Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Citizen Dog - The Second Viewing

I first watched Citizen Dog last month during the ASEAN Film Festival, and fell in love with it, for its story about a country bumpkin leading a simple unambitious life, working in the city of Bangkok and finding every day an opportunity to learn and adapt, and falling for a goal-oriented city girl. You can read my earlier review here.

But what's so true, is the opening intertitle, its underlying theme, and the experience of it in a recent incident - that you'll never find something if you persistently look for it; let it come to you instead.

my heart was empty
until your love came in
and showed my eyes the light
beside me there was no one
until your compassion
inspired me to keep fighting
- ...Before, Modern Dog

I'm still humming the theme song titled "...Before" until this day, as it's highly addictive. I take public transport, and you have no idea how the tune just automatically hums along in your mind as you recall certain scenes from the movie. There're also a number of variations to it too as used in the movie, and the one as performed by a band as the end credits rolled seemed to add a tinge of rock flavour.

Mahasamut Boonyaruk, the lead actor who plays our hero Pod, was in the (Picture)house today to grace the occasion of this one-time special screening, at the invitation of Objectifs as part of the Panasonic-MDA Digital Film Fiesta. The director Wisit Sasanatieng was supposed to be in attendance as well, but couldn't make it, so Khun Mahasamut had to double up in answering some questions on behalf of the director. Not that he's never done this before as we were told, frequently attending festivals abroad for this crowd-pleasing movie.

When he was introduced by Yuni Hadi of Objectifs before the movie began, I thought Khun Mahasamut was a little bit shy and as clueless as his character Pod, or perhaps he was in character, being the first trip to Singapore turning out to be an eye opener for him (he didn't realize that English is so widely-used here, which serves him well, rather than to rely on finger pointing which he did in Japan). His one-word "speech" - "Enjoy!" before the screening turned out to be an understatement - I'm quite sure many in the audience today had enjoyed the movie tremendously.

Khun Mahasamut shared a few nuggets of information from the movie, and I shall list some of them down here in point form, to be best of my memory:

Yuni Hadi and Mahasamut Boonyaruk

1. The film is adapted from a novel written by Wisit's wife, which in turn was based on Wisit's idea about wanting to write something about Bangkok and life in the city. So when the book was released, Wisit revisited the material and adapted it into Citizen Dog.

2. His favourite 3 Thai directors are Wisit, Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and he hopes to work with the latter two in projects if given the opportunity.

3. He's actually a musician rather than a professional actor, although he starred in some commercials and modelled before. His next movie is a Thai Horror movie.

4. Someone recommended him to audition for the role of Pod, which he did, and the rest, as they say, is history.

5. Citizen Dog actually was a commercial flop in Thailand - it appeared and disappeared in the local screens in less than one week. The movie is travelling well in the film festival circuit though.

6. The band of blind musicians playing the theme song at the end credits is a real life blind band - they roam the streets of Bangkok and play where there's a crowd. [Seems like I must keep an eye out for them the next time I'm there]

7. Wisit wrote some of the songs, as did Khun Mahasamut.

8. Wisit directs commercials for a living, working in an advertising firm. His colleague in the same firm is Pen-Ek and their desks are side-by-side (not sure if Khun Mahasamut meant this tongue-in-cheek)

9. Wisit is extremely quiet in person, and for the role of Pod, he actually directed Khun Mahasamut by showing him what he wanted, i.e. playing the role himself.

10. The plastic bottle mountain was actually made, though in a much smaller scale, and with the assistance of special effects and the good ol' blue screen. It's hollow beneath the surface.

I did my wai and greeted Khun Mahasamut, before launching into a series of short discussions on how I liked his performance in the movie, and whether the DVD is already out. He explained that the Thai DVD is available, but lacked subtitles, though he thinks that given the relative success of the movie in Europe, he wouldn't be surprised that a version with English subtitles will be available soon enough.

Khun Mahasamut did ask a rhetorical question during the group Q&A, but I'm surprised nobody picked it up and mentioned it to him. He thought I was a filmmaker, and asked if I would be able to recommend a local movie to him. Immediately I thought of Singapore Dreaming, a movie which I enjoyed, so why not share it with him? I explained that if he wanted to sample a slice of issues that we deal with here, he might want to check out the movie, which is of course still showing (though with limited screenings) in local cinemas, and won an award for scriptwriting at the San Sebastian Film Festival. How's that to plug the movie for you, Colin? :-)

Anyway as with all good, the night has got to end, but first, not without a quick photo opportunity with the actor playing one of my favourite screen characters Pod, in one of my favourite movies, Citizen Dog!

Mahasamut and I

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