Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Fine Art of Film Cannibalism

2005, Thailand
Nida Sudasna and Buranee Rachjaibun

There was once a time when Asian cinema was known for providing a intriguing and often radical counterpoint to mass produced Hollywood product. From the balletic violence of Hong Kong cinema to the lyrical beauty of the Japanese New Wave, Asian cinema could, if nothing else, serve as a refreshing change from the often derivative and incestuous American film scene of recycled scripts and familiar plot contrivances. Then, the whole culture apparently went retarded from playing Dance Dance Revolution. Now, all they do is rip off bad action movie conventions and show a violent disregard for women, with an added zeal for tasteless violence thrown in for good measure. Zee Oui¸ hyped as the biggest grossing film in its native Thailand, is nothing more than a mediocre TV movie shot on Kodak slide film. Punchy colors and slick camera moves aside, this is full of all the subtlety and wit of a William Shanter record, and frankly, I’d rather listen to an ipod full of Captain Kirk crooning soulfully along with the Beatles than retread another tired serial killer bio-pic. And that’s what Zee Oui is, telling the tale of one of Thailand’s more deplorable murder sprees in an attempt to exploit and profit off the crimes while simultaneously passing judgment. That’s right kids, it’s wrong to rape, murder, and devour innocent people, but this is what it looks like if photographed well. The story is told with all kinds of familiar Hollywood clichés, which is proof positive that the whole world now has access to all the visual shorthand cues you need to tell a familiar story without having to waste all that time writing a script. The titular killer is a Chinese immigrant to Thailand, who is beaten up, discriminated against, and ravaged by tuberculosis on his way to becoming a child killer. Why anyone would move from China, the land of fireworks, dragons, and the Jade Throne, to Thailand, the land of spoilt coconut milk and underage rent-boys, is beyond me, but maybe this is one of the plot conceits designed to mystify and attract western viewers with its unfathomable logic. Anyway, Zee Oui, actually a mispronunciation of the killers real name, is soon butchering children and eating their internal organs to try and cure himself of his various ills. In an ill-time flashback, this is revealed to be his mother’s folk remedy from when he was a kid. And I though my mom was weird because she tried to solve everything with boiled egg-whites. This development is ridiculous both in its awkward presentation and its logic. Everybody knows the only powers you get from cannibalizing children are those of flight, and you get that from drinking boiled fat, plus it only works if you’ve watched Warlock upwards of nine times. Also, eating a Chinaman’s organs is only going to get you into more health trouble than it’s going to solve. Trust me, their livers are not all fat and plump like those of gluttonous Westerners, all succulent and easy to spread on a cracker. They taste all gritty, and they’re clogged with tea-leaves, like the blood of the English. If you’re lucky enough to get one young enough where the endless diet of white rice hasn’t yet bleached all that delicious curry flavour out of the inner meats, you still get that stringy, dry taste all underfed game suffers from. So, in summary, the problem with Asian cinema these days is that their children don’t taste very good. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I can’t get work as a film critic.


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