Review: Mon-Rak Transistor (2000)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

Where on earth can I start with this film? I could start with the beginning of the movie: I’ve seen a lot of common narrative devices used to introduce us to the characters, but I’ve never seen one like this. Perhaps I should explain…

The film begins inside what seems to be a police station cell area. The out-of-focus camera shows only blurred figures, as one of the police takes a call on his phone. It seems he and his companion are waiting for the, ahem, effects, of a laxative that they’ve given to a prisoner to produce the desired results. Namely, one gold necklace, swallowed by the miscreant, and so far unrecovered, although the disgusted noises make clear that the laxative is working.

Clearly, this is no ordinary film. As the focus sharpens, one of the police begins the tale of the poor lad perched atop the bucket, who turns out to be our hero. We enter his story several years earlier, to find him in his village as the lead singer of a band, and the ardent admirer of a pretty girl in the audience. As we might expect, the couple fall in love, marry, and have a happy life, until he gets called up to serve in the army.

So far, so ordinary. Okay, except the bucket part. But even by this time, with this simple story, the film is so intriguing, and the characters so charming, that it’s impossible to stop. This is really a film where the quality is in the detail, and this makes it pretty damned hard to adequately describe. The Thai film industry, although not having a large output, excels in this kind of quirky character-driven film, with humour, sadness, drama, and a host of other emotions all churned in. Think of Iron Ladies, or Tears Of The Black Tiger, as good examples here.

I won’t go into details about their journeys, save to say that his quest for a singing career is hampered by his tendency to faint at the end of every song. Suffice it to say that this is another fine product of a fine film industry that defies all the usual conventions. I’m becoming convinced that there is no such thing as a bad Thai film, and if you’ve seen any, then you know why you have to watch this one.

8.5 bottles of water out of 10.
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