Savanh by Bounthong Nhotmanhkong, about a Japanese expat falling for a traditional cloth weaver.
Another intriguing title is 13.00 Sunday, a Thai-Lao mystery by Bis Srikasem and Pume Peerabun, about a hospital where deaths occur at exactly an hour after noon on Sundays. Not taking any chances, the festival is screening it outdoors at 9pm on a Tuesday.
Thai films are always a big hit with the Luang Prabang crowd. Among them will be the lively comedy-drama Tang Wong, which will give folks in the Handicraft Market a chance to laugh at how Bangkok schoolboys can’t master a traditional dance. Director Kongdej Jaturanrasamee will be on hand for that, and he’ll take questions after an indoor screening of another of his films, the weird and subversive pyscho-drama P-047.
Another Thai pick for the outdoor screen is Karaoke Girl, with director Visra Vichet-Vadakan on hand to see the response to her hybrid documentary-drama about a young woman caught up in the seedy (but beautifully filmed) world of Bangkok’s hostess bar scene.
In all, there’s 28 features, screening from 10am indoors and then two outdoor shows each night from 7, along with live performances.
If that’s not enough, the festival’s centre offers dozens upon dozens more films, including a “best of” programme from the Vientianale shorts fest and documentaries from Indonesia’s Chopshots. And nearly a dozen more venues around town are also showing films as a sidebar to the fest.
The Luang Prabang Film Festival runs from December 7 to 11. All screenings and activities are free and open to the public. For more details, see www.LPFilmFest.org or Facebook.com/lpfilmfest.
Also, check out the festival teaser, embedded below.
(Cross-published in The Nation)ATTENTION: This is a post from Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal. The url for the source blog is http://thaifilmjournal.blogspot.com. If you're seeing this post anywhere besides your personal feed reader or a couple of social-networking sites, then it might be being misused against the spirit in which it is made freely available.
Saturday, Nov 30, 2013 10:29AM / Standard Entry
The venerable Asia-Pacific Film Festival, an industry-oriented awards event now in its 56th edition, has announced its nominees for this year, with the GTH ghost comedy Pee Mak the sole nominee from "Bangkok".
It's nominated for art direction by Arkadech Keawkotr.
Others in the category are The Grandmaster from "Hong Kong" and Snowpiercer from "Seoul", along with the Unforgiven remake and Why Don't You Play in Hell from "Tokyo".
Leading the nominations is Wong Kar-Wai's The Grandmaster, with nods in nine out of 12 categories including Best Picture.
Other leading nominees are Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer with seven nods, including best director, and The Lunchbox from "Mumbai", with six nominations, including Best Actress for Nimrat Kaur.
Film Business Asia has more details.
Interestingly, the list of nominees only notes what "city" the films are from, not the "country". Presumably, this is to alleviate the sensitivities of authorities from such places as "Beijing" and "Taipei".
Other nominees from around Southeast Asia include Ilo Ilo from "Singapore" (the city, not the country). It got four nods, including screenplay, best actress for Angeli Bayani (who comes from country where the capital is "Manila") and best supporting actress for Yeo Yeo Yann from "Singapore". What They Don't Talk About When They Talk About Love from "Jarkarta" [sic], a tuneful coming-of-age romance and social drama, is up for best music.
The Asia-Pacific Film Festival is set for December 13 to 15 in "Macau".ATTENTION: This is a post from Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal. The url for the source blog is http://thaifilmjournal.blogspot.com. If you're seeing this post anywhere besides your personal feed reader or a couple of social-networking sites, then it might be being misused against the spirit in which it is made freely available.
Thursday, Nov 28, 2013 1:03PM / Standard Entry
It's getting a limited release in Thai cinemas this week, going head-to-head with a couple of mainstream Thai studio efforts, the horror comedy Oh! My Ghost Khun Phee Chuay (โอ้! มายโกสต์ คุณผีช่วย, a.k.a. OMG!) and the musical comedy Ruam Phol Khon Luk Thung Ngern Laan (รวมพลคนลูกทุ่งเงินล้าน).
And while it might not command as many screens as those two major-studio efforts, Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy has something neither of them have – positive critical acclaim and at least one major award from the festival circuit.
This week, Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy was named Asian Film of the Year by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. The Nation had more on that.
It's a win that adds to the personal triumphs of Mary producer Aditya Assarat, whose wife Yuni Hadi was behind the Golden Horse Awards best feature, Ilo Ilo from Singapore, which scooped three other trophies, including Best New Director for Anthony Chen.
For Nawapol, the acclaim for Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy adds to the accolades he won last year for his experimental feature debut 36, which won the New Currents prize in Busan. And 36 is still winning awards on the festival circuit, most recently the Best Feature Film Screenplay at L'Alternativa A 20 Festival de Cinema Independent in Barcelona. It also took part in the competition at the Three Continents Film Festival, which wrapped up on Tuesday in Nantes, France.
Mary is the quirky story of a mopey, accident-prone high-school student (Patcha Poonpiriya) and her level-headed friend Suri (Chonnikan Netjui) as they work on the school’s yearbook. The film is peppered with all sorts of strange characters, mainly the teachers at the girls' boarding school. Among them is Krissada Sukosol Clapp, whose the awkwardly intense manner is played for laughs. Seriously, the dude is kind of scary.
Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy was developed out of the Venice Biennale College – Cinema, which picked Nawapol to direct one of three micro-budget films that premiered at this year's Venice Film Festival. It's since screened at several other festivals, including Busan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei and Torino, earning glowing reviews.
In some Thai cinemas, it's playing alongside Oh! My Ghost, a comedy starring sweet cherub "Tukky" Sudarat Butrprom. She's an ordinary young woman haunted by the ghost of a tall, gorgeous lady – hey, it's Cris Horwang! It's directed by Puttipong Promsakha Na Sakon Nakhon, one of the guys behind the hit teenybopper romance Crazy Little Thing Called Love or First Love and last year's 30+ Singles on Sale. It's produced by Workpoint Entertainment and released by Sahamongkol. The other major Thai release this week is Ruam Phol Khon Luk Thung Ngern Laan, a comedy featuring a cavalcade of luk thung singers. It's directed by Pornchai "Gun" Hongrattaporn (Bangkok Loco, Second Sight) and is released by M Pictures.
But it's Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy that I'm already saying is one best Thai films of the year. Catch it at Apex Siam Square's Lido, House on RCA and Esplanade Ratchada, as well as at Major Cineplex Chiang Mai Airport Plaza and EGV Lotus Khon Kaen. I'll have more to say about it in a day or so.
Meanwhile, check out the trailer, embedded below.
Monday, Nov 25, 2013 9:41PM / Standard EntryChanthaly (also the first Lao feature by a female director) will make its Thai debut in an outdoor screening next month as part of the Asean Arts Festival at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
Chanthaly will play on December 14 as the first of an all-horror double feature. It precedes the blockbuster Thai ghost comedy Pee Mak Phra Khanong.
Directed by Mattie Do, Chanthaly premiered at last year's Luang Prabang Film Festival (this year's is set for December 7 to 11). It's since screened in a few other fests, most notably Austin's Fantastic Fest. It made its U.K. premiere earlier this month as part of the Abertoir fest in Wales.
In Bangkok, Chanthaly is part of a three-day festival, Asean Nights: Asean Beyond Frontier, featuring music and films from December 13 to 15.
The Thai-Muslim band Baby Arabia will open the festival, playing its ear-wormy blend of Malay and Arabic folk and rock at 5pm on December 13, followed at 6.30 by the Indonesian childhood drama The Rainbow Troops
Music by the Paradise Bangkok Molum International Band precedes the screenings of Chanthaly and Pee Mak on Saturday, December 14.
And the fest's closing day on December 15 offers music by DJ Maft Dai and a double feature of Chou Davy's Golden Slumbers, a documentary on Cambodia's lost golden age of cinema, and Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's teen Thai culture drama Tang Wong.
You can read more about the festival in an article in The Nation.
And check out the trailer for Chanthaly, embedded below, or if you'd rather, there's the "director's cut" so you can experience the film as Mattie intended – "from the back of a crowded Asian cinema surrounded by 300 people who won't shut up."
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