20 December 2009

นางนากเดอะมิวเซียม | Nang Nak The Museum

Those who are Thai or live in Thailand for a certain period of time would more than likely know about the legend of Nang Nak of Phra Khanong, of how she died at childbirth and became a ghost waiting for her husband. Of course, her ghost is scary and well-revered by Thai people as her statue is propped up in Wat Mahabutr, nowadays reachable by BTS.

So it comes as no surprise that there should be a play that parodies the legend and exposes some prejudices that hide behind the powerful myth. Veteran director Damkueng Tithapiyasak manages to do so as well as add some humour to this play, making it one of the most funny plays in this year. So funny that the play has been restaged twice and I was one of the audience of the second restaging at the Makhampom Studio in Saphan Kwai.

The plotline is crisscrossed between the past and the present, beginning at the attempt of some people to make a film about Nang Nak. Their decision to invite a media to make the whole show more realistic creates a setback in which Nang Nak is called back to the present, pestering one of the staff whom she believes is her reincarnated husband. The premise is interesting in the sense that we see how Nang Nak tries to adapt and learn about Thailand at the present, such as the Skytrain, and Westernised commodities that litter the contemporary Bangkok landscape, as well as the redefinition of Nang Nak herself not as a scary ghost but a confused woman. Also, she needs to face the fact that her husband is no longer the same man but a modern man who is now seeing someone else.

As the story progresses, we start to see how the play touches on various prejudices that the myth seeks to hide. We start to realise how in the old days Nang Nak was maltreated by her husband and domestic violence was something so common that people didn't talk about it. We also learn how lonely Nang Nak was, waiting for her husband to come back. However, the play also acknowledges the role of gossips and rumours that makes the whole legend blurry and we are not so sure which part is fact and which is fiction, yet it cannot be denied that the power of the legend is firmly engraved on the mentality of Thai public.

The ending is ingenious as it turns out that the ghost of Nang Nak will only disappear if her reincarnated husband simply finds a new girlfriend and forgets her completely, thus re-emphasising the power of men who can dictate the life and death of women. Women, on the other hand, are dependent on men and live on their mercy. Nang Nak's resignation at the end is somehow not as important as the flippancy on her husband's part and the dominance of patriarchal codes that is very much latent in Thai society.

Eternal Summer

Lately I have watched quite a few Asian films, especially Taiwanese and Korean ones. Eternal Summer is one of those that I have managed to watch despite my increasingly busy schedule (Facebook is, of course, to blame for this!). I didn't know anything about this before, but the idea of a triangle love relationship among two men and one woman sounded pretty interesting, especially when a man and a woman compete for the same guy.

The gender dimension does add some spark to this film, as it makes the whole thing much more complicated. Jonathan and Shane have been best friends since childhood with the former secretly falling in love with the latter. The film focuses on Jonathan's sexual growth, from innocence to gradual acknowledgement of same-sex desire. However, for him, Shane is obviously a straight guy stereotyped by his gifted ability to play basketball and, thus, being a heartthrob at school. Yet, Shane seems to be loyal to his best friend and spends more time with him than other people, thus making Jonathan at once fragile, confused, angry, and frustrated.

The entry of Carrie into their lives changes the structure of their relationship, as she is compared to a comet that comes in the orbit of the earth around the sun. Her gradual fondness for Shane makes Jonathan even more bitter and jealous, as he tries to channel his emotion for Shane onto his study. What I find rather intriguing is the fact that, despite having Carrie as his girlfriend, Shane does not ignore Jonathan, but tries to engage him even more for fear of losing their friendship, which Shane deems as precious.

The ending is of course one of the most challenging parts of the film, as Leste Chen the director faces with the dilemma of Shane choosing either Jonathan or Carrie. However, Chen's decision to have the story stop at the point where the the development of the three characters remains indecisive has a highly emotional impact, as the audience becomes confused and wishes Shane to settle for one or the other. Personally, I like this kind of "unending" ending as it is both realistic and artistic at the same time -- artistic in the sense that life is artistic and that life is intensely ambiguous and fuzzy.

When the film finishes, I just sympathize with all three characters who emerge both sad and smitten with unfulfilled desire at the same time. Shane wants his friendship with Jonathan and his love for Carrie to last forever, but Jonathan cannot keep being friends with Shane because he does not want to get hurt from unrequited love. What he needs is love, not just friendship. This is reinforced by the fact that he repudiates and abhors Shane's successful attempt to rape him, knowing fully well that Shane does not want him sexually but that he does it so that Jonathan can be "friends" with him. Sex here does not mean love but power and oppression.

However, watching this film makes me wonder such complicated issues as love and friendship. Do we really have a clear boundary between the two? Is sex really one of the factors distinguishing between love and friendship? Of course, each person has their own answers to these.

04 November 2009


Somehow it's not difficult to see why a lot of people just fall in love with this film, with its candyfloss landscape and a bright, optimistic girl who speaks her mind. Of course, for some, Juno is a rude girl growing up in pretty liberal contemporary American surroundings. Yet, her frankness is somehow sweet and portrayed as more likable than others who are simply superficially nice.

Being raised in such a liberal family, however, can also have a drawback, as Juno is pregnant while she's still 16 years old with her friend Bleeker. Juno decides to keep her baby as she realises that already by two months in her pregnancy it may have developed fingernails. We can only surmise how hard it must be for her to reveal her bulging stomach to all her friends at school and triumph over prevailing prejudices against teenage pregnancy. She then makes a decision to find adoptive parents and manage to find a lovely perfect couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring, whose middle-class background and lifestyle is foreign to hers.

What we see here is Juno's imagination of this 'perfect world', where her baby shall one day be part of. Her dream of Mark and Vanessa as the perfect parents is shattered when she realises that Mark can no longer live in that 'perfect' world of conservative beige wallpaper and a pilate machine. He decides to pursue his own dream of being a more radical musician who can do whatever he wants. It is, however inadvertently, Juno who is the one who teaches him to follow this dream. When she realises that this 'perfect' couple is breaking up, Juno is shocked as she is smitten with the loss of faith in humanity. Her father jumps to a rescue, as he teaches her to love someone who loves her for who she really is. That's when she decides to confess her love to Bleeker, this time disillusioned with the 'perfect' middle-class world and discovering that her own place and situation is already the best there is to have.

Even though the film touches on such a sensitive topic as teenage pregnancy, it is somehow pretty optimistic in showing that Juno's condition is pretty well accepted and tolerated by her friends and family. Whether this can happen in reality remains a moot topic, but I think Juno is still very lucky and still needs more stringent measures to wake her up to the crude reality of the real world. Somehow I just wonder what it would be like if Lars von Trier had directed the second part of the film.

But my point is this: perhaps Juno should be applauded for her strength in withstanding all the prejudices in her decision to keep the baby, but another person who deserves praise is Vanessa, who decides to have the baby even though she no longer has Mark by her side. Like Juno, she is determined to have what she wants. If Juno finally has Bleeker, Vanessa has her baby. Their journey somehow runs in parallel.

But that's where the happy ending ends and the nightmare begins. While Juno is still deeply in love with Bleeker, Vanessa is disillusioned with marriage life. It is, therefore, understandable that she will channel her love for Mark to that of the baby and who knows whether the baby will grow up to be a depressed nutcase raised in porcelain surroundings. Whether that will happen we need to wait and see ...

02 November 2009

Bangkok Traffic Love Story | รถไฟฟ้า ... มาหานะเธอ

I have the feeling that if I say something negative about this film, I will be badly treated by my friends and my students. But after a period of long reflection, it's time I said something about Bangkok Traffic Love Story. A lot of Thai audience seems to love it, judging from the number of queries and comments appearing on the Pantip webboard. There's actually at least one group of people who went around Bangkok to search for real locations in the film. A lot of white collar workers in their 30s just love this film, as it somehow fills in the gap of contemporary Thai films, where either senseless (romantic) comedies or ghost films seem to be the only choices Thai viewers have.

Perhaps the other reason why this film is so popular is because it is so rooted in contemporary Thai urban scenes, with the leading appearance of BTS skytrains. An increasing number of Bangkok dwellers choose this channel to commute everyday as it is definitely faster. Besides, the trains themselves are also the "meat market" where people of similar class and ideology can meet -- the so-called new urban middle class. However, it remains to be seen whether real romantic encounters can actually happen when a lot of commuters just choose to listen to their MPs or stare at inane and loud TV commercials rather than to chat up with someone they like, but it can't be denied that what happens in the film is actually the fantasy of many people.

It is also obvious that the film is targeted for women viewers, as we see the character of Mei Li develops in a significant way at the expense of Lung, starring Ken Theeradej, whose personality is reduced to a life-size cardboard able to flash a killer's smile whenever needed. We see how Mei Li develops from an independent career woman to a dependent girl in desperate love with Lung. However, the ending starts to see some light when Mei Li is able to jettison Lung's love as he's leaving for Germany. However, my dream of her strength and independence is shattered once Lung is back and surprises her with his god-like trick of making the skytrain stop halfway and turning everyone on board into a mobile phone freak.

Of course, one can easily say that the film is in league with patriarchal codes, with women always in search for their dream men. But this one is slightly better, as it shows Mei Li's attempt to put herself in the man's life quite actively. We learn that women finally are able to fight back to get what they want. But writing along this line, I start to wonder: but isn't it still "a man" they're fighting for. Maybe this is still patriarchy in another guise. And somehow we just don't question this anymore.

Blue Gate Crossing

Blue Gate Crossing is a beautiful Taiwanese film launched in 2002, detailing the lives of teenagers confused in love and sexuality. Directed by Yee Chin-yen, the film is hauntingly minimalist, with only three or four main characters. Yet, through its well-organized plot and subtle dialogue, the viewer is left with indescribable happiness and melancholy once the film finishes.

Even though the plot is somehow quite simple with Zhang Shihao, a handsome boy falling in love with Meng Kerou, a plain looking girl, it doesn't mean forever love and melodramatic happy ending in this film. What is interesting is that, with such a popular boy choosing to love her, Kerou is just confused and chooses to listen to her heart rather than the expectation of people around her. She wants to know whether her secret liking for a close friend, Lin Yuezhen, may be part of her homosexual tendency. With this, we start to see how complexed and realistic the film is, as Merou is in the process of growth and realizes that life may not be what it seems in cheesy teenager films. Her coming of age tale is at once painful yet liberatory: she needs to confront social prejudices but at the same time learns that she finally has a choice to grow up to be what she truly is, independent of social expectations.

However, the film does show some problems. She cannot talk about her confusion to anyone apart from Shihao and Yuezhen, the latter of whom is apparently shocked and completely ignores her advance. Shihao, however, tries to make sense of this gender confusion and learns to give her some needed space. Yet, it remains to be seen whether Merou can open up her heart to her family, especially her mom, who is also beside her.

All in all, I think the film is painful and beautiful at the same time. Perhaps it's high time Thai teenage films followed this less trodden path.

14 September 2009


A recent work by Anusorn Tipayanon, Nimitwikan (นิมิตต์วิกาล) is a short story about quest, power, and humanity. Set in the old days when Thailand was in dispute with France over the territorial lines in Cambodia, the work relates how a Thai man survives from a flash flood and is then hospitalised by the French. He is imprisoned in a dark room with only a lit lantern. There he hears the piano sound and a female voice talking to him.

The author shows his expertise in weaving fiction with the real story of Andre Malraux stealing some ancient objects from Banteay Srei, a very beautiful temple located around 30 kilometres north-east of the famed Ankor Wat. Malraux's story is here capitalised as a scandal and a warning tale for those who become too mesmerised by art, in the same way that the protagonist is fascinated by the world of photography. In the style unique to Anusorn, this fascination becomes at once glamorous and dangerous.

Here little is needed to pinpoint the similarity between this novella and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, when a White man is drunk with power and establishes himself as a mob leader. Here in this novella it is Pierre Bourdieu (what a name!) who is inspired by Malraux's diary and makes a decision to form a brigand to fight the French authorities. I won't tell you what will happen, whether the French manage to crack down on this insurgent group or they get off scot-free, but it suffices to say that what we have here is a parable of power and loss, of one's recognition that power is nothing but burden that leads on to more burden. What in the end exists may not be power as such but the void, the state of nothingness when one realises that nothing will last forever and everything is illusory, including power. Here one may say that Anusorn's message is deeply Buddhistic.

So what is the whole book about? Power and nothingness? Surely not, at least what we have in hand is a book and this is art. Art, even though it is enticing and dangerous, has a role; it makes us more sensitive to the illusion that surrounds us. Thus, it may not be too far-fetched to claim that Anusorn's small opus reminds us that art, in being fiction, can remind that everything else also is.

กุมภาพันธ์ | February

An old film by veteran director Yuthlert Sippapak in 2003, February is a beautiful film set in Bangkok and New York. Kaewta is an unsuccessful artist in Bangkok, who realises that she has got only four months to live. Her relationship also comes to an end. All in all, her life in Bangkok can't get any worse. Thus, it is natural that she needs to fly to New York to enjoy the last period of her life forgetting her life in Bangkok.

Once in NYC, she finds life can definitely take a worse turn, as she is conned by a taxi driver and, when escaping, is run over by a car. Kaewta wakes up, only to realise that she forgets who she is and where she comes from. Beside her is a mysterious man named Jeeradech, who works for a mafia gang and who wants to be good.

Of course, I can't help but feel that this plot is somehow very typical and not that original, but the director manages to hold our attention with the beauty of the Big Apple. Fate is a main issue of this film, as the lives of both Kaewta and Jeeradech cross one another through fate. Yet, somehow this fate is closely intertwined with the notion of fatalism, as they are also reminded that they know so little about how their lives would turn. Little would Kaewta realise that her pictures would be appreciated by an American artist (whose slow accent is somehow condescending) and little would she realise that her relationship with Jeeradech would be cut short. Little would she know that she would meet him once again and little would she know that the director would take him away once again. (At this point, it makes me wonder whether the director himself got inspired by Brad Silbering's City of Angels.)

I don't mean to be too cynical here but a film that harbours too much on coincidences and chances is bound to be not highly regarded in terms of plot, as the director could easily make things happen and blame them on fate. Perhaps that's the reason why I still esteem old-fashioned whodunits which require the real power of reasoning and the great technique of ratiocination.

13 September 2009

Water | Time

Written by Shogo Tanikawa and directed by Bhanbassa Dhubthien, Water | Time is currently being restaged due to popular demand. There are only three actors in this play: Sasithorn Panichnok, Shogo himself, and Apirak Chaipanha. Yet the audience were riveted to their seats for one hour and a half, mesmerised by the bittersweet relationship between Nam and Kenji, and A, a friend who tries to help this couple.

The problem is somehow commonplace: Kenji is an unhappy Japanese playwright, somewhat pressured by his previous works, while Nam (a Thai word for 'water') is a sweet Thai girl who is in love with Kenji. However, things are not as sweet as they expect, as Kenji finds his creativity blocked and cannot finish his latest script. Nam becomes the breadwinner and their love is understandably put on a strain. Their communication is somehow made more difficult by the languages they speak: both of them need to talk in English, a language to which neither of them are native. Frustration appears, as we can see that sometimes both Nam and Kenji resort to their native language to reveal their emotion and anxiety.

I think the play portrays to great effect the problems we face nowadays. Love in the city is indeed very difficult, but love between people from two different nationalities are even more difficult. The sad thing is we don't find these two characters -- Nam and Kenji -- evil or corrupt: they are good-intentioned, very much in love with each other, but somehow the urban society they live in requires too much from them. This can be seen in Kenji's stress, as he wishes to write better works, to achieve both financial and intellectual recognition at the same time.

However, what remains puzzling to most viewers is probably the climax scene when Kenji is preparing rice balls to Nam. I think the script could be improved if more hints are put as to what really happens to both characters. I understand that the playwright doesn't want to reveal too soon what really happens until right at the very end. But the hints are too few. If someone misses those hints, a lot of meaning will be lost.

But perhaps that's also the beauty of this play. Attention is needed if one wishes to understand. Attention is also needed in terms of time. Time is fluid and plays a crucial role in our imagination. Nam consciously dreams of the yonder days when her love with Kenji blossomed. Kenji, however, dreams of the future when Nam and he will visit the Fuji together. And of course the last scene when time is also a crucial factor for our understanding of the play, when the past becomes the present and vice versa. Time is indeed subjective.

I need to confess that I was myself puzzled a little bit right after the play, but the more I think about it, the more I want to see it again, at least to fill in missing gaps and ruptures. But somehow these are not meant to be filled.
Just like some moments in real relationships, these gaps and untranslated bits cannot be translated but can only be felt and imagined.

21 August 2009

นางฟ้านิรนาม | Cocktail

Cocktail by Vince Licata and Ping Chong has been adapted into a Thai screenplay, entitled Anonymous Angel or Nangfah Nirnam. Directed by Dangkamol na Pombejra, the play revolves around the life of a Thai pharmaceutical scientist, Dr Krisna Kraisintu, who firmly believes that all lives are equal and therefore everyone, rich or poor, should be entitled to equal access to medicine.

The performance by the cast and crew from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, remained strong in their first show to the public. Applause naturally went to Bhanbassa Dhubtien for her brilliant acting and pace, as she was able to hold the audience captive to her solid two-hour performance. Her acting remained serious in contrast to the intentionally absurd performance of other characters, thus making us question contemporary society we live in, where the sane are obviously the marginal.

My first impression after the performance was also how the crew managed to make use of all audio-visual gadgets to great effect, though at times synchronisation could present itself as a problem. Also evident was
the contrast between red and yellow, something which probably was not in the original, but adapted to convey the director's own signature in this Thai rendition.

There's however one thing that I questioned, that whether it was fashionable in this day and age to create the flat portrayal of a character. We only see the good side of Dr Krisna in this play and it somehow makes me wonder whether some audience would find it too excessive, to the extent that it might become an unintentionally self-parody. Wouldn't it be better then to create a more complex Krisna, whose ambition is a double-edged sword that could make her personality both benign and monstrous at the same time? Of course, I don't mean that such a truly great and altruistic person cannot exist, but I question that person is as flawless as Dr Krisna in this play.

But at the end of the day, I couldn't help but marvel at the colossal figure Dr Krisna cuts for herself anyway. Flawless or not, Dr Krisna is a rare jewel in this corrupt world.

15 June 2009


Silentium is a Latin word for 'shut up'. It is also the title of an Austrian film by Wolfgang Murnberger based on a detective novel by Wolf Haas. It revolves around a grumpy private detective stumbling into the mysterious case of a man found dead on a rooftop in the beautiful city of Salzburg. As he keeps on searching for the truth behind the death, his life is increasingly in danger.

Even though what I just wrote in the previous paragraph seems pretty banal and commonplace in an average detective story, Silentium is somehow fresh in its gothic feel and odd characters. Simon Brennder, the detective, looks more like a homeless person than a detective as his life spirals out of control. Salzburg is also transformed into a city of at once carnivalesque and mysterious atmosphere.

It turns out that the death involves a Catholic school in which there are only 33 male students. The recruitment of Filipino maids of course rouses Brenner's suspicion as he tries to unravel the whole mystery. Of course, his search leads to a series of deaths which, albeit gory as it were, are somehow made light by the general humorous tone of the film.

Of course, I don't think I need to reveal the culprit, as the viewer could probably have guessed who is behind all this after watching it for a while. In fact, the director even shows the faces of the murderers at the beginning of the film. What is more important, I believe, is Brenner's reasoning and picking up trails, coupled with his eccentric personality. In one point, he is even compared to Jesus as he is portrayed as wearing a crown of thorns. This just makes me think: in what sense is Brenner a matyr? Does he sacrifice his life and safety in order to search for a truth no one wants in the same way that Jesus preaches what nobody nowadays wants to hear? Maybe Brenner's ethics is out of place in the world where we are becoming more desentisised to evils and moral corruption.

This is sad.

2 Days in Paris

Another film that uses Paris as a crucial setting, 2 Days in Paris is about love, relationships, and cultural conflict. Two main characters, Jack and Marion, are in love, but the film shows that somehow love is not enough.

What is interesting in this film are national stereotypes that are somehow inflated to the level of intentional absurdity. Marion is French: she is portrayed as temperamental, 'allegedly' promiscuous, and sophisticated. Jack is an cynical
American hypochondriac. However, these stereotypes are not there only to reinforce the difference in characterisation; they become the cause of misunderstanding, expectation, and of course self-realisation. What I like about this film is that Julie Delpy does not only parody these stereotypes, but she also portrays how we still use them in our attempt to understand or make sense of things and people around us.

Even though at times I got exhausted listening to their constant bickering and never-ending dialogues, 2 Days in Paris is beautiful. It shows how Jack and Marion, despite their stereotypical differences, wish to learn and transcend the stereotypical boundaries as deep down they hope that love can somehow conquer this difference. The ending, which for some may seem unrealistic, reflects something about life: that a split second can make or break a relationship. Somehow days or months of rationalising about make-up or break-up may not be important anymore in that split second when one wishes to stop or carry on. In that split second, perhaps indescribable instinct or faith in love counts.

04 June 2009

The Royal Tenenbaums

A quirky film, The Royal Tenenbaums is about family bonding, distinguished by its rich characterisation. The Tenenbaums are a family of geniuses; however, this doesn't mean they are happy. We see the parents divorced and living apart and we also see their children growing up to be an unhappy and insecure bunch of thirty-somethings.

However, despite the bleak plot, it is a feel-good film showcasing the attempt by the father, Royal Tenenbaum, to make amends and to pull his family back together. His sons and daughter do not look at his return with innocent expectations; however, soon enough they realise that somehow being a family one cannot expect perfection. Forgiveness is important as it enables lives to go on, not stuck with guilt and memories of bad experience.

Enough with the gist of the film. Sadly and unexpectedly, I don't empathise much with the film, finding it a bit too pretentious as it tries so hard to be quirky and eccentric. It may be better as a novel, not as a film. I don't know why I feel this way. Let me give you some possible reasons. You may choose one.

(A) I get bored of this overused style of contemporary weirdness and eccentricity to portray the postmodern sense of humanity.

(B) With this cynical style of representation, I just don't expect cheesy happy ending with Royal Tenenbaums dying happily with his sons, daughter, and grandchildren understanding him. In other words, I just don't expect this kind of film to 'teach' in such a didactic manner.

I have a dysfunctional family so I just don't believe in family bonding.

I have a male menopause.

22 May 2009

Rush Out | กรูกันออกมา

Paretas Hutanggura is probably most remembered from his collection of short stories The Witch in the Building (แม่มดบนตึก). Some of the stories remain a must-read for those interested in contemporary Thai Literature, as Paretas is one of the most sarcastic authors around who does give an accurate picture of consumer culture.

In Rush Out, he continues in the same vein of sarcastic parody, tackling the film industry through the characterisation of two characters, a traditional minor royal and a PhD upstart who just finishes her study abroad. If the former prefers everything to be traditional, the latter simply thinks that tradition is anything but dead and society should be more frank in dealing with violence and the corruption of the public mind. The two are asked to be in the same panel for the Pirate Award, which is given to the best scriptwriter, whose script will be made into the film. So what we see is the contrast of the two extremes, one traditional and the other radical and transgressive.

Such a contrast, in fact, is what exists in Thai society and is deepening. We have people who still preach about the evils of globalisation and the glorious days in the past. At the same time, we have newer generations of people who think that these opinions are simply a myth and that these older people are deluding themselves to be something they have never been from the start.

Paretas, of course, doesn't offer any solution to this crack in our social structure, but he does revel in portraying the contrast in the Rabelaisian manner, as if he realised that there's no way out, just a cynical look at the whole scenario of absurdity. For me, this novel is special, as it is the first time I feel that I need to read quickly. It's not made for careful perusal. Perhaps the style itself reflects our faster pace of life, where we are not supposed to stop and think. Because if we do so, existential absurdity is what we are going to feel.

21 May 2009

824 | แปดสองสี่

824 is a (not quite) new novel by Jane Vejjajiva, who did stir the Thai literary circles with her debut The Happiness of Kati. However, in my humble opinion, this work is far better than her former, which already won her the SEA Write award. Well, my compliments don't logically mean that she'll automatically get the Nobel Prize for Literature, but at least it does show that her expertise doesn't only lie in the portrayal of the upper-middle class.

The strange title does have a meaning: Jane tries to depict the lives of 8 beings (seven people and one dog) within 24 hours. They all live down the same alley and even though they don't know each other, their lives somehow are related. Doesn't this sound a bit too familiar? If you think this is something truly new, I'd recommend you to read MR Kukrit Pramoj's Many Lives and, of course, its prototype -- Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which was first published as far back as 1927. However, different from these two novels, which end with death, 824 ends with hope.

The characters do vary as the author attempts to cast a wide net to capture creatures from all walks of life, from various gender and class dimensions. Therefore, we have a good-intentioned transvestite, a drunkard, an old man who despite his age tries to take care of an old lady with whom he fell in love long time ago, and a Frenchman who is head over heels in love with Bangkok. All in all, 824 has all the material to create a soi melodrama, in which all characters have challenges to overcome, past to forget, present to live, and future to look forward to.

Even though some elements are a bit cheesy, like the love story between the two old people and the transvestite's secret admiration for a younger man who accepts him for who he really is, we can't deny that the author remains a strong strategist who plans and plots (in all meaning of the word) everything carefully, so much so that every life seems to miraculously intertwined that there's no space for "reality" to happen. In other words, the all-too-well plotted plot has no loose ends, thus reiterating its status as fiction rather than reflecting life.

Somehow, I find this perfection a bit too oppressive, as we all know that life is not like that. Life has, as it were, loose ends and dead ends. If The Happiness of Kati is the ideal portrayal of the upper-middle-class girl who learns to cope with the death of her mother, 824 is likewise idealistic in its depiction of cosmic ordering of the lives of seven people and one dog, an order so monstrous that it can only be created by a human who yearns for meaning in such a meaningless world.

14 May 2009

Synecdoche, New York

According to Abrams' Glossary of Literary Terms, synecdoche is a device whereby a part of something is used to signify the whole, or (more rarely) the whole is used to signify a part. I tired my brain out thinking about the connection between this special figurative device and Charlie Kaufman's new film, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.

As in some of Rene Magritte's paintings, Synecdoche deals with the issue of a play within a play. Caden, the main character, finds himself a victim of weird diseases, giving him rashes and strange symptoms. They make him obsessed of death, to the extent that he wishes to create a great work of art dealing specially with this issue. He is also in a failed relationship with his wife Adele, a famous artist of her own right. One day she chooses to walk out on him with their daughter Olive, moving to Berlin. Caden has no choice but to dedicate his whole time and energy on this new opus. His new 'theatre' houses the whole of his neighbourhood in New York, as he aims to portray his own life in its crudest reality.

However, his attempt to replay his own life down to its minutiae has setbacks. He hires an actor to play his role, only to find that the actor falls in love with exactly the same woman he fancies. Taking his role to heart, the actor commits suicide, causing Caden to find another person to play his part. Then, the whole thing becomes more complicated, as Caden appears in his own film dictating how his actor should act. This makes one wonder whether there should be another Caden out there dictating this Caden (surely some audience would have thought Charlie Kaufman himself would be that Ur-Caden).

However, this role of making a lot of decisions tires Caden out, as towards the end he chooses to be a cleaner instead. In turn, he lets a cleaner take his part and he himself waits for her order. Perhaps this is nothing less than an existential crisis that he suffers from, losing faith in life as it were and prefering to live like a crab in a deep sea like Eliot's Mr Prufrock. Perhaps this is where synecdoche comes in, as the life of Caden somehow is part of our life, the fate of humanity whereby we have no real desire to dictate our life. One key reason is that we know that even though we make decisions, fate will get the upperhand and have its way with our life, the same way that Caden's life just spirals out of control especially the moment when he thinks he has the firm grip.

Imitation is a key motif in Synecdoche. Caden tries to imitate the whole of his life on the grandest scale possible, the same way as Borges's mad cartographer does, only to realise the futility of his ambitious project. Adele, on the other hand, is a miniature painter, trying to create the smallest piece of artwork. They work on the opposite directions of this synecdochic representation. However, we see neither of them is really happy. Caden is a bitter old man yearning for his secretary Hazel, a symbol of desire as she lives in a house on fire. If Hazel is desire, Adele is lack (as Lack is her maiden name). Both of these women figure as the impossible for Caden and somehow become the drive for him to create the great opus.

I'm sure those literature students will have fun interpreting this film, as there're a great number of allusions and references here. But of course this can make the whole film really difficult and challenging. But if you enjoy his earlier films such as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine and the Spotless Mind, all of which were written by him, I'm sure you'll like this one, too.

09 May 2009

Borges and the Eternal Orang-Utans

Written by Luis Fernando Verissimo, Borges and the Eternal Orang-Utans is clearly a parodic homage to Jorge Luis Borges, one of Dechito's favourite authors. The plot is a cross between two genres: detective fiction and campus novel, revolving around Vogelstein who has a cat called Aleph. He once translated Borges's short story and added what he thought would improve the story. Borges complained and this has left a sense of guilt on Vogelstein's mind, especially now when Borges is world famous. He longs to meet the Argentine author to make up for what he sees as academic carelessness on his part.

Fate works its way and one day Vogelstein finds out that Borges is to appear in a conference on Edgar Allan Poe in Buenos Aires. He doesn't hesitate to join the conference, only to find out that a keynote speaker is brutally stabbed to death. Suspects abound as the speaker himself is notoriously vicious and spiteful, always on alert to discredit aspiring scholars who wish to be on his par.

The premise is petty and serious at the same time, as academic wrangling leads to a murder in a locked room, the scenario made famous by none other than Poe himself. Of course, there is no orang-utan this time, as most readers who are acquainted with Borges would also be familiar with Poe, naturally. The body of the victim also lies in a weird position, leading to further ruminations on the part of Vogelstein, the witness, who is now working with Borges to find the solution to this mystery.

This simple summary should be interesting enough, but Verissimo manages to add more elements, such as Dan Brown's famous deciphering of arcane codes and Agatha Christie's unreliable narrator (popularised by her The Murder of Roger Ackroyd). Thus, what results in this novella is a highly interesting and fun read, especially suitable for Borges fanatics. The homage to Borges is the last part whereby he 'rereads' what Vogelstein tells him, showing that the Argentine author is always one step further despite his awkward manners and almost blindness.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a sequel. Though it may not be always historically accurate, it is a good film with beautiful images and strong characterisation. The film sets out to portray how the Virgin Queen maintained her power through the turbulent times later in her reign, especially during her political fight with the Spanish and Mary, Queen of Scots.

What I like about the film is the extent to which the director, Shekhar Kapur, has invested in the image of Queen Elizabeth as the prototype of a Renaissance figure who finds the religion redundant and somehow contradicts with human emotion and creativity. Thus, we see the contrast of colour: while black is associated with the Spanish and the Roman Catholics, resplendent white is linked with Elizabeth herself and her reign. From the perspective of the film, nature also aligns itself with the Queen, as its storm wreaks havoc on the Spanish Armada. What is underlined, therefore, is how much religion, especially Roman Catholicism, is portrayed as oppressive and against nature. This interpretation is shrewdly highlighted, especially in the scene when Elizabeth watches the tempestuous sea. However, this should not blind us to the fact that in reality during her reign the Roman Catholics were just as vehemently persecuted.

However, one wonders whether Elizabeth herself, with nature on her side, can prosper. We see how much she represses her carnal desire and channels that to her political creativity. We see how much she feels for her cousin, Mary the Queen of Scots, who is about to be beheaded thanks to her order. In other words, she is also victimised by nature, as she cannot control her desire and longing. Nonetheless, according to the film, she is more successful than the Spanish, as she allows herself to succumb to these human emotions, not negating them altogether and being transformed into a lifeless lumb of blackness like King Philip II (as the film portrays him to be).

True to its glorifying style, the film chooses to end with the death of Sir Francis Walsingham when the Elizabethan reign is at its highest, with its colonies around the world and no more equal political enemies. However, I can't help but wonder if the film had chosen to follow her path till the moment she actually dies, we may perhaps see and understand more of this Renaissance figure, especially how more human and frail she can become.

16 April 2009

God Man Dog

It comes to me as no surprise that God Man Dog has been chosen to feature in quite a few film festivals. It also comes to me as no surprise that this film comes from Taiwan, a country with difference so vast both in terms of class and religion.

We see characters from different classes with various different religious beliefs. Involved are (1) an estranged middle-class couple, the man practising Chinese Buddhism and the woman starting to believe in Christian God; (2) a poor couple migrating from the Philippines, with their rigid belief in Jesus; (3) their daughter who practises San Da (a kind of kickboxing) and her girlfriend who wants to be a model; (4) a man called the 'Yellow Bull' who travels around collecting the unwanted replicas of gods or goddesses; and (5) a young vagabond who likes to hide himself in the luggage compartment in coaches.

Their lives crisscross and intertwine in various ways, begging us to ponder on the themes of fate and coincidence and how God is involved in all of these. For director Singing Chen, perhaps this concept of God transcends different religions as he seems to focus on the cosmic level of divine predetermination. No one can explain how it works and the law of karma seems to work its way subtly. For example, the Yellow Bull always seems to be unlucky even though he is a good man dedicating himself to repairing forsaken god replicas.

What I find beautiful about this film is that it makes me look at the chain of causal laws in a new way. We may not be rewarded in the way we want all the time but God always has his or her way in sending us signs and makes us realise the mystery of life. Or perhaps all this is just our interpretation in our attempt to make sense of this perhaps absurd universe. The film, I'm happy to say, manages to convey these levels of complexity in belief and faith.

I know some of you may have trouble understanding my review, but you need to watch the film to see what I mean.

11 April 2009

Memories of Matsuko

On the surface, Memories of Matsuko may appear like Amelie with its visual carnival and fairy-tale-like storytelling. But once the film finishes, there's something much heavier and interestingly more rewarding in this Japanese film.

The film charts the growth of a woman called Matsuko from her childhood till her death. What is special about Matsuko is that she just has too much love to give. Luck is, however, not on her side as her love is never returned: her father seems to devote all his love to his ailing sister, her boyfriends are either incapable of love or show their love through domestic violence (with of course Matsuko on the receiving end).

The fact that she is constantly beaten by her boyfriends has turned Matsuko into a pathetic creature who chooses to let herself be beaten than to stay alone without love. One may say that she's stupid, unable to learn from her mistakes, but I'd venture to say that the director manages to turn this stupidity into something rather heroic. She chooses not to learn from her experience, hoping that one day her whole-hearted love would be reciprocated both in similar quality and quantity. Her ability to absolve men's follies somehow equates her to God -- or at least a human god who is desperately in need of love.

The visual bonanza is somehow ironic. The colourful, flowery landscape of Japan should not blind us to the fact that there's a great deal of violence going on here. The contrast between the beautiful setting and the acts of violence (as in the scene where Matsuko is beaten by a teenager to death) is shocking. Yet, somehow this should be reserved to Japanese culture, whereby its pop culture, seemingly innocent, is laden with extreme violence and oppression.

However, like Happy Endings the film ends with hope. Even though the happy ending may not befall to Matsuko, it may be for those who learn from her, like her nephew Shou, or for those who are affected by her warmth and unrelenting faith in love. Hopefully this will happen to most viewers of this film.

10 April 2009

Happy Endings

I know this is an old film, released in 2005, but I just had a chance (and free time) to watch it. Now that Thai politics is anything but stable, it's perhaps my unconscious choice to watch a film with a positive name like 'Happy Endings'.

After viewing it, the title seems somewhat subtle: it's not plain Walt Disney-style happy endings, but kind of happy in As-Good-As-It-Gets style. The film plot doesn't promise any positive ending, yet director Don Roos manages to cast a positive light on it. The film involves lots of secrets and lies, and, if these aren't enough, lots of desires and confusions. It's set in LA and there are basically ten characters whose lives intersect and intertwine. It also seems like there's no morality here: a young girl and her stepbrother having sex with each other, a woman having sex with an older man for money, and an aspiring filmmaker wanting to be famous by exploiting other people's stories.

OK, this is America and what's surprising is that all these happen in a rather affluent suburb, reinforcing the claim made by such films as American Beauty that money doesn't promise benevolence or morality. In a way, the whole film can be construed as the American Dream gone awry, with these characters so lost, lonely and miserable. I think the film resembles Magnolia, but somehow chooses to portray these negative conditions in a lighter tone. However, there's a sense of optimism there when, towards the end, most characters dance together in a ballroom with Jude (superbly played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) crooning 'Just the Way You Are'.

I think the director prefers the status quo, saying that these characters are all too human, and being human means you are liable to make mistakes and seldom learn from them. There's no alternative but to accept our human frailty and weakness. However, as we're now entering the Obama age where (the possibility of) change is in the air, I wonder whether the director can do more than just portraying our all-too-human follies and giving up on all hopes for our redemption.

The paragraph I just wrote sounds weird to myself. Maybe Dechito's changing somehow, believing that he's a preacher who can change the world. Maybe he's no longer a cynic. Maybe he no longer wants to be an armchair philosopher. Maybe it's just his wistful thinking simply to be more than what he can be ...

01 April 2009

The Oxford Murders

In comparison with The Book of Murder, The Oxford Murders also by Guillermo Martinez is a literary gem. Everything seems to fall nicely together at the end and it shows that it's the work which probably had been in the author's mind for quite some time.

The story is simple: the main character is an Argentine exchange student who needs to study in Oxford for some time under the supervision of an Oxford professor. He studies mathematics, probably likened to the author himself who has a Ph.D. in mathematics. One day he finds out that his old landlady is brutally smothered to death. He witnesses the scene alongside famed mathematician Arthur Seldom. From then on, there occurs a series of murders that somehow can be linked to this murder, as the criminal intellectually leaves some signs at the crime scenes which puzzle both the student and the police.

There're possible criminals, such as (1) Beth, the landlady's granddaughter who dislikes taking care of the old lady, (2) Lorna, the student's lover who is an avid reader of crime fiction, (3) the father of a child who needs a lung transplant, and (4) Podorov, a bitter Russian student whose work was stolen. There're also some good symbols, including a dead badger which nobody dares to clear from the road for fear of bad luck.

The reason I like it is that there is a series of twists that happen in the novel until the last page. I thought I could figure out the ending yet the author's always one step ahead, already having taken into account what we thought. I found this ingenious and reminded me of Borges's 'Death and the Compass', a short story from Martinez's compatriot.

For those of you who are a fan of Eco's The Name of the Rose, you just can't miss this great work!

The Book of Murder

I didn't realise until today that I had disappeared for almost a month. There's no one but myself to blame. Anyway, let's review something different, this time a detective novel called The Book of Murder by Guillermo Martinez. Two reasons made me feel interested: the author is an Argentine and the crime is intellectual. These two reasons of course are related to my love for Borges in the beginning.

I need to confess that I've decided to sell this book to a second-hand bookshop before I leave for Bangkok this weekend. (I've of course bought some other books here in San Francisco so I need to sell those that I don't plan to keep.) Sadly this novel has to go, the reason being that the ending is a bit too weak (or for some too intellectual). I still prefer the old-fashioned detective story whereby all clues lead to a good end where all the knots are untied nicely and rationally. This one seems to lead to another sphere altogether. For fear of spoiling, I just can't tell you the ending.

The narrator is an aspiring author and he knows a young woman who takes dictation named Luciana B. Luciana works for another famous writer, Kloster, who is a mammoth figure in the Argentine literary circle. One day Luciana claims that Kloster tries to harass her sexually. This action leads to a series of catastrophic results, with Kloster's wife asking for a divorce and taking their only daughter under her care.

However, things don't turn out well for Luciana either. Even though she receives a great amount of money from Kloster, her family and boyfriend start to die for mysterious reasons with only her sister Valentina the sole survivor.

On a superficial level, one can perhaps safely say that Martinez's novel is about revenge but on a deeper level it concerns divine retribution and cosmic karma. The fact that Kloster is an author shouldn't be ignored here as his position can be pitched against that of God, who decrees the fate of mankind. So it goes without saying that when the series of murders that occur to Luciana's loved ones correspond to those in his novel, Martinez seems to concern himself with the serious issues of fate and fatalism.

However, when a detective novel concerns itself with fate and such divine retribution, it can't help but sacrificing the fun of causality and 'rational retracing'. If a series of actions can no longer be attributed to a law of causality (at least on a human plane) but to the arbitrariness of cosmic coincidences, then a detective novel is no longer a detective novel; it's become something more monstrous.

Yet I still can't explain why I don't want to keep The Book of Murder. Maybe the ending is a bit weak, in comparison with The Oxford Murders, which is simply marvellous. Maybe there are a lot of knots being untied. Maybe there're a lot of empty spaces that just remind us of how much of this cosmic fatalism can have a go at us.

03 March 2009


Another assignment from my student, Closer is a very subtle contemplation on modern-day relationships. The film centres around the lives of four characters who are somehow lost and confused in a contemporary urban setting of London.

The film doesn't offer a complete beginning and ending. We realise that the beginning is elsewhere: Alice escapes from a breakup in New York and Dan is seeing Ruth at the beginning of the film. Then time flies and Dan finds himself head over heel in love with Anna, a beautiful photographer. Then Larry a dermatologist steps in. He is married to Anna, who uses this marriage to stop her obsession with Dan.

However, as time flies, she realises that her love for Dan is greater and wants to leave Larry, who proposes that they have sex before he signs divorce papers. Alice is likewise dumped by Dan and returns to her career in a strip club. Then we see another twist where Anna chooses to go back to Larry. Heartbroken Dan has no choice but to go back to Alice, who spurns him and returns to New York.

I know this is more like a summary than an analysis, but somehow the twist and turn of the whole film shows how complex and subtle human emotions are, especially when they concern love. In this case, love is not just a pure emotion caused by a single impression, like when Dan sees Alice for the first time. Later on, we gradually come to realise that there is something darker and more sinister to love. The errie scene is the ending whereby we see Anna going to sleep with Larry next to her. She doesn't seem to be happy but perhaps it's all there is for the modern-day matrimony. There's definitely something like acceptance of imperfection and compromise, where she decides to settle for someone she's not really in love but someone who will give her less headache.

When I come to think about this, perhaps Anna represents those who choose not to dwell too much in love as love means investment, expectation and pain. She chooses not to go on with Dan because perhaps she knows she loves him too much and she'll invest too much in him emotionally. One can say that she's a coward. But isn't Dan also a coward, choosing to return to Alice even though he knows perfectly well that he prefers Anna. By going back to Alice, we see how cowardly and insecure Dan can be, susceptible not only to his own needs but also to Larry's powerful storytelling that plays upon his lack of confidence and trust.

Alice emerges victoriously in this film, especially at the end when she can simply say to Dan that she no longer wants him, simply because she doesn't trust him. But of course she's not innocent to begin with. She doesn't tell her real name to Dan when they seem to fall in love at first sight. But she chooses to tell her real name 'Jane Jones' to Larry in a strip club, a setting full of deception and guiles. Alice is a good example of how we in the modern day are very much used to lying and manipulating, so much so that we can no longer separate between truth and fiction. But in Alice's case we can probably say that lying and manipulation are part of her self-defence mechanism she uses to protect herself from the cruel outside world and shitty men.

So perhaps the film boils down to this: who do you choose to be, Anna or Alice? Anna, faithful to herself, yet chooses to run away from real love. Or Alice, prone to lying and manipulation, leads a solitary life and never settles for anything less.

15 February 2009

Wifi Project Version 2.0 | ไวไฟ 2.0

Today I had chance to go to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre to watch the exhibition Krungthep 226. Coincidentally, I just saw a sign that there would also be a play called Wi-Fi Project Version 2.0 by the Saosoong theatre group. I was incredibly lucky as it was their last performance and I probably couldn't find it restaged anywhere else soon.

It was actually a collection of two short plays -- The Google Detective and Hi5...eiei. Both plays portray how our interactions with modern technology can be related to our redefinitions of love and romance, as well as cheating and lies. In a monologue manner and sometimes with multimedia interactions, each play was respectively led by theatre veterans, Damkueng Tithapiyasak and Janya Tanasawangkul.

The Google Detective is about a man looking for a romance on-line, only to be exposed to a rather sophisticated cyberworld where it is impossible to believe or to trust anyone. With a view to looking for love, the actor ends up being too cynical and engaging himself rather in finding out who his on-line friend is. Love is thus impossible and replaced with sex and paranoia.

While The Google Detective revels in its rather pessimistic tone of contemporary romance quest, Hi5...eiei starts off more cheerfully with an 'ab-baew' woman also looking for a romance on-line, only to find her long-lost friend looking to rekindle his romance with her. Full of hope and expectation, she gradually changes from her 'ab-baew' personality to a more 'human' one and moves away from the computer to her real life. However, when it transpires that her long-lost friend already has a girlfriend and is only interested in her as his temporary 'gig', she starts to retreat to the on-line community and sadly assume her 'ab-baew' persona on-line. I personally find this play rather touching, especially how the woman at the end smiles and talks childishly in her innocent guiles. It makes me understand that perhaps being the so-called 'ab-baew' can be just a shell for someone to protect his or her vulnerable self in such a terribly cruel on-line world where images and avatars are not to be trusted.

Having watched these mini-plays, I can't help but feeling rather happy as I have distanced myself from the on-line world in my post-cynicism era. I'm pleased to say that I don't have Hi5 or facebook accounts. I only have this blog and its Multiply mirror-site. So those of you who send me invitations, please stop. Let's meet in the real space if you can catch me.

A Moment in June | ณ ขณะรัก

Spoilers alert!

A Moment in June is a beautiful film that tells the stories of three relationships that involve second chances. Two of them happen in reality and one happens in a play. It's stylishly done and suitable for those who adore Wong Kar Wai's films. For me, it's a cross between his In the Mood for Love and Stephen Daldry's The Hours. It goes without saying that both films showcase some instances of passionate, yet brutal, love and longing. Hence, A Moment in June follows suit by picking up on two blissfully painful cases: one is a failing relationship between two men and the other is a sadistic case of a woman who waits for thirty years to meet her beloved man.

Of course, while the latter case triumphs over the long wait, the former just isn't that lucky, as it's possible that an unexpected accident might have just ended the relationship. What this film shows is probably how love is simply just a game where no one will know what will be the ending. But one can't deny that, like In the Mood for Love, the film does glamorise affairs and make people want to have a secret relationship that will enable them to be 'heroic', i.e. to be able to sacrifice their secret need and live with their legally married partner. In a sense, like The Hours, the relationship of a legally married couple is not portrayed as a sanctuary, but a scene of brutal tedium and compromise that will result in madness and oppression. However, what is 'morally exquisite' in A Moment in June is a sense of responsibility, especially on the part of the father who chooses to stay with his wife as he wishes to be a good father.

However, when I come to think about it, isn't this just another myth of perfect family? Does it mean that you can only have good children as long as their parents are not divorced? I think a lot of parents out there just choose their children to be a pretext to cover up their own cowardice. They daren't face the fact that they're no longer in love, but they just choose to stay together for the sake of their children. I think this myth is lame but sadly a lot of films, including both The Hours and A Moment in June, just perpetrate this myth. In my opinion, children are wiser than what adults believe and they learn to adjust themselves eventually with divorces. At least they'll be able to realise that love is complicated and sometimes if parents can't stay together it doesn't mean that they no longer love their children. (In this case, Mrs Doubtfire is more realistic and morally uplifting.)

The film also makes use of a play within a play, or to be more precise, a play within a film. This technique is called 'mise en abyme', a French phrase meaning 'placing into infinity', as it can signify that the whole event of love and the second chance happens all the time in the history of mankind. It happens again over and over, yet with different results, like the ending of the play in which the actress is waiting for her secret lover to arrive when the curtain falls. Sometimes someone does arrive and sometimes someone is stood up. In this light, art imitates life and its complexities.

When I come to think about it once again, doesn't life imitate art too? Don't we somehow will our lives to be like what happens in films and books? Sometimes a play within a film perhaps tells us that the whole film may just be an imitation of the play, especially its stylish yearning and fantasy. And then after watching this film, viewers start to wish to copy what's going on in the film, thinking that it's stylish and glamorous. Then we're in a vicious circle and can no longer separate between fiction and reality. Or perhaps their boundaries are not as clear-cut as we imagine they would be.

17 January 2009


A feel-good comedy for everyone, Happy-Go-Lucky is just a perfect film for those who think they have a bad day. Poppy, the protagonist, is exactly what the film title says. She is just happy. But what is interesting in the film is that her happiness and positive attitude are constantly tested by everyday happenings. Her bike is stolen, some people stare at her, her driving instructor thinks she's stupid, and a shop assistant refuses to talk to her.

Somehow the film makes me realise that it's so hard to be happy in contemporary society. In order to survive in this 'liveless' society, people naturally put up barriers, as part of their self-defence mechanism and this mechanism in turn exacerbates the hellish condition of the city. Poppy, probably recognising this, refuses to act like other people. She just shines and people's reactions don't deter her from continuing to be simply nice and pleasant.

However, one can't ignore the fact that she's quite lucky. She's got good friends, especially Zoe, who can lend her a shoulder to cry on, a good relationships with friends at work, and a good boyfriend. Perhaps this is the bare necessities for one to be nice. If she's got no one to start with, one wonders whether Poppy will have this attitude. But of course one can't deny that with this happy-go-lucky attitude people are naturally attracted to her. I, for one, don't like her at the beginning of the film, finding her pretty annoying and loud, but towards the end I just can't help falling in love with her and just wish that the world should be populated by more people like her.

The scene where she refuses to let Scott, the driving instructor, drive his car (the role marvellously played by Eddie Marsan, shows that Poppy's positive attitude is not just mindless cheerfulness, but a carefully thought out one. She wills herself to be that way so that people around her can be more cheerful and nice to each other. But of course this can be easily misinterpreted, as Scott thinks that she tries to lure him through what he thinks is female guile. Another scene that is worth mentioning is her strange encounter with a homeless guy. With her response 'I know', one can't help but wonder how much she does know. But it is my personal belief that she actually knows what is going on.

Now, with all these reflections in mind, I just think that if there're real people who think like Poppy, I should like to applaud them. The reason is because these people know sorrow only too well and are very sensitive to what is going on in the world. They are, in other words, receptive to the evils that are happening in the world. It's likely that this kind of people will suffer from mental illnesses more than ordinary people. One of the mechanisms to prevent these illnesses is of course to sport a happy-go-lucky attitude. But soon enough realisation and depression will come in through back doors and they'll end up in hospital beds faster than 'normal' people who are so cold and indifferent.

12 January 2009

The Happiness of Kapi

Dear Kapi

I know you will find this letter one day. You must be grown up now and probably lead a happy life in a hi-so condo in Bangkok. I think you must now be grown up enough to stomach the whole reality. What you've just seen in the film in which I am both the co-director and the main financial supporter is just one side of the story. Of course I decided to make the film so that you can better learn about our special relationship. It's meant to be used in conjunction with the big cabinet full of drawers that I managed to categorise and catalogue my life for you. (Do I need to tell you that I'm a very neat person? My neatness is part of the OCD syndrome that I've long been suffering from. One of the symptoms is my need to make sure all drawers in that cabinet are full of rubbish that I want to give to you. Don't throw any of them away. Even though I have died, I'm still keeping my eyes on you.)

Kapi, I think I'd better come clean with you. The reason that I needed to leave you with Grandpa and Grandma that day is not because I needed to do what I had promised. I know you probably believe that the accident that day made me feel too guilty to raise you up and that I needed to do what I promised -- not to be near you or to touch you again because I was such a careless lady. No, even the dumbest person would probably find my reason weak and lame. Of course, I could've jumped into the water to help you, but because I was wearing Coco Chanel that day so I just couldn't. Also, because to be honest, I somehow wanted to get rid of you that day but you survived. You were too lucky, Kapi.

That day was very significant. I just talked to your father, Ant Thin Summin, a Burmese janitor with whom I fell in love whilst I was in Burma. Of course, my parents disagreed with our romance and said that I could've found a better person who were from the upper-middle class, not this low life whose salary was not even enough to support my lunch. Have I told you that I worked in the Burmese embassy as my father (yes, your grandpa) helped support the Junta in legal matters? I couldn't help but fall in love with Ant Thin Summin at first sight while he was cleaning the embassy toilet. I got pregnant soon after and you, Kapi, were the product of our class-free romance. However, Thin Summin later betrayed me. He found himself a British gay sugar daddy who promised to take him to the UK. He didn't hesitate to fly with that big fat old farang of course. I felt sad and suicidal. The accident that day was, I need to say, partly intentional. I just wanted to get rid of you Kapi. You just reminded me of my miserable relationship with that Burmese guy who was confused with his sexuality.

I couldn't kill you that day because Thong, the little twat, found out. With guilt, I just couldn't face you anymore. I decided to give you to Grandpa and Grandma and leave for the UK to look for Thin Summin. I found him and he changed his name to Anthony Summers. What a shameless guy! Of course he spurned me for the second time. I didn't have enough money to buy my flight back. Grandpa and Grandma were so furious that they didn't give me money anymore. I had no choice but to prostitute myself and found myself infected with HIV. That's when I thought I needed to fly home and spend the last days of my life with you Kapi. Also, I needed to make sure you would get what you should -- that hi-so condo and a holiday home in Hua Hin. These I bought with money I saved from my 'trip' to the UK. Don't tell anyone, Kapi, but the real world is not as clean as what you saw in the film. (Do you remember Pierre? He's one of my customers. I sent him to see you to check whether you're OK.)

By the way, Kapi, could you do me a favour? Can you promise me that you'll not show this film to other people, especially those with red shirts? They will surely not be happy with our hi-so lifestyle. Our misery is so light and pale in comparison with theirs. Here we're concerned only with whether you'll want to see your father or not, but there they're probably concerned with what to eat or where to sleep tomorrow. Do I need to tell you that not everyone have in an immaculate traditional Thai pavilion, a holiday home in Hua Hin, a duplex condo in the city centre, and a Grandma who can speak French? This film should be kept a secret between you and me ok?

I love you so much Kapi and I still remember the days when we were sleeping together in a little seaside bungalow with white curtains overseeing a white horse. The whole setting was so fashionable and seemed like it just came fresh out of a music video. Or was it a music video that I remember?

Au revoir,

Your Mom xx