Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's latest film makes Thailand premiere

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

From left, Lalita Panyopas, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk and Pornwut Sarasin, chat with the press.

Following a world premiere during the Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, the latest film by Thai auteur Pen-Ek Ratanaruang made its Thailand premiere on Tuesday night in a screening for the press and celebrities.

Before the screening of the new film, Ploy, the director and his stars took the rostrum for a question-and-answer session, during which Pen-Ek pulled out a digital camera and took photos of the presenter, the press and the actors.

Film plot

Ploy is a drama film, about a middle-aged Thai-American couple, portrayed by popular Thai soap opera actress Lalita Panyopas and Pornwut Sarasin, a first-time actor whose day job is working as vice president of Thai Namthip, the distributor of Coca Cola in Thailand. The couple have returned to Thailand for the first time in many years to attend the funeral of a relative.

They arrive at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport at 5 a.m. after a long-haul flight from the U.S., and check in to a hotel. The wife, Dang, just wants to sleep, but the husband, Wit, wants some cigarettes, so he goes to the hotel bar to buy some. There, he strikes up a conversation with a 19-year-old girl named Ploy (17-year-old first-time actress Apinya Sakuljaroensuk), who's waiting at the hotel for her mother.

Wit then invites the girl to his and Dang's room, so she can take a shower and relax. This poor judgment by Wit ignites feelings of jealousy and anger in Dang, and causes the couple to review their marriage of seven years.

Lao-Australian leading man Ananda Everingham is in a supporting role as the hotel bartender. As a counterpoint to Wit's and Dang's bickering, the bartender engages in an erotic tryst with a hotel maid (model-actress Porntip Papanai) in a nearby room.

Pen-ek Ratanaruang, second from left, snaps photos with his digital camera, during a press conference for his new film Ploy, which co-stars, starting third from left, Ananda Everingham, Porntip Papanai and Thaksakorn Pradabpongsa.

Censorship fears

The press screening was held at SF World Cinemas at CentralWorld shopping mall in Bangkok. Given the presence of Coca-Cola's Pornwut in the cast, it was perhaps not a coincidence that cans of Coke Zero, a new soft drink that is just being introduced in Thailand, were being doled out for free.

According to early reviews at Cannes, Ploy contains a high level of nudity and eroticism, which is uncommon for a Thai film, because Thailand has no film-ratings system and instead adheres to a strict censorship code that excises nakedness and sex scenes.

Ahead of its Thailand premiere, Aphiradee Iamphungphorn, co-producer for Five Star Production, said she knew the film would have to be re-edited for Thailand, but "hopefully not more than we can bear." To get past the censors, Pen-ek created a special Thailand edit of the film, in which the sex scenes are toned down.

Ploy is the director's sixth feature film since he made his debut in 1997 with Fun Bar Karaoke, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Since then, his films are regularly featured on the festival circuit, and are submitted by Thailand's film industry for consideration by the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

Pen-Ek's latest film is a return to screenwriting, after his previous two films, Last Life in the Universe and Invisible Waves, were scripted or co-scripted by Thai writer Prabda Yoon. It also marks a reunion with leading actress Lalita, who starred in his second feature, 1999's black comedy, Ruang Talok 69, as well as Porntip, who co-starred in Pen-Ek's 2001 musical-comedy-drama Monrak Transistor.

Ploy opens in Thailand cinemas on Thursday.

Sources

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