Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Tears of the Black Tiger/Tales of the Brothers Quay

Movie formula begs to be recycled, frequently compromising quality for the sake of consistency. In rarer circumstances, narrative conventions can be a vehicle for fresh ideas. Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal 1959 shoestring caper Breathless molded the Hollywood gangster genre into a far more abstract and provocative cinematic accomplishment. Allowing absurdist storytelling to permeate the plot, Godard used a Brechtian paradigm, providing constant reminders that nothing onscreen was remotely real. In doing so, he incorporated an imaginative whimsy that revealed the limitless potential of movies—in particular how entertainment as a whole can provide a platform for profound expression. Not everyone likes Breathless, but it would be tough to argue Godard’s point.

Tears of the Black Tiger—which was completed six years ago, screened at festivals around the world and only recently, thanks to Magnolia Pictures, found an American distributor—provides Thailand’s answer to Breathless. It tells a thin story about doomed love between a poor peasant-turned-gunslinger and a lonely rich girl, stages a couple rollicking shootouts and piles on the fake blood. Every scene oozes with such deliberate stylization that it’s impossible to watch it without constantly considering the filmmaker’s ulterior motives.


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