Tears of the Black Tiger
Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng
Thailand, 2000, 113 minutes
When: Friday, June 10th, 2011 at 6:45 PM
Where: Asia Society
725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC
I've known about Tears of the Black Tiger and have awaited an opportunity to see it for several years. So I was thrilled when I received my review screener from Asia Society where Tears will be playing tomorrow night, part of the Blissfully Thai film series. To say that it was worth the wait would be a major understatement, and I'm glad to have the opportunity to review the film here in conjunction with the wonderful and revelatory film series presented by Asia Society in association with Cineaste.
Dum (Chartchai Ngamsan), a.k.a. The Black Tiger, is the top gun in Boss Fai's gang. He and the mustached Mahesuan (Supakorn Kitsuwon) execute someone who betrayed Fai, whose simple law is, "Whoever betrays Fai dies!" Afterwards Dum rushes to meet the lovely Rumpoey (Stella Malucchi) at a gazebo called "The Sala Awaiting the Maiden," named after an old tale about a thwarted lover.
However he gets there too late. Rumpoey, who's been waiting for him, has already left, thinking that Dum has decided not to come and run off with her. She sadly returns to her father, the local governor, and her fiancé, a police captain who is intent on proving himself by subduing Fai's bandits and whom Rumpoey does not really want to marry.
The movie employs flashbacks to tell the story of how Rumpoey, from a wealthy family, and Dum, the son of a peasant, met ten years earlier. While out in a boat on a river, he protected her from Koh, a local bully, and two of his friends. For his gallantry, Dum got a scar on his forehead in the fight and later a whipping from his father for endangering Rumpoey in the first place. On the other hand, Rumpoey fell in love with him and gave him a special harmonica. Soon thereafter she returned to Bangkok with her family.
Prior to the point in time where the movie begins, the two met again in college. Dum again came to her defense when Koh and his buddies once more accosted her. The consequence this time was Dum getting expelled from school, and eventually joining Fai's gang.
The film is a glorious mélange of genres. It's as if a colorful Douglas Sirk melodrama (meant in the best sense) was blended with a Sergio Leone "Spaghetti Western" and relocated to Thailand. The film is a visual feast for the eyes, a compelling love story, and a damn fine action film to boot. You'll flip over the replay of The Black Tiger's ricochet shot in the opening sequence and the bullet deflecting shot near the end.
Tears of the Black Tiger was the first Thai film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival and it's a must, must see. ACF Rating: 4 out of 4 stars, highest recommendation.
I foresee a fantastic evenings entertainment at tomorrow night's screening and urge all who can attend to do so. But for those who can't, the film fortunately is available on DVD from Magnolia Pictures. Amazon.com carries both the DVD and several movie posters from the film.