Reply to FarangDave: Thai Movies
Further to FarangDave’s recent submission regarding movies about Thailand, I have been a big fan of Thai movies for a very long time. I have built up a large collection of Thai movies and I thought I could perhaps go through some further movies in addition to Dave’s that people may be interested in watching. Note, I have not just listed movies that are about Thailand, but also movies that were filmed in Thailand, even if the plot is not always about Thailand. Please also note this is not an exhaustive list. There are a lot of crap movies in my collection as well, that I have intentionally left out. Given I am writing this from memory rather than looking at my movie list, I will no doubt have forgotten some important movies too.
The Man with the Golden Gun – Great scenes of Bangkok in 1974, including Sukhumvit Road, around the area between Washington Square and up to Soi 15. Also the Grand Palace, Big Swing, the drive to the floating market and the floating market itself. Also Krabi and "James Bond" island.
The Volunteers – with Tom Hanks and his wife – Filmed entirely in the North and about hill-tribes – actually the main "Thai" character is Japanese. You don't see much of Thailand other than the Northern hills and it doesn't really get the culture correct, but a bit of a laugh.
The Bodyguard – A bit of a slapstick action comedy and romance – before Ong Bak. I am not a big slapstick fan, but I actually like this one… it has a bit of everything in it, and some of the Thai humour is quite witty. Eg "Thaksa" instead of "Thaksin" hahaha.
Good Morning Vietnam – A lot of this movie was filmed at the meteorological office on Sukhumvit Road, not far from the Ekamai bus station (that is the building that was used to represent the US embassy).
Rong Thao (or something along those lines) – aka Magic Shoes – A bit cheesy and filmed in the very early 1990s – this is very hard to find now. It has some really nice footage around Bangkok including one of the earlier branches of McDonalds. Notwithstanding being a bit cheesy, it is representative of Thai creativity and Thai youth culture. What I like about this film, and something that picks up on what FarangDave said, is that it doesn't suffer from either the love or hate relationship, but accepts Thailand for what it is and works with it. I need another copy as mine was scratched by my niece. If anyone does find a place selling it, please let me know.
The Ugly American – This is a significant movie filmed in Thailand, even though it is about a fictional country. A significant former prime minister plays an important role opposite Brando.
Butterfly and Flowers – This is an EXCEPTIONAL movie capturing Thai culture in the South of Thailand.
I forget the name, but you will see it in Thai DVD stores at the moment – it has a bunch of school kids on the cover. It is filmed as a documentary about four school kids that are sitting their final exams and trying to get into university. It does a really good job of picking up current youth culture in Bangkok. It came out around late 2010 early 2011 from memory.
Pi – One of the (slightly) better Thai ghost movies. Some good scenes from Bangkok's red light district
Beautiful Boxer – Another exceptionally well made movie. It starts off with some good scenes on Silom Road and in Patpong. This is a film that I don't mind watching several times just because it is well made… and no, I don't have a thing for ladyboys LOL. The scene of the Thai country fair brings back good memories of my childhood when I used to go to those things with my Thai friends.
Somtam – A very silly movie, but for me still kind of watchable. Set in and around Pattaya about a down and out Aussie – robbed of his passport and stuck without money. He has a super-power though, when he eats Somtam he becomes sort of like the incredible hulk.
Nang Nak – About the famed ghost of Phrakanong – There are several different versions of this movie. The one I have is 1999, although there is also a very hard to find 1980s version and possibly even earlier versions. There is also a 2006 version that I have not yet watched. The 1999 version is kind of interesting in its depiction of village waterway life in what is supposedly Phrakanong around 100 years ago. From what I recall of the 1980s version, it wasn't too bad either and I would love to get my hands on it again. If this topic interests you, check out Wat Mahabut in Phrakanong district for the Nang Nak shrine.
Si Ouey (not sure about the exact spelling) – this is a film about Thailand's famous serial killer who drank the blood of his victims. I really liked this film as it really picked up the whole Thai – Chinese culture and the hardships that Chinese immigrants had on arrival in Thailand. If you want to see his body, it is on display at the Siriraj hospital museum.
The Big Boss – A Bruce Lee film set in Thailand (in the South or was it in Ayuthaya, I forget). This also depicts the plight of Chinese immigrants to Thailand… in an ice factory.
Faan Chan – aka My Girl – this is a bit like the Hollywood film, but not a copy of it. It also has a bit of a "Stand By Me" feel to it. Basically it is about a guy attending a reunion, and he remembers back to his childhood "girlfriend" and of all the things that they did together. To me, this is a really well made film and is very representative of Thai culture and the Thai way of life in the 1980s. I also have a soft spot for it because the games that the kids play are exactly the same as what I did as a kid in the 1980s with my Thai friends.
Mon Rak Transistor – I haven't seen this yet, but it seems to get good reviews.
The Bangkok Hilton – A telemovie starring Nicole Kidman – A bit over-dramatized and not entirely accurate. It's got some footage of a minor khlong and quite a nice house along a khlong, plus the Robot building on Sathorn. Not sure where they filmed the actual prison scenes though.
Frankie's House – Another telemovie – only available via the UK now (although I do have one of the rare surviving copies of the feature film version). This is actually about the Vietnam war but is filmed in Thailand. It is REALLY good.
Air America – Filmed in Northern Thailand and is set in that region as well (although supposedly more in Laos and Burma). No real Thai culture aspects to this, but I kind of liked the film anyway.
Another that I forgot the name of, but it came out in 1983 and is a bit of a slap-stick about village life where some property developers are trying to buy up an area for development and they try to use various strategies to get a girl and her grand dad to sell their property. There is a particularly funny scene where other villagers keep stealing food from the girl's house so she poisons the food. The thieves get diarrhoea and relieve themselves in a stream. The property developers happen to be walking downstream and are splashing their faces with the water… until they notice on each others faces that they are covered in shit. If anyone knows the name of this movie, please let me know.
Nampoo aka The Story About Nampoo – This is a 1980s movie about a teenager, Nampoo, and how he becomes a drug addict and the hell that his upper middle class family have to go through, as well as his own personal hell. This was commonly at Thai schools in the 1990s as part of school drug education programs. This film captures upper middle class life exceptionally well. The opening scenes show Siam Center and Siam Square (including a chase along Rama I all the way to the train tracks)… interesting how the area has changed.
For horror fans, there are actually a few okay Thai horror films. Shutter was a bit painful in my view but the production quality wasn’t too bad. I quite like The Eye (Pang brothers) and also Dorm (about a boy living in a school dormitory in Chonburi). Dorm works more on psychological fear rather than over-doing the whole splatter/gore thing that most Thai horrors go for. For anyone watching Dorm, the head mistress is played by the female lead from Good Morning Vietnam.
I think that is enough for now. For a more comprehensive list of actual Thai movies, check out this quite nicely assembled database of Thai movies (I have no involvement with the site). It doesn’t seem to be complete though, but will give you some more ideas on films you may want to watch.
If anyone can think of any other films that I may have missed that you really enjoyed, please drop me a line.
Finally, I agree wholeheartedly with Stickman about simply going into a Thai DVD store and just grabbing a bunch of Thai movies. They are cheap. You will pick up a bunch of crap films but you will find some real gems as well. Each time I am in country, I also go and see Thai movies in the cinema. The benefit of the cinema is you will get pretty decent English subtitles. Unfortunately, most Thai movies on DVD do not come with English subtitles.
Nicely put together!