Rescued from Miramax's vault

Tears Of The Black Tiger

on January 12, 2007 by Wade Major
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It's been an open secret for some time that Thai cinema is the next big thing, though most such pictures have yet to score with American audiences. Ironically, Tears of the Black Tiger, first screened at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, was originally to have been the film that helped break the market open — until it fell prey to the notorious Miramax closet. Now, thanks to Magnolia Pictures (who previously salvaged Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse from the same fate), the movie is finally getting its shot, and that's nothing but good news for movie buffs.

A garishly colored pastiche of classic Thai movie genres that draws liberally on both American and Hong Kong influences, this debut film from writer/director Wisit Sasanatieng centers on star-crossed lovers Dum and Rumpoey (Chartchai Ngamsan and Stella Malucchi) who, over the course of many years, are separated, reunited, separated and reunited once again despite the tragic intervention of fate and some of the most wild-eyed, high-falutin' action sequences this side of John Woo.

Sasanatieng's affection for absurdist extremes carries obvious risks — blurring the line between satire and homage doesn't always make for an emotionally accessible story, and many of the sequences carry on far too long — but the picture's dizzying hyper-theatricality, which sometimes feels like Once From the Heart spliced with A Fistful of Dollars, is a true wonder to behold.

Whether it's enough to get production designer Ek Iemchuen and cinematographer Nattawut Kittikhun the kind of long overdue Hollywood attention they so rightly deserve, only time will tell. But, at this late stage, even limited exposure is a gift not to be taken lightly — for Sasanatieng has survived one of the most scandalous graveyards in Hollywood history, a black hole from which many of the world's most distinguished directors have yet to rescue their pictures.

If Tears of the Black Tiger can help end such practices and continue to open the door for Thai cinema while still showing audiences a rip-roaring good time, it will have more than fulfilled its promise. Distributor: Magnolia
Cast: Chartchai Ngamsan, Stella Malucchi, Supakorn Kitsuwon, Arawat Ruangvuth and Sombati Medhanee
Director/Writer: Wisit Sasanatieng
Producers: Nonzee Nimibutr
Genre: Action comedy; Thai-language, subtitled
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 113 min.
Release date: March 2, 2007 LA

Tags: Chartchai Ngamsan, Stella Malucchi, Supakorn Kitsuwon, Arawat Ruangvuth and Sombati Medhanee Director, Writer, Wisit Sasanatieng, Producers, Nonzee Nimibutr, action comedy
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