Review: Citizen Dog (2005)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

With its visceral imagery and child-like imagination, Wisit Sasanatieng’s new film Citizen Dog proves him to be Thailand’s answer to Tim Burton and Jean Pierre Jeunet. Sasanatieng has once again pushed the limits of popular imagery, as he did in 2000 with Tears of the Black Tiger. However, Citizen Dog has taken a positive new direction — its modern day setting and forceful social commentary give it a real focus and meaning that Tears of the Black Tiger seemed to lack.

The film’s major attraction is Sasanatieng’s vivid imagination on overdrive. The saturated colours and diverse textures of the film beautifully stand out — this is amazing considering that the film was shot in HDDV. Sasanatieng’s knack for the painterly arts is emphasized by an obviously more attuned vision and direction when compared to his last outing. Metaphors for a positive change in Thai society are displayed no holds barred. Everything from a sea of red motorcycle helmets to a mountain of recycled water bottles create Sasanatieng’s new city.

Another of Citizen Dog’s major selling points is its contemporary setting. Modern day Bangkok has such a great visual appeal, and Sasanatieng fully utilizes this beauty, employing its architecture and clutter to create interesting framings and provocative images. I don’t think that Bangkok has ever looked so charismatic in a film. Furthermore, contemporary Bangkok seems easier for a general audience to associate with — we see, hear and smell familiarity. Sasanatieng uses this modern setting as his template rather than his canvas to give the city and its inhabitants a surreal face lift.

Citizen Dog does have a minor flaw though, and it is the lack of interest developed through Pod and Jin’s relationship. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, Pod’s determined yet seemingly passive attitude towards winning over Jin evokes very little emotion from the viewer. Secondly, the film’s divergence into peripheral characters and storylines detracts attention from the romance plotline. Thirdly, the performances given by Mhasmuth Bhunyaruk (Pod) and Sangthong Kaitauthong (Jin) come across as forced and passionless. Keep in mind though that these are not really major problems in the grand scheme of the film, as ultimately you do not watch Sasanatieng’s creation for its romance, but rather for its keen imagination and imagery.

Sasanatieng has created a film for those who enjoy deciphering images for their sheer metaphorical value. For those who have no such interest, it is a film that can be enjoyed for its visual splendour alone. Citizen Dog heads Thai cinema’s 2005 charge, and there is no doubt that this film confirms Sasanatieng’s place as one of the major directors leading the way.

8 Red Helmets out of 10.
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