Bangkok Love Story
TLA Releasing // Unrated // $19.99 // August 26, 2008
Review by Cameron McGaughy | posted October 24, 2008
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
"Have you ever experienced a feeling that when you see others having a good time, you feel as though you're walking alone in this world?"
- Cloud

The Movie
If you ever wondered what a 90-minute gay love story music video looked like, welcome to this 2007 Thai entry from writer/director Poj Arnon. Short on story but high on vivid visuals, it's almost like a softcore adult film set to cheesy music. We're immediately introduced to Cloud (aka Mehk, played by Rattanaballang Tohssawat), a sad assassin who longs to break free from his cold and lonely world. His brother afflicted with HIV and his mother spiraling into dementia and depression, Cloud kills for the money to save his family.

But his latest assignment presents a problem. While Cloud completes the first part of his task--kidnapping Stone (aka Itt, played by Chaiwat Thongsaeng), who witnessed the murder of a prosecutor in the trial of a criminal who now wants him dead--he can't pull the trigger when it matters the most. When Cloud learns the facts, he makes a decision that will change their lives: "I won't kill a good man." He escapes with Stone, but gets shot in the process, leaving his would-be victim as caretaker.

While shacked up in a rundown apartment, the two start to form a bond--and surprising feelings surface. As the two cope with their newfound sexuality, they must also avoid the bad guys, now after both of them. Meanwhile, Cloud's brother Fog (aka Mawk, played by Wiradit Srimalai) engages in increasingly destructive behavior, and Itt's fiancée Sand (aka Saai, played by Chutcha Rujinanon) starts to get suspicious.

It's a simple, classic story given a twist, but this film's strength isn't in the script (you'll roll your eyes at some of the lines: "I hate myself because I love you so much!") or the acting (Rujinanon in particular over-emotes to near hysterical levels), which relies too much on overdone expressions and body movements (including lots of dramatic head turns). The film is far too melodramatic for its own good, and the performers frequently come across as Acting 101 students who think they're really good as they sell sadness and pain. It's like one of those pretentious Calvin Klein perfume commercials from the 1980s (remember the SNL "Obsession" parody?). I was also frequently reminded of many Marlon Brando impressions: "Stellaaaaaaaaaaa!"

While the two leads are charismatic and sexy to watch, the situations and lines they're given are sometimes unintentionally funny (one quick sequence with a gun is supposed to make you cry, but will probably make you laugh). The film is sparse on dialogue and actual plot development, and many of the sequences have no spoken words. The music--particularly one love song toward the end that ruins the emotional tone--is also sometimes misplaced. (Remember when Nicole Kidman played "All By Myself" at her husband's funeral in To Die For? That was at least intentionally funny.) Overall, the plot is pretty thin, resulting in a sometimes laughable lovers' chase that quickly wears thin with its back-and-forth dramatics.

But visually, Arnon and cinematographer Tiwa Moeithaisong have constructed a beautiful film. Using dark color schemes (many with tints), the two frame the action in ways that demand your attention, using striking backgrounds to create artful shots (much like a strong music video). They try to sell the film with camera tricks, not story. It frequently works, and there's clear talent here. But as the film draws to its extremely melodramatic close, the technical tricks aren't enough to save it. Bangkok Love Story is a poem, but at 90 minutes it just doesn't have enough strong prose to make you fall in love with it.

The DVD

Video:
Presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, the film relies on artful color tints to help with its striking visuals, with yellows and greens helping to create a cold, stark feeling meant to convey the characters' emptiness. It's a frequently beautiful image, but not without its flaws--excessive grain is more apparent in darker scenes (and there are a lot of them), the biggest issue with the transfer. Black levels are also sometimes a little too overpowering.

Audio:
Available in 5.1 and 2.0 Thai options, the film has optional English subtitles. The 5.1 track is solid for such a small film; dialogue is never an issue, although I felt the score and songs used were sometimes a tad overpowering.

Extras:

Four deleted scenes (12:49) are the only true extra. All of them revolve around Cloud's brother Fog (including the alternate ending), and all further emphasize the over-dramatic nature of the story and acting. Also available are the film's trailer and trailers for other TLA releases.

Final Thoughts:
A 90-minute gay love story music video, this Thai film is high on striking visuals but light on story--and everything else. While the two leads are sexy and charismatic, they ultimately aren't given enough to do. The movie can't sustain its feature length--the acting, dialogue and plot are all too melodramatic for their own good. But the film isn't without talent: If you're in the mood for some incredibly artful shots and gorgeous cinematography, check it out. Bangkok Love Story is a clear case of style over substance, an artful yet empty experience. Rent It.



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