Saturday, 28 April 2007

Passion, The อำมหิตพิศวาส (2006)

This movie is brought to you by the letters O M G W T F B B Q!!!

There's an apocryphal saying, sometimes attributed to French New Wave/nouvelle vague director Francois Truffaut, that goes "There is no such thing as a bad film, only a badly-made film". Clearly whoever said this must've had The Passion in mind. Previously in the past year, I thought that I have seen the worst movie in Thai cinema, but couldn't decide if the movie was called Colic or Ghost Game. Today, I would like to retract my earlier statements: The Passion is by far the worst movie in Thai cinema, not because of any immature handling of premise or bad taste, but solely because it is so badly made that you will be sorely tempted to hurl fistfuls of popcorn and rotting fruit and vegetables at the screen while watching this movie.

Here's the lowdown: The Passion is an exploitation movie set almost entirely in a shopping mall and cineplex that's run by corrupt and depraved security staff. The security chief is played by the director of this movie, and as such, he gets to molest, rape, and punch every other female appearing in this movie, while blackmailing his boss (who'd like a moral cleansing of the corrupt cineplex system - such an idea is so... farfetched it's brilliant) for a payout of 250 million baht. But this is the security chief's unlucky day - due to the tensions between the staff of the mall, the delivery of the blackmail money goes wrong, and worse still, his latest victim happens to be a psychologically disturbed girl with a huge knife in her bag... Will the corrupt chief continue his reign of terror, with the help of his hidden network of CCTV cameras throughout the mall, or will the innocent victims walk free?

Now, this does sound like the premise for either a gripping thriller or an allegory on the depraved state of Thai film industry and the trash that gets produced and lapped up at box office record levels by audiences, and then distributed in Singapore as "Smash Thai hit of 2006!" That's why I entered the cinema. But almost from the word go, it became apparent that this isn't the film I would be watching. For one, it looks as if the film was shot by secondary school students who snuck into the mall one night at 2am and rushed to complete their shoot by sunrise. You know, the "smart" idea to film chase scenes all over the mall and cineplex, in its hallways, back alleys, carpark, kitchen, rubbish dump, and even storage rooms. Sure, it's a smart idea, but only if it wasn't so incompetently done.

Here's a quick rundown of the horrendous stuff that first-time director Sarangyoo Wongkrachang offers us, from the first 40 minutes of the movie:

The editing (please thank Mahasak Dhasnapayak!) is completely botched up. It's as though Dasanapayak never realised it's bad cinematography to cross-cut between scenes, shift camera angles, jump cut between 4 different chase scenes and different plot lines every 3 seconds. Do congratulate Dhasnapayak for making a bigger mess out of what is already an incoherent script...

Apparently, Director of Photography Suthot Ruengui can't hold a camera without at least half of every take ending up out of focus. We hope he'll use an automatic camera next time. Both Ruengui and Dhasnapayak also form a tag-team, collaborating to give us shots where actors standing in front of a light have an unearthly glowing outline around their bodies. Also, Ruengui and director Wongkrachang have this special move, where every time the camera angle shifts from one character POV to another, the camera distance is set too far off...

Director Wangkrachang continues his spatial cluelessness by having a character on the second floor with a camera take footage of a murder on the top floor, even though his camera is aiming straight and not up...

Sayun Somkourn and Anusorn Pinyopojanee, the art directors, should be commended for finding a prop that looks like a charred and completely burnt for hours human body. The only thing is... they used the prop for a character who was doused with normal cooking oil, set on fire for 10 seconds, and then put out with a convenient bucket of water...

Scriptwriter Chatrisa Srisantiwong should be commended as well for the rather incoherent (but not incompetent to the point of surrealism) script, which allows a man to rise up, slap, punch and body throw a woman after she plunges a drill into his chest. That and having the Last Girl creep up to surprise the security chief in his office, even though he has hidden cameras all over the mall's corridors. That and having the Last Girl hide in a water slide from a security goon, despite the fact that everyone could hear the water splashing all over her, and the fact that the goon would have just spotted her by standing up straight because the slide is below chest level.

Whoever was in charge of continuity and simple logic on the set should also be commended: the blouse on a dead girl alternates between buttoned up and undone depending on which scene you're watching, even though no one has moved the body. There's also a weird ventilator fan death a la Daylight, except that the body is sliced into half on the first turn of the fan... and everyone knows that fans only pick up speed on rotation after a few turns...

And finally, here's a tip to the director: if you're going to make a thriller with a twist at the end, it only works if the rest of the movie is coherent, makes sense, and is free of glaring errors.

The Passion is one of those rare films where anything that can go wrong in production does go wrong. I would recommend it highly for aspiring filmmakers, media students, and film lecturers as an excellent and highly entertaining (You'll groan at the movie so much that you 'll start giggling!) educational tool, but the rest of us normal folks would benefit from staying away from this bad movie, which somehow won a Thai movie award. I leave you to ponder over how that can happen.

First published at incinemas on 3 May 2007

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