Monday, April 30, 2007

Tears of the Black Tiger


I ate a Southwestern Chicken Salad from Jack in the Box as I watched Tears of the Black Tiger by Wisit Sasanatieng. It's not a bad combination. They both evoke a strange second or third generation impression of the American Southwest. The important difference is that the salad was just a mediocre but reasonably tasty bit of fast food and the movie is one of the most stunningly original and moving new visions I've seen in a long time.

Imagine, if you will, if Douglas Sirk had traveled to Thailand for the purpose of shooting a noir/western. You're now perhaps halfway to understanding what genre this movie belongs in. At once retro in its look and feel while being strikingly modern in its approach.

Most reviews I've seen focus on the style and genre blending like a novelty, which, I believe misses the point completely. Like Far From Heaven by Todd Haynes, it's fully committed to using and expanding on the manner that the artifice of old movies held an emotional truth of their own. Realism is merely one tool to connect to emotional reality and, as its extended reign continues, the clearer it becomes that its a pretty poor one at that.

I can sit and compliment so many elements. The wonderfully expressive actors, the delightfully evocative songs that play, the elegantly simple poetry of the story, etc. for the rest of the day, but it's something that ultimately should just be experienced.

The Wikipedia article on Tears of the Black Tiger has a lot more information on influences, including many older styles in Thai cinema that I wasn't able to recognize myself.

4 comments:

cinebeats said...

I've been reading a lot about this movie and hope to check it out soon. It sounds great! The images I've seen from it remind me a lot of Japanese new wave cinema from the sixties and stuff like the Shaw Brothers musicals. I haven't seen a lot of Thai cinema myself except for recent horror films and I wish more older Thai films were easily available.

Neil Sarver said...

Yes, I'd include those as well certainly. It's a pretty amazing combination.

For the record, not to do with your reply, but I was not dismissing the humorous elements, which I think are definitely significant, but worth playing down, in my opinion, as I think too many reviews only refer to them without noting how much more than that there is.

I've been reading about Wisit Sasanatieng's further work and I really hope more of it becomes available over here. He seems to be a very exciting moviemaker.

Jeremy Richey said...

This sounds really interesting. I had heard a bit about it but your post has got me really psyched to see it.
It reminds me of the great number of filmmakers and films I still need to discover and explore.
Thanks for posting.

Bob Turnbull said...

You had me at Sirk and noir/western...

It sounds great Neil. I was hoping zip.ca (Canada's Netflix) might have it, but no such luck. I'll add it to the living breathing entity that my "to watch" list has become...

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