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TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER

SYNOPSIS:
Dum (Chartchai Ngamsan) a young peasant boy, falls in love with Rumpoey (Stella Malucchi), from a rich family - and their parents keep them apart. When they meet again years later, Dum has become one of the feared Tiger Gang, seeking to avenge the death of his family who were murdered by bandits. Meanwhile, Rumpoey is betrothed to the local police chief (Arawat Ruangvuth) who wants to bring the gang to justice.


Review by Jake Wilson:
Nothing travels less well than parody, and I assume that Tears Of The Black Tiger would be more resonant for viewers familiar with the conventions of 50s Thai melodrama. Not having this context to draw on, I felt strangely underwhelmed by this first feature from young director Wisit Sasannatieng.

It's a film that appears to be about nothing except for its own faux-naif, totally artificial style. The backdrops are deliberately theatrical, the colours digitally enhanced. Dominant hues are magenta, citrus yellow, pale green. The actors are posed like wax figurines (the hero suggests a Ken doll). A pantomime villain cackles stiffly, his head tilted to one side: 'Hah-hah-hah-hah.' After the novelty wears off, the lack of depth grows irritating; it's like watching a feature-length soft-drink commercial.

I've rarely seen a movie where so much gory violence has so little emotional impact. Fountains of blood gush from pierced chests, a man has his teeth smashed by a bullet - the tone is so detached it's neither horrifying nor thrilling, and it's not especially funny either. It may sound flippant, but I was reminded of another recent film that brings together Eastern and Western pop culture - Steve Oedekerk's Kung Pow: Enter The Fist, an ultra-lowbrow Hollywood 'comedy' based on redubbing and digitally altering old martial-arts footage from the 70s. Oedekerk's smarmy MTV pranks are admittedly more obnoxious (and far less exquisite) than Wisid's campy art-school stylings. Still, both filmmakers rely on fragmented, hyperbolic action sequences and one-note cartoon performances; both use zany digital effects and tacky zooms to flatten and stretch the image (it's like making toffee).

Like the posher digital wonderlands of Attack Of The Clones and Moulin Rouge, these movies exemplify a new 'global' cinema that gives short shrift to specifics of character and setting - a rococo patchwork of scraps from different cultures, blithely ridiculous yet self-consciously 'mythic.' You can call it the future of the artform if you want, but I was bored.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER (MA)
(Thailand)

Fa talai jone

CAST: Chartchai Ngamsan, Suwinit Panjamawat, Stella Malucchi, Supakorn Kitsuwon, Arawat Ruangvuth

PRODUCER: Nonzee Nimibutr

DIRECTOR: Wisit Sasanatieng

SCRIPT: Wisit Sartsanatieng

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nattawut Kittikhun

EDITOR: Dusanee Puinongpho

MUSIC: Amornpong Methakunawat

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ake Eiamchurn

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 7, 2002: Melbourne; December 5, 2002: Sydney







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