Wisit Sasanatieng

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Auteur Theory: Volume 3

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Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng has managed to create one of the most unique and thrilling visual styles of the last decade. His career began in directing ads, and since then he has been the mastermind behind three films, echoing a love for cinema and an incredible spin on how to piece together a movie. Borrowing techniques and resources for sets and lighting from his advertising career, he has been a key figure in a new wave of cinema to emerge from Thailand starting in the late ‘90s.

Have you ever seen a Thai western? Because that anomaly is exactly what Wisit Sasanatieng’s first feature, Tears of the Black Tiger is. It’s filled with blood splattering, bullets bouncing, instant replays, some of the most magnificently colorful set pieces I have ever seen, and oozing with love for cinema. Tears of the Black Tiger doesn’t hide its influences, riffing directly off moments from Sergio Leone classics, and violence reminiscent of Peckinpah’s westerns. But it is a romance at heart, complete with childhood crushes realized, romantic tragedies, and all the melodrama one could ask for. The film looks like it was made in the ‘70s at times. Grainy and over saturated, there are even sequences that occur on an obvious sound-stage, in which the background is a large stylized mural. The colors are incredible, scenes look like illustrations in a story book. It was the first film ever out of Thailand to be accepted into the Cannes Film Festival, and toured at many other festivals as well, receiving international praise.

200px-citizendogdvdcoverSasanatieng then revisited this same pastel colored and dreamlike style in his second feature, Citizen Dog. The very quirky Citizen Dog allows reality to drift even further away than Tears of the Black Tiger, this time with a romance set in modern day Thailand. The film follows Pod, who moves from a rural Thai town to Bangkok, to try and start a life in the city. At his second job as a security guard, (his first was in a sardine factory where he lost a finger and accidentally had someone else’s reattached to his hand), he meets the OCD maid Jin, who is constantly fixating over an enigmatic white book written in a foreign language that she cannot understand. The film follows his attempt to woo her by any means, and her attempt to decode the book. The film gets its look from a radiant and unreal interpretation of Bangkok, and some CGI flourish. Bright colors, surreal story and imagery, a mountain of plastic bottles (no exaggeration, it’s an actual mountain), the film is beautiful, adorable, funny, and at times, quite sad.

200px-poster_unseeable1His third feature, and his most recent directorial role, took an extreme turn from the feel his first two films had. The bright, vibrant colors and surreal, romantic qualities have gone, and in their place we have a traditional Thai ghost story titled The Unseeable. Here the homages stretch back to films of the 1930s. Set in Thailand in the ‘30s, the film is about a young pregnant woman who is abandoned and seeks refuge and a place to deliver her child in the home of a rich woman. And, of course, stories of a ghost and supernatural occurrences plague the property. Without the visual flair of Sasanatieng’s first two films, The Unseeable relies heavily on atmosphere and story. The atmosphere is definitely there, a yellowish tint dominates the visuals, and all of it is quite eerie, but the story feels too typical, and often fails to tie scenes and events together. It is not a bad film, so much as it doesn’t really surpass a conventional ghost movie. It is in that aspect that I found The Unseeable disappointing, as I wanted so badly to see more of the vibrancy that hooked me on Sasanatieng initially. But the film does manage to be frightening, and the sets and cinematography are excellent, so I still recommend it to fans of horror as a good Thai ghost story. It is a breath of fresh air in the wave of Asian ghost movies that were flooding the market at the time of its release.

200px-tearsposter1Right now Wisit has a couple announced projects, most notably Armful, his take on the martial arts genre. Buzz about this film has been on and off since news of it originated in 2006, but there is no word on the progress of the production due to funding issues. Hopefully this will be settled soon, because just imaging his style on a martial arts movie makes my heart beat a little faster. Until then, I recommend looking up some of his ads at http://www.filmfactory.org because they are out of this world.

14 Comments
  1. hoodwinked says

    Вот это я понимаю, написано, так написано!

  2. Timosh says

    Я очень заинтересовался вашим ресурсом.
    А не связаться ли нам в личке для более подробного обсуждения статьи?

  3. Hawk says

    Меня весьма заинтересовал ваш ресурс.
    Могу ли я связаться с вами в асе для более подробного обсуждения темы?

  4. quack says

    Прочитал с интересом

  5. lundin says

    Классная статья – спасибо

  6. spooning says

    Очень было интересно читать

  7. groin says

    Спасибо за Ваш труд

  8. Philip O'Mara says

    Read a great new sporting comedy, entitled Classes Apart.
    This is an adult sporting comedy that follows the fortunes of Paul Marriot, the secretary of the Barnstorm Village Sunday soccer team and coach of a school cricket team in Yorkshire, England. The story describes the remarkable camaraderie between the players and supporters of this little club and their desire to achieve success. The team had previously been known more for its antics off the field, rather than their performances on it.

    During his time at the club he meets and becomes involved with Emma Potter, who is the sister of James Potter, a major player for their bitter rivals Moortown Inn. Thus, begins an entangled web of romance and conflict. He also begins working at Derry High School, a school with a poor reputation of academic success, where he becomes coach of the school cricket team. Here he develops an amazing relationship with the children and they embark on an epic journey.
    http://www.eloquentbooks.com/ClassesApart.html

  9. Márcio says

    I’ve only seen Citizen Dog, I liked it but didn’t love it, visually it’s a gorgeous film but I couldn’t connect with the story, but it’s still a very unique piece of filmmaking and well worth a watch. I’ve been meaning to see TOTBT for a while now but I haven’t come around to it yet and never heard of The Unseeable before, being that I’m a huge horror fan I’m definitely interested in seeing it.

    How about Pen-Ek Ratanaruang? He’s my favorite Thai director, his movies are always fun and enjoyable but 2003’s Last Life in the Universe is easily one of my favorite movies of this decade. Anyone a fan?

    1. Ricky says

      Wish I could say I have seen his films but I have not. My friend in New York raved about him. Perhaps one day we can get a column on the Auteur Theory about this director. What I love about the columns is that it gives our site a chance to cover film makers we never get around to doing on the show. Perhaps one day.

    2. Madeleine says

      I haven’t seen any of his films yet! Although I have a copy of Invisible Waves, and I keep meaning to check out Last Life in the Universe considering it stars the always excellent Tadanobu Asano. Thanks for the recommendation, I should get around to watching these.

      Thanks for reading too :D

      1. Márcio says

        I was a bit underwhelmed by Invisible Waves but I think it was hurt by my insanely high expectations after Last Life in the Universe, maybe it’s time to give it another go.

  10. Ferinannnd says

    Огромное СПАСИБО! Этот блог – супер!!!

  11. Ricky says

    I have only seen Tears of a Black Tiger and I was highly recommending it to our listeners when we review The Good, The Bad and the Wierd. Great article. Once again you have inspired me to do another director speical on the show.

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