Korean Title: "Jan Dara"
Starring: Christy Chung, Eakarat Sarsukh, Suwinit Panjamawat, Vipavee
Director: Nonzee Nimibutr
About This DVD
Director Nonzee Nimibutr makes movies that set Thailand's box-office alight. Now
he's really turning up the heat with Jan Dara.
Jan Dara is the most anticipated Thai film in years for a couple of reasons. It
will be Nonzee's third movie, and his first two, Dan Bireley and the Young
Gangsters and Nang Nak, both broke box office records in Thailand. Nang Nak went
on to tour the European festival circuit, where Nonzee was proclaimed something
of a wing-collar art house director, giving Thailand a seat at the ongoing
banquet of honor being served up to Asian filmmakers. Indeed, the new movie is
being produced by Hong Kong's Peter Ho-Sun Chan, who directed The Love Letter
for Dreamworks in 1999, and Nonzee is pushing the production schedule to wrap in
time to exhibit the film at Cannes.
The other cause for excitement is that Jan Dara is the filmed version of a 1966
literary novel known intimately to almost all in Thailand, or at least most of
the males. "Jan Dara was where sex education started for most of us," says
39-year-old hipster director Pen-ek Ratanaruang (6ixtynin9). While the dramatic
content is key, the flesh quotient in the movie is generous. Nonzee estimates
that 20% of screen time features some nudity, and that includes voyeurism, four
rapes and, of course, the lesbian scene Nonzee has held for the final day of
shooting. "In my first film," marvels Nonzee, tugging on a Marlboro Light
cigarette, "I wasn't even allowed to show a pair of breasts." But the board of
censors is no longer made up of policemen, as it was in the past. In fact,
Nonzee himself is on the board now, so he is hoping to get away with more.
"Everybody in Thailand is having sex everyday," he says, "yet nobody wants to
confront it openly, talk about it openly. It's people's hypocrisy that makes it
taboo. We need to be more honest about sex. It's not a crime." In addition,
Nonzee is not throwing away any stuff too steamy for local consumption. "I'll do
two versions of this movie," he grins. "One for Thailand and one for everybody
else." Sly. That's the Nonzee way.
The fame of the book, a tale of guilt and retribution told through a prism of
frank sexuality, is such that many directors wanted to film it, but Nonzee was
the producer's first choice after the success of Nang Nak. Jan Dara, the curious
but ultimately doomed main character (played by Thai TV actor Eakarat Sarsukh),
is abandoned from the start of his life: his mother dies during childbirth and
his father brands him a bastard. (The boy's first memory of his father is
watching him have sex with a nanny.) At 13, he is thrown out of the family home
for supposedly trying to rape his stepsister. Nonzee's movie concentrates on Jan
Dara's return to the house as a young adult to exact vengeance from his father.
His life is further complicated by three women: a highly Westernized stepmother
who brings Malay colonial influence into the picture (she smokes and drinks
coffee), a manipulative stepsister whom he's forced to marry and a virginal
classmate. Ultimately, the main character doesn't get revenge: instead, he
unwittingly ends up repeating his father's self-destructive life.
Nonzee's most endearing trick has been to remain a commercial director within
Thailand while gaining respect on the art house circuit overseas. Japanese
director Akira Kurosawa used to say that the best way to become international
was to be as true to one's own culture as possible. Nonzee is no different, and
tips his hat to Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou for the same reason. "His films
all smack of the East, particularly Ju Dou, and I want to give Thai cinema the
same sense of identity that Yimou gave Chinese cinema." Rival director and
friend Ratanaruang has Nonzee down better than any. "I think he's more Chen
Kaige than Zhang Yimou," he enthuses. "Kaige is capable of art house, but he's
also got business savvy. That's something Nonzee instinctively has." He may not
be blessed with the talent of a Zhang Yimou, but Nonzee's cleverness more than
compensates. Streetwise, savvy, this film will work for him too. "Nobody in
Thailand could do this project better than Nonzee," says Timkul. "He's very hip,
he understands what people want and they love him for it." Whether he goes
international or not, Nonzee is writing a whole new page of Thai cinematic
DD 5.1 Surround, DD 2.0 Stereo
Interactive Menu, Cast&Crew, About the Film, Theatrical Trailer, Other
Trailers, Photo Gallery, Nude Collections (Christy Chung)
Availability: Usually ships in 5~10 business days.