Movie Review
Tears of the Black Tiger
Director: Wisit Sasanatieng
Cast: Chartchai Ngamsan, Suwinit Panjamawat, Stella Malucchi

tears of the Black Tiger reminds me of that one time I chewed bubble gum laced with LSD.

The debut from Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng is a ROYGBIV of classic westerns, romances, slapstick comedies, and musicals that pays homage to so many different films it becomes original in its own right. At its core, Tears is a tragic love story. Socialite Rumpoey (Stella Malucchi) and lower-caste Black Tiger (Chartchai Ngamsan) fall for each other as kids and make a vow to marry as adults, societal codes be damned. While wooing and cooing on a canoe, the two are accosted by a bratty gang of wild hooligans. Black Tiger is forced to defend the honor of Rumpoey but ends up harming her in the process. Ashamed of his actions, Tiger deems himself unworthy of her affection and stoically ignores her for many years.

During this time, Black Tiger reluctantly takes up with a team of traveling bandits and garners a reputation as the best gunslinger in town while Rumpoey dreads an impending arranged marriage with friendly neighborhood Police Captain Kumjorn (Arawat Ruangvuth). Conflict ensues.

Tears is super trippy. The filmmakers digitally altered the footage to create a strange offspring of the old Technicolor Tri-Strip process and the result looks like Singin’ in the Rain on HGH. For the most part, the technique achieves a unique and radiant beauty that facilities a poignant nostalgia in harmony with the film’s emotions, but even when the aesthetic doesn’t service the story and devolves into a gimmicky crutch, the pretty pictures are still awesome to watch.

Also, dig this, Tears is a fuckin’ sweet action film. The gunfights are executed so well, they end up not too far from Michael Cimino’s “firearm sequences.” If you don’t believe me, pay careful attention to Black Tiger’s “bullet geometry” maneuver, then watch Year of the Dragon.

Most importantly though, the romance between Black Tiger and Rumpoey succeeds, because Sasantieng never tries too hard to make it do so. By amping up the silliness, the sugary Shakespeare treatment speaks for itself.

So, if you’ve read this review and you’re anything like me then you’re probably starting to think that Tears of the Black Tiger might be the movie you’ve always wanted to see. Well, hold your Thai horses. If camp isn’t your cup of tea then this one might annoy the hell out of you. There is one major criticism to be made and it is this: the self-parody is a disappointing double-edged sword. Sometimes the zaniness factor is pushed too far. Tears is such an effective and engaging work that the cheeky awareness has a tendency to distract from the film’s more effective aspects and suffers as a result.

Gets you thinking, though. What if someone made a similar picture minus the shitstorm of winks and nods?

Tears of the Black Tiger is currently playing in limited release.

By: Frank Rinaldi
Published on: 2007-01-19
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