Friday, January 9, 2009

Thai-style Kaiju: The films of Sompote Sands part IX

Pandin Wippayoke (1978)

After enduring the harrowing shitstorm of utter wrongness that was Phra Rot-Meri, I felt that I was owed something a little bit more on the low key side from Sompote Saengduenchai's Chaiyo Productions. Well, as someone -- I think it was Rod Serling -- once said, be careful what you wish for, because it might be a really boring unsubtitled movie from Thailand that seems to revolve a lot around pack animals.

Honestly, for most of Pandin Wippayoke's first hour, the drama appears to focus on a much coveted water buffalo. Our young hero, during the opening scene, steals (or, more likely, steals back) said water buffalo from a gang of local toughs, and as a result becomes a target for retribution by the weaselly gang of thieves. When that payback comes, in the form of a vicious beating, it sets up the occasion for the lad -- whom I'll call Buffalo Boy -- to meet cute with our heroine, a comely village belle.

Despite this being a somewhat sleepy rural melodrama, there was no mistaking it as a Chaiyo production, for, within scant minutes of the fadeout of the opening credits, we've seen one character land face first in a huge pile of crap, and another get his face pissed on by a water buffalo. Animals pooing or peeing on peoples' faces is a recurring motif in Chaiyo's films, and I don't know whether that's because this is a common hazard for people in Thailand, or if it simply represents a particular childhood trauma of Sompote's.

Further assuring us of the film's Chaiyo pedigree is the giga-volt culture shock delivered by scenes set in a local snake restaurant, where people -- including young children -- drink the blood and eat the gall bladders of freshly killed reptiles. This practice was apparently depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach, with the result -- judging from the numerous YouTube clips and LiveJournal entries that turned up in my search on the topic -- that a lot of douchebaggy American college guys now make a point of going to Thailand to partake in it.

After the first hour, Pandin Wippayoke (whose title translates to something like "Tragic Kingdom", though I don't think that it was the inspiration for the No Doubt album of the same name) picks up a bit, with the gang of water buffalo thieves killing a bunch of people for reasons that I couldn't make out. Then, at about an hour and a half in, a violent typhoon and tidal wave rocks the village, and we finally get some of the miniature work that Sompote Sands is known for, and which, in this case, is actually pretty good. Still, I had to ask myself, don't the Thai people see enough of this type of thing in reality? Isn't expecting them to pay to see a movie in which the primary draw is a typhoon realized through slightly above-average miniature effects sort of like expecting me to wait in line for an amusement park ride that simulates the experience of being on a stalled BART train?

Anyway, after a bit of Buffalo Boy and his girl being chased through the downpour by the gang of thieves, there's a fight that ends with one of the thieves being struck by lighting and another one being gorily impaled by a falling tree. Chalk one up for Mother Nature. Then the typhoon destroys the Buddhist Temple that stands in the center of the village, after which, apparently, it is built up again. The end.

Obviously the moral of Pandin Wippayoke is that you shouldn't count your water buffalo before a typhoon comes along and totally kills you, at which point it won't matter how many water buffalo you have. Okay, it's not at all obvious that that's the moral, nor is it probably the moral at all. Still, it's possible for us to take a lesson from Pandin Wippayoke without at all understanding it. And that lesson is that not all of Sompote Sands' movies are filled with rampaging giant monsters, children being bloodily killed, and shit and piss jokes. Some of them are just filled with not much of anything at all... and shit and piss jokes, and are quite boring. So perhaps we should feel fortunate for those others.

Okay, next up is Krai-Thong II, and then that's it. I swear.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Damn, that's a mighty fine water buffalo they got there.

(Word verification: "hyphopp". I think Blogger is slowly developing sentience. It's just now learning how to spell Hip-Hop. Let's hope it does not listen to the Geto Boys.)

Wise Kwai said...

I'm guessing that is Sorapong Chatree who has his face micturated upon by the buffalo.

Anyway, this is an appropriate movie to review, seeing as how we're soon going to be in the Year of the Water Buffalo (or Year of the Ox, depending on your Lunar calendar).

So Happy New Year.

I'll look forward to Part X.