Even before I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, I was fanatical about Thai movies. Given short shrift by critics, many of Thailand’s movies are excellent and a few are, well…….phenomenal.
As a lover of Thai culture, I enjoy watching these films as they’re a wonderful way to understand more about how Thais think (how most westerners believe they think isn’t even remotely true) and to learn more about Thai culture. But there are three particular films I always recommend to friends, who ask if there are any they should watch before a trip to Thailand.
Bangkok Traffic Love Story – Known in Thai as “Rod Fai Fah.. Ma Ha Na Ther”, (Skytrain, Coming to Meet You), Bangkok Traffic Love Story is one of the most successful romantic comedies Thailand has ever made.
It tells the story of Li (played by Cris Horwang) a thirtysomething Thai woman who’s never had a boyfriend and feels like she’ll never get married. Then she has a car accident while drunk and meets Loong, (Theeradej Wongpuapan- famous in Thailand as simply “Ken”) and romance begins.
Funny, smart and laugh-out-loud silly, (Li’s family is absolutely classic) it has the quintessential Thai sense of humor, while being bizarre and more than just a bit rude. It’s well-written, fast-paced and shows off Bangkok in all its crazy beauty. To say this is my favorite Thai movie of all time is probably an understatement, as I’ve now watched it seven times. And no, it never gets old.
Buy Bangkok Traffic Love Story if you can (it has English subtitles) or, I’ll tell you a secret), the whole thing is available to watch on YouTube. Don’t miss it.
Siam Renaissance – A movie I came across on Thai TV one night and began to watch simply because it was beautifully filmed, Siam Renaissance tells the story of a Thai woman in the present day, who travels back in time through her mirror to the time of King Rama V. Here, she finds she’s already part of the life there and becomes even more so when she meets and falls in love with a man.
One of the most beautiful movies any Thai director has ever made, Siam Renaissance is a must see if you’re at all interested in Thai history, as it’s realistic in its set-design, clothing and attitudes of the characters.
Siam Renaissance was also recently named as one of 25 Thai movies that are part of the country’s national heritage.
Citizen Dog (Mah Nakorn) – A romantic comedy filmed all over Bangkok, Citizen Dog has become a cult movie through much of the international film world due to its crazy storyline, it’s technicolor cinematography and its comparisons to the French movie, Amelie.
Citizen Dog follows Pod, a country boy, who moves to Bangkok to work even though his grandmother tells him if he does he’ll grow a tail like a pig. While working in a cannery, his finger gets chopped off and canned in a can of sardines. Thus starts Pod’s journey through many of Bangkok’s supermarkets, shaking can after can of sardines, in an attempt to find his finger. When he eventually does, and presses it back into place, there’s something wrong — the finger isn’t his. So who has it?
A spoof of Thai culture and superstitions, it also has a surreal quality not just in the story but the set design and costumes too. In fact, there are so many scenes in this movie that are so breathtakingly beautiful, you’ll rewind, rewind and rewind.
Citizen Dog stars Mahasamut Boonyaruk, who is wonderfully dead-pan as Pod, and was directed by Wisit Sasanatieng. It was named on Time magazine’s list of the Top 10 best movies of 2005.