Aug 05, 2011|
Let’s face it, Thai cinema falls into a few, limited categories: the government-sponsored epic, the comedic horror movie, the teenage love story and the art house film lauded abroad but ignored at home. This cinematic landscape makes Bundit Tongdee’s Poompuang, a rags-to-riches biopic about tragic luk thung singer Poompuang Duangchan, quite refreshing. Despite massive holes in the screenplay, a plot that’s a little too linear and some too-archetypal characterization, Poompuang is a delight on two fronts: the art direction and the music.
Hailing from a dirt-poor farming family from Suphanburi, Peung (played by newcomer Paowalee Pornpimol) moves to Bangkok where she meets her first husband and begins her climb to the top, eventually cutting her own luk thung records under the name of Poompuang Duangchan and going on exhausting tours of temple fairs across the country, all the while dreaming of a big show at the Dusit Thani Hotel.
Art director Thiranan Chantakat recreates the 1970s epoch with meticulous attention to detail, from the interiors of Bangkok homes and the retro fashion of the characters to the buzzing energy of Isaan temple fairs. Paired with artful camera work by Nikorn Sripongworakul and impassioned singing by Paowalee, Poompuang, despite dragging a bit in the middle plot-wise, is a fun film, made seriously, that Thai cinema can be proud of.
Paowalee performs beautifully as Poompuang, especially in the singing department, depicting a tragic life without too many histrionics. But it’s the extremely handsome Nattawut Sakidjai, playing her first husband Theerapong, who steals the show, sensitively portraying the emotional trajectory of a young and amorous musician who becomes the responsible tour manager and then, finally, the embittered and jaded ex-husband driven into the arms of another woman.
Die-hard fans will fall into one of two camps: those elated by the long minutes dedicated to renderings of timeless hits in their entirety and those outraged by all the factual glossing over (her second husband is absent in this film). Still, the film raises the bar for Thai cinema, in terms of both writing and cinematic technique, and whether or not you’re a fan of the country singer, you’ll walk away having been thoroughly entertained.