by Joshua T. Dies
Movie fans rejoice! Our very own local Film Messiah, the Belcourt, will follow its sensational Samurai Film Festival with a two week showing of Tears of the Black Tiger, a cult masterpiece from Thailand. Part spaghetti western, part doomed fairy tale, this gem runs from April 27 to May 9 and is packed with action, romance, and humor.
Tears of the Black Tiger is Wisit Sasanatieng’s directorial debut after penning the screenplays for several other successful Thai films. It’s the story of Dum, an outlaw in love with the governor’s daughter. When the movie opens, our ingénue Rumpoey, played to perfection by Stella Malucchi, is waiting at an elaborate gazebo in the rain. She has plans to meet the hero, the gorgeous Chartchai Ngamsan, who is occupied in a deadly shoot-out elsewhere. Through flashbacks, we learn of their childhood bond that blossomed into love, but now Rumpoey is engaged to be married to her father’s captain of police and Dum is the deadliest gunfighter in a Western gang headed by the evil Fai, played by Sombat Metanee.
From its opening sequence to the final reel, TotBT is an orgasmic wave of Technicolor. Sasanatieng combines heavily stylized scenes and surreal imagery with over-saturated hues to create a visual wonderland. The final product looks like a blend of Hollywood musicals from the fifties while the graphic violence looks straight out of a Tarantino film. Such a combination could have spelled death, but the exuberance of the actors and crew add a frenetic energy that keeps your attention even in the stories occasional lulls.
Tears of the Black Tiger originally opened on September 28, 2000, but was financially unsuccessful. The film was the first Thai film to be selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001, where it was critically hailed. The film then made the rounds through several film festivals before Miramax purchased the distribution rights in the US. The ending was altered, and then the film was shelved until 2006, when Magnolia Pictures acquired the rights and released the original cut of the film in theaters.
The original version of the film was also released on DVD for the first time in the United States on April 24. But the best way to see it will be to catch it on the Belcourt’s big screen. The film runs from Friday April 27 to May 9.