Monday, May 14, 2012

REVIEW: Tears of the Black Tiger

Tears of the Black Tiger
Director: Wisit Sasanatieng
Year 2000
Tears of the Black Tiger is a sensational and extremely colorful Thai cult film that showcases a radiant color scheme filled with violent gun fights and a romantic overtone that explodes across this retro looking gem. As if paying homage to the more classical styles of filmmaking, Tears of the Black Tiger presents its cast of characters in a more thematic and theatrical light, choosing pastels and larger than life personas to push the story along to its tensely strewn climax. This obscure flick will burn your retinas out with its brilliance, so put some sun glasses on for this one, it’s a real eye scorcher.
The film follows two young lovers named Dum and Rumpoey as we witness their relationship blossom over a span of years as they fall in and out of each other’s lives. Dum is a poor boy living in the country while Rumpoey is the daughter of a wealthy and powerful family. The two have had an entangled history, which eventually brings them together, but not everything in life has a happy ending. On the eve of their reunion, Dum’s father is murdered, sending him off on a quest for revenge which eventually leads him to joining up with a local gang of bandits who bestow onto him the name of Black Tiger. After having her heart broken by the now missing Dum, Rumpoey’s father issues for her to marry a young and handsome police officer, but Rumpoey cannot forget about her love for Dum. Destined to meet once more, Dum and Rumpoey’s lives clash again, yet this time they find themselves on opposite sides of an embittered battle. With Dum and his gang of bandits and Rumpoey’s betrothed and his police force, sparks are sure to fly in an epic clash of bullets and blood, but who will be left standing in this tragic tale?

Chartchai Ngamsan plays the role of Dum AKA Black Tiger, the spirited gunfighter with a heart of gold. The character of Dum is a tricky one, because he is a soft spoken man with an immense gift of being able to wield a gun like a pro. His dialogue is few and far between so it was important to get an actor that could project the kind of emotions and presence that was needed for the character to express himself in various ways without resorting to long overblown dialogue driven moments. Chartchai does an excellent job in taking the task head on, resembling a Thai version of Clint Eastwood melded with a bit of Chow Yun Fat for good measure. The combination is intriguing and Chartchai carries the scenes that he appears in with splendid cinematic flair as he both contemplates life and deals out death.
Stella Malucchi takes on the other half of this tragic couple, playing the role of Rumpoey. Her screen presence isn’t as impressive as Chartchai’s, but she is able to carry the other half of this doomed pairing with an expert hand as she tackles the more longing moments filled with pinning over the loss of Dum and the concept of marrying someone she doesn’t love. I have to hand it to Stella though, because she doesn’t have a great deal to do in this movie other than to be sad almost 100 percent of the time, but she manages to make it her own and stand her ground against some seriously absorbing surrounds. She makes her presence known and has a remarkable classic look to her that fits right in with the pastel infused color scheme of the film.

What is most impressive about Tears of the Black Tiger is the overall choice of color used to bring the film to life. There is a great amount of vibrant tones within the composition of this movie that provides a defined visual impact upon the viewers senses right from the gate. Bright pinkish hues, vivacious yellow walls, and orange blasted sunsets run rampant upon the sensibilities of the film’s well rounded palette and make for one hell of a kaleidoscope effect that never ceases to amaze. The combination of all of these wonderful colors gives the film an atmospheric push that helps define the more emotional portions of the story that weren’t as expertly crafted through the interactions of the characters and their actions on screen. In a sense the movie could almost be told with the visuals alone and it still would have the same cinematic impact as a more grounded and established production. All in all, I loved the energetic atmosphere that the visuals were able to generate and it played off of the violent tone of the action moments quite well.
As for the action, I absolutely loved it. The film has an unapologetic tone to it that pushes the envelope at every turn and threatens to push the film into splatter territory. With exploding heads, bazooka blasts, brutal kills, and enough bullets to the head to make any zombie killer proud, Tears of the Black Tiger is something of a quagmire of genre trappings. On one hand you have an epic love story between two people and then on the other you have a shoot ‘em up style western that throws caution to the wind and lets the gory aspects of gunplay fly. It’s a concept that actually caught me off guard when I first laid eyes on the trailer for the film, and after watching the entire feature I have to say that the inclusion of these off the wall moments are just sublime. There really aren’t too many movies out there that can balance such night and day elements, yet come out the other end unscathed and better for it, but this film does just that. The wacky and unusual moments of the film add to the overall wonder that is Tears of the Black Tiger and this is one movie that you truly don’t know what will happen next. What a wild and fun ride.

Tears of the Black Tiger is an unusual, yet highly enjoyable movie that defies the conventional wisdom of filmmaking in order to make an entertaining smorgasbord of melodramatic moments tinged with an abrasive lust for gun battles and extravagant action. I really wouldn’t even know where to place this film in a list of genres and in my book that is something of a rare accomplishment. This movie never feels stuck in just one category of film and in that freedom it allows the narrative of the piece to just run wild in the most unpredictable of ways.
Not only is the film’s content and visual style impossible to peg down, but the year of the production is also allusive to periodical placement. The movie was produced in 2000, yet it resembles a more classic affair in both look and tone, resounding memories of black and white romance epics, except blasted by all the colors of the rainbow and then thrown into a blender along with enough bullets to kill a small army. With a combination as eccentric as that, how could this film not be as entertaining as it sounds? Well luckily it infuses all of these wonderful qualities into a cinematic experience that is anything but unoriginal. This is one fresh take at filmmaking that really can’t be described, only witnessed. I beg you to track down this obscure gem and give it a go. There is definitely nothing like it out there. Tears of the Black Tiger is a……

How'd I get paired up with this dope?

Now that's one hell of a trick shot!

I'm gonna shoot you in the nuts.

Damn what a bitch.

Face it man... She's just not into you.

Get that curly shit off of your forehead.

Someone give that guy a hand. Not literally!

I'm going to blow you assholes to hell.

They're not shy about shooting folks in the face around here.

Damn it! I told you I'd never speak to you again if you painted the house pink.

So you had a bad day?

I can see up your nose and you have a boogy!

Talk about losing your head!

How about I smack that smile off of your face?

I want to SING!

That's it son.... aim for the face.

Awkward..... I'll come back another time.

Don't ever call me Super Mario..... bitch!

Killing in the rain.... just killing in the rain.

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