Sunday, August 13, 2006

[ASEAN Film Festival] Citizen Dog (Thailand)

Meet Pod and Jin

Oh my, I love this movie so much, and I'm wondering where should my gushing start from. Director Wisit Sasanatieng has weaved yet another beautiful film in terms of visuals in this romance-fantasy story, and it's not difficult to see the progression and retention of the plus points made from his earlier feature Tears of the Black Tiger.

Perhaps first the storyline. It's quirky and bizarre, fit for a fairy tale like structure in terms of narrative style. Yet at the same time it's uplifting, inspirational and provides plenty of hope. Key to the plot is the aged old saying that when you're always looking for something, you'll never find it, but once you stopped searching, it'll appear right in front of you. This will be the central theme throughout the movie, at times made up of seemingly separate segments touching on the different lives that our hero Pod (Mahasamut Boonyaruk) encounters. Many of the bizarreness of the city are seen through the innocent eyes of Pod, a country bumpkin who left his country home to journey to Bangkok in search for a better life.

And it's a pretty pastel coloured world, adding a surreal sense to all the happenings in Pod's life, throughout his work as a packer in a sardine factory, a security guard, and a taxi driver. In a number of decisions that he makes, he does it for his love, Jin (Saengthong Gate-Uthong), who works as a maid in the same company. Jin, an obsessive compulsive with cleanliness, however, is the pragmatist, and doesn't think that their current financial status would allow them to lead a comfortable life together. Hence it's a constant pursuit for Pod, as Jin gets very sidetracked with her aims in life - as an environmental activist as well as to find out the true meaning of her mysterious white book.

Narrated by fellow Thai filmmaker Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, the opening credits played to an addictive song, signals that it's one heck of a ride. There are plenty of endearing, funny, and kooky characters that populate the city. from a young girl who smokes and swears, a licker, a taxi-motorcyclist, and even Pod's Grandmother all make this dream-like Bangkok, something worth highlighting. There are loads of wonderful songs included to help move the narrative along, since dialogue by the leads, especially in the beginning, is kept to a minimum.

There are plenty of special effects and techniques used to complement the beautiful, colourful cinematography, and even animation and stop motion puppetry were used to bring some characters to life. The art direction too is top notch, and the sets are always a sight to behold. The jokes come fast and furious, and mostly through the playing out of the innocence and dreams of Pod, literal as well as figural, as he tries to make sense of this new world he lives in.

This is a highly recommended movie, and I think I'll try to look for its DVD. Wisit Sasanatieng is currently at the helm of a (locally funded?) production called Armful, and going by his track record, I sure would be interested to see his spin on a martial arts movie.

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