The Thai film “Tears of the Black Tiger” took a long time to get from its initial film-festival success to a regular run. That’s if you think the gap between 2001 and 2007 is a long time. Which it is.
It’s nice that the movie is finally getting its due, although it’s difficult to know how to recommend it. Or to whom.
The film is apparently to Thai cinema what “Kill Bill” was to American exploitation movies. It’s a pastiche of styles and genres, but the basic format seems to be “Eastern Western.”
There is a conventional plot, which could have come out of any number of old movies. A young man, Dum (Chartchai Ngamsan), is enraged after his father is killed by bandits. Dum becomes a slick gunslinger (meet “The Black Tiger”) and joins the bandit gang, the better to exact his vengeance.
There’s a woman (Stella Malucchi), of course, and a romantic rival and a young gun (Supakorn Kitsuwon) to compare six-shooters with Dum. Their exaggerated showdowns are sometimes hilarious.
All of this nonsense is rendered in colors that are both unnaturally bright and somewhat faded, as though we were watching a film made in the 1960s that hadn’t been restored yet. Even then, it would have to be a campy western shot in pastel colors in the 1960s, and there weren’t too many of those.
Writer-director Wisit Sasanatieng is paying tribute to a certain kind of Thai film from the 1950s and ’60s. This reference will be lost on most of us, but there’s something universal about insane, over-the-top outrageousness – like when the film stops itself with a question to the audience (“Did You Catch That?”) and then plays out a wild scene of violence again so we can see it better.
All of this is cool, but I’d be lying if I said the movie sustained itself, or even made much sense. Some long flashbacks are firmly in the realm of soap opera, and move about as slowly.
I’m sure there must be an audience for this combination of operatic romance and blood-spraying action. It’s probably the same audience looking forward to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s “Grindhouse.” Think of this as a first course.
A scene from “Tears of the Black Tiger.”