Directed by Mingmonkol Sonakul
Thailand, 2002, 110 minutes
When: Friday, May 13th, 2011 at 6:45 PM
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC
The Blissfully Thai film series, presented by Asia Society in association with Cineaste, will continue tomorrow night with this film inspired by an idea of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (the director of Cannes Palme d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which will be shown on Sunday, May 22nd).
The film -- whose Thai title can be literally translated as "Night of the Full Moon" -- centers on the passengers on a run-down bus as it departs from Bangkok and makes its overnight run to a small town in north-east Thailand. The film's most unusual premise is that while they are on the bus, the passengers become manifestations of the actors in a radio soap opera set in the luxurious Jarawee Hotel.
in front of a pull-down screen at the back of the bus
It is only when they are off the bus -- at the bus station in Bangkok, stopping for gas or to have a flat tire fixed, and finally arriving in I-San -- that the film's actors become the "real people" in the film. For example, a young, apparently pregnant young woman becomes a glamorous model when on the bus, while a handsome young half-Thai, half-American male is the handsome hotel owner.
Mingmonkol Sonakul has done a marvelous job in keeping things visually interesting, since the overwhelming bulk of the film transpires within the small confines of the bus. The passengers -- whom I understand are non-professionals -- are perfectly cast to reflect the characters on the radio whom they portray, and whose words, unless I miss my guess, they lip-synch.
Admittedly, I-San Special will not appeal to all. But I found it to be a fascinating and intriguing cinematic experiment that succeeds remarkably well. A unique film experience that merits an ACF Rating of 3 out of 4 stars, solidly recommended