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Tears of the Black Tiger (THAI 2000)

Director : Wisit Sasasanatieng
Cast : Stella Malucchi, Chartchai Ngamsan

Synopsis

When Dum, a young peasant boy, falls in love with Rumpoey, the daughter of a wealthy city family, they vow that, whatever happens, they will one day be together…Ten years on, Dum is the notorious gang member “Black Tiger”. When he is commanded to execute police captain Kumjorn, Kumjorn has one last request – that Dum explain to his fiancée how he died. Dum realises that Kumjorn’s fiancée is, in fact, Rumpoey and is unable to ruin what he believes is her happiness. His decision to release Kumjorn is what finally unites the childhood sweethearts.

Review
by Liz Brkljac

This film assaults the eye with stunning colour: Bright pinks, lurid greens, bold yellows, giving it a cartoon like appearance. The characters, drawn large and vibrantly alive. Brightly painted backdrops add to the bright, cartoon like appearance. Even the blood, which there is plenty of, is the reddest you will ever see. An early scene is a shootout, featuring an unlikely, but accurate, shot whose mad trajectory finally reaches its target. There is a pause and the writer asks of the audience …….“Did you catch that? If not we’ll play it again”. His message printed on the screen. It is at this point that you realise that this highly luminescent movie is not going to be your usual run of the mill experience.

What’s more it’s a hard one to pin down, while it’s biggest influence is the wildly over coloured Mediterranean sub-genre of the spaghetti western, a cut and paste of bright violent comedy with its score almost entirely lifted from old Leoni westerns, as are the costumes worn by Dum, Mehusuan and the other bandits, it also functions as a drama, an action movie and a romance. The romantic scenes are exaggeratedly melodramatic, directly in contrast to the action sequences, which are over blown, violent, epics using heavy stylisation, and the early 1970s slow – mo blasting of characters, rent by rockets, and guns, blowing out chunks of flesh and organs, blood spraying in dramatic arcs.The story is a traditional tragedy, of a Rich girl and Peasant boy falling in love across the social divide. The rich girl is Rumpoey (played by Stella Malucchi), a Governor’s daughter, who falls in love with the peasant Dum (Chartchai Ngamsan), the ‘Black Tiger’ of the title. They first fall in love when they are children. When sitting together in a sala (a traditional thai shelter), Dum tells Rumpoey a tale of a poor woodcutter falling in love with a rich girl. The tale makes Rumpoey cry, and echoes the story that they seem doomed to repeat throughout the film.
An accident that causes Dum to carry the unconscious Rumpoey home to her Family, has the result that they are kept apart by their parents, until they finally meet again in Bangkok, when they are students.

Dum tries to avoid Rumpoey, but they fall in love again and agree to meet in the Sala. Tragically and predictably, all does not go to plan. Dum arrives home from Bangkok to find his family murdered by a local bandit. He joins an opposing band of outlaws run by the Dominant figure of Fai their leader and his right hand man Mehusuan, in order to revenge himself upon their killers. Because of his outlaw commitments he is kept from keeping his rendezvous with Rumpoey at the Sala. Hurt and betrayed, the jilted Rumpoey returns home to cry on the shoulder of her nurse. Finally she succumbs to Parental pressure from her family to enter into an arranged marriage, and is engaged to the new local police captain, Kumjorn. The police captain is over the moon and seems completely oblivious to Rumpoey’s distress, believing she loves him as much as he loves her. With his astonishing accuracy as a gunman, Dum becomes the new favourite to Fai, causing much jealousy on the part of Mehusuan. Dum overcomes this by saving Mehusuan’s life. What follows next is one of the oddest scenes in a very bizarre film. In order that they become blood brothers Dum and Mehusuan must drink each others blood. They do this in a Buddhist shrine, drinking and laughing loudly together.

The Policeman and Dum are then involved in an enormous shootout, involving rocket launchers, revolvers and automatic pistols, between bandits and police, which culminates in massive fatalities to both groups, and finds the Lawman Kumjorn captive. Dum is given the job of executing him, but when he pulls out a picture of Rumpoey, Dum recognises his adversary as Rumpoeys’ Fiancee, and taking pity on him, allows his escape. They are destined to meet again during the violent and melodramatic ending.

The film is visually stunning. Each scene artfully composed and coloured for maximum impact. Beautifully painted scenery behind colourfully, and sometimes ridiculously, dressed actors. The acting is skilful, especially the actor playing Mehusuan, whose fake villains’ laughter echoes throughout the film.The romantic scenes are so overplayed they have unique comedy.

Its obvious that Wisit Sasanatieng has been heavily imprinted with the Western Genre, and possibly consumed far too many Late Night Showings of the more violent and lurid late 1960s Terrence Hill Westerns before making this film, and although it shouldn’t, the very western feel lends the movie an incongruity that somehow works. It’s a western seen through a Thai distorting lens to create a truly unusual and memorable film.

Rating
Plot : 3/5
Acting : 4/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- A bullet smashing through teeth.
- Becoming blood brothers in the Buddhist Temple.

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Tears of the Black Tiger

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