January 11, 2007

Don't Cry For Tears Of The Black Tiger

tearsoftheblacktiger6.jpgIn this week's Time Out New York film section, David Fear interviewed Thai director Wisit Sansanatieng about his movie, Tears of the Black Tiger which finally makes it to New York theaters this weekend after languishing in that black hole for good Asian cinema, the Miramax vault.

"Honestly, its been so long that Id almost forgotten Id made the movie, Sasanatieng, admits via e-mail. My worry was always that Americans would only think of the film as a parody, when my goal was to pay tribute to the history of popular Thai cinema. I purposefully wanted to blend old and new styles. The look, the editing and the way the camera moves are all very modern, yet the acting is intentionally theatrical in a way that evokes older movies. I wanted actors who looked like contemporary versions of classic stars. We even scratched up the film so it resembles a beat-up print thats been sitting around for a while."

Watching this movie last week, Cinecultist couldn't help but think how perfect it would've been to discuss it with one of our former cinema studies professors, Richard Dyer. This is partly because Dyer is a witty and slightly caustic little British man who always has something slightly catty but spot on to say about movies, and also because Dyer's most recent scholarship has centered around the concept of "pastiche," a term he calls "knowing imitation." This is the idea that artists in their new work are drawing purposefully from previous art and in the process of pastiching one on top of the other, create something unique.

Of course what's interesting about the above quotes from Sasanatieng is how deliberate his pastiche choices--genre, color, the actors' looks and camera movement--yet how sincere the movie seems. There's not anything ironic or winking in Tears, it could more easily be an actual '60s Thai Western than what it is, a new movie made to look old. Watching most current post modern movies, like this week's utterly stupid looking parody comedy Epic Movie, you'd think that in order for current directors to elude to or reference cinema history in their films it has to be with an overtly knowing tone. Tears suggests otherwise.

Unfortunately then, you end up with a straight-forward technocolor-on-crack Western set near Bangkok, which CC is a bit sheepish to admit we found a little boring to sit through. Intriguing concept and excellent follow through, we just don't really like Westerns. However you might and if you do, please go see this movie if only so that innovative directors like Sasanatieng will continue to get their work rescued from the American distribution black hole.

Posted by karen at January 11, 2007 1:11 PM