Tears of the Black Tiger (Magnolia Pictures, NR)

tears2 Black Tiger is one hell of a ride,when you cross the arterial spray of the Yakuza films of Japan with the candy-colored tomfoolery of Thai cinema, all saturated pinks and violets (who would have guessed that merely coloring blood lavender would make watching a film exponentially more fun?).

 

 

 

tears

This is one of the odder examples of the distribution of a foreign film in the United States. Finally, after seven years, the great, screwily colored Thai spaghetti western (Pad Thai western?), Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger, is getting a theatrical release in America. Black Tiger was a hit on the film festival circuit circa 2000-01, and Miramax acquired the rights to distribute it in the U.S. back in 2000, but then sat on it for no discernable reason, and eventually even pulled it from the festival circuit, refusing to book it in any more. Then when the Weinsteins left Miramax to form the Weinstein Company last year, Miramax decided to divest itself of all of the properties that they had that they weren't making money on. Tears of the Black Tiger was one of these, and Magnolia Pictures bought the rights to distribute it both theatrically and on DVD in the U.S. Though its popularity on the import DVD scene has probably only been rivaled by things of the caliber of Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale and the uncut version of Eyes Wide Shut, the majority of those who once had heard about and were interested have long since forgotten, which is a shame, as it is as delightful as films come.

The Black Tiger of the title is a meek peasant boy named Dum (Chartchai Ngamsan), who, as the film begins, falls in love with a rich girl named Rumpoey (Stella Malucchi). Although Rumpoey seems to reciprocate his affections, their difference in class keeps them apart. When Dum grows up, he joins a gang and becomes the infamous Black Tiger. On an assignment to execute a police captain named Kumjorn (Arawat Ruangvuth), Kumjorn requests that Black Tiger tell his wife that he died personally—of course, his wife is Rumpoey, and Black Tiger can no longer bring himself to kill Kumjorn, which hurts his reputation as a gangster, angers his bosses, and helps the possibility of him regaining the love of his life.

I know that that plot doesn't necessarily sound any more interesting than any other goofy Asian mockery of a dumbass, antiquated American genre, and that's because it isn't. No matter, though, because Black Tiger is one hell of a ride. It's hard to care when you cross the arterial spray of the Yakuza films of Japan with the candy-colored tomfoolery of Thai cinema, all saturated pinks and violets (who would have guessed that merely coloring blood lavender would make watching a film exponentially more fun?), and the experience that I thought for sure we would be robbed of—seeing it from a film print in a movie theater—was mercifully granted to us. Now if we can just find an American distributor adventurous enough to release Sasanatieng's wonderful Amelie knockoff Citizen Dog or The Unseeable in a timely fashion (the former showed in the St. Louis International Film Festival last year, the latter of which is unseen (no pun intended) by me), we'll be all set. | Pete Timmermann

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