Sunday, July 16, 2006

[DVD] Tears of the Black Tiger (2000)

High Noon Showdown

I've borrowed this DVD from the library twice before, but never had the chance to watch it, until now. The appeal is actually to see some of Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng's past works, before his up and coming made-in-Singapore flick called Armful. And I've heard some good things about this movie too.

The story combines two different genres into one, the first being a cowboy western, (set in Thailand no less!) and the usual star-crossed lover romance. Perhaps the novelty of the first genre type is having Thai folks dress up as cowboys, riding on their steed and somehow, becoming the villains as they plunder and kill. Yup, they're not the good guys, against the usual stereotype. Here, the cowboys are bandits, and the good folks are naturally, the cops.

But amongst all the bad hats (pardon the pun), there's always the hero who's forced by circumstances to join the group. Dum (Chartchai Ngamsan), also known as the notorious Black Tiger, renowned fastest and deadliest draw in all of Thailand, has a childhood sweetheart in Rumpoey (Sttella Malucchi). However, their difference in status (he's the son of a servant, while she, the daughter of the governor) meant that it's a forbidden romance to begin with. Knowing his place in her world, he could only admire from afar, becoming her protector, shielding her from harm (like numerous approaches by lechers and bandits).

A man gotta do what a man gotta do, and during one of his missions, he failed to meet up with Rumpoey presumably to elope, while she took it as a sign that he didn't want to. Like Romeo and Juliet, she's betrothed to Kumjorn (Arawat Ruangyuth), a police captain captured by Dum's notorious gangster boss Fai (Sombat Metanee). And like all star crossed lovers whose lives are played by Fate, these events start to spin and take on a life of its own, changing the course of our characters lives forever.

It's a beautifully shot movie, with plenty of pastel colours draping the sets, which at times make you cringe and beg for it to stop. As if to complement its saccharine sweet and sentimental love story, it elevates the movie to a surreal dream like level. The action sequences can be quite cheesy, with the reminiscence of old spaghetti cowboy western gun fights. But the best bits about the film, are the songs. I don't understand Thai, but even if without the subtitles interpreting the lyrics, I thought that they were beautiful enough to accentuate scenes in the movie.

Perhaps my only gripe about the movie in this version of the DVD, is that the bloody violence had been censored, depriving me the bloody glee of watching the Black Tiger dispatch his opponents with his accuracy. There were scenes where footsoldiers bled by the bucketloads of ketchup, but the crucial one-on-ones were totally censored, and you wouldn't know the nitty gritty details of the death. Truly marred my enjoyment of the movie. What gives?

Code 3 DVD contains some extras, like Extracts from the Book - Black Tiger's Philosophy and Rumpoey's Guilt, explaining a bit more about the lead characters, Insights into the Film Aesthetic takes a look at the Sala Raw Nang, or "Awaiting the Maiden", the quintessential Thai shelter, and how Rattana Pestonji (indie Thai filmmaker) had influenced the set design, especially the colours. The extras is topped off with a one static screen Director's Inspiration, and the list of awards which this film has won.

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