Celebrating 10 Years of Screening Southeast Asian Cinema 2004-2014
Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 6:30pm
Center for Korean Studies Auditorium
Thailand (2013, 86 min)
Thai w/English subtitles
Director: Kongdej Jaturanrasmee
Screenplay: Kongdej Jaturanrasmee
Music: Chaibundit Peuchponsub
Cinematography: Umpornpol Yugala
Cast: Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich, Siripat Kuhavichanun, Sompob Sittiajarn, Anawat Patanawanichkul, Natarat Lakha, Chonnikarn Netrjui, Prinsadapak Jongkumchok
A refreshing departure from the usual crop of overly slick and idealistic teen-oriented Thai comedies and dramas, veteran writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasmee goes the gritty route with Tang Wong (ตั้งวง). Here, he takes realistic look at how the youths of today view traditional Thai culture.
Set in a solidly working-class Bangkok apartment block against the background of the 2010 red-shirt political protests, the story involves four schoolboys of varying backgrounds who all make a vow at the spirit-house shrine in their building’s courtyard. All wish for success in their various endeavors, but they are then reminded of the superstition that bad luck will befall them if they don’t somehow pay tribute to the shrine if their wishes are granted.
Throughout the film, contemporary foreign culture and general teenage angst distract the boys from fulfilling their oath. In icon-laden asides, Jay chats on instant message with a stranger named Doctor Who, who is sort of a clueless Greek chorus to the proceedings. Jay is also under pressure from his parents, who hope he’ll follow his older brother to study overseas, preferably in the U.K. like big bro. There are references to Japanese manga, and, thanks to cover-dancer Em, generous doses of K-pop music. Also, owing to Kongdej’s P-047 star, indie rock musician Apichai Tragoolpadetgrai, there’s a few ear-wormy Thai alt-rock songs on the soundtrack.
For Thai culture, it’s all rather pessimistic, which is a departure from the formula-driven commercial Thai films that are a whitewash of idealized, old-fashioned notions, with characters who predictably overcome all odds to cooperate with each other and win. With Tang Wong, there’s no clearcut end, with the takeaway being it’s just a slice of real life that’s been generously shared and is worth pondering over in the days that follow.
-Wise Kwai, thaifilmjournal.blogspot
The CSEAS Film Series is hosted by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, in support of the course ASAN 491G Cinema of Southeast Asia. Partial funding to purchase the films comes from the U.S. Dept. of Education and generous contributions from our loyal film fans.
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