by KATSUYA TOMITA | Feature film | 2016 | Japan, France, Thailand, Laos | 183 min | color
Where is utopia? The year is 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. In the obscure corner of the ever so growing big city of bubble economy, there is prostitution street called Thaniya Street. There, Ozawa, a Japanese man who had nowhere to go, meets Luck, a woman has reached the height of her glory on Thaniya Street, a place that flourishes by servicing only Japanese men.Through a trip to trace the scars of colonialism, they look for paradise that we had lost.
Director: Katsuya Tomita
Screenplay: Toranosuke Aizawa and Katsuya Tomita
Image: Masahiro Mukoyama, Takuma Furuya
Music: Young-G, Soi48
Producers: Atsuko Ohno, Ryohei Tsutsui, Philippe Avril, Apicha Saranchol, Douangmany Soliphanh, Mattie Do
Cast: Subenja Pongkorn, Katsuya Tomita, Sunun Phuwiset, Chutlpha Promplang, Tanyarat Kongphu, Sarinya Yongsawat
Production: Kuzoku Inc. (Japan), Les Films de l'Étranger (France), Trixta (Japan), Bangkok Planning (Thailand) and Lao Art Media (Laos)
• World premiere: Locarno Film Festival 2016
International competition First Prize of the Junior Jury
• London East Asia Film Festival, UK, oct 2016
• LEFFEST Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival, Portugal, nov 2016
• Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival, Australia, nov 2016
• Singapore International Film Festival, nov 2016
• Festival des 3 Continents, Nantes, France 2016
• Jury Prize, Festival du cinéma japonais contemporain Kinotayo 2016, France
• Festival International du Film de La Rochelle 2017
(tribute to Tomita's films)
ABOUT THE MOVIE
Bangkok Nites traverses Thailand’s geopolitical landscape, traces its fault lines, examines the scars of colonialism in the rural regions, and ties it masterfully to this same conception of Japanese identity that Tomita dissects in Saudade; with Tomita making one of the most complex and powerful films to emerge from Japan in the last decade.
From afar, it’s easy for Bangkok Nites to look like another film from a director travelling to a foreign country to shoot as a means to an end, however, Tomita’s film is an exception to such a rule; concerned with exploring the Japanese expat community, the country’s broader identity, the way in which Japan has related to Thailand in the past and present, and the way in which colonialism has positioned the two countries in the world. More than this, Bangkok Nites is a sequel to an idea that lingers from Saudade. “Thailand is paradise” is said by two different men in Tomita’s previous film, however, the statement isn’t explored at all in the film. In Bangkok Nites, it’s one of Tomita’s central concerns: to tear apart this idea of “paradise” and the scars, pain, and cyclical oppression that it’s built upon.
Tomita hasn’t followed a typical pathway in Japanese cinema by any means. In an era where less people in the country are going to the movies, and studios are funding less adventurous works, Tomita’s self-funded Saudade and now Bangkok Nites have gone against the grain of every trend in its cinema sphere. Both of his features are three hours in length, and both have screened in the Concorso Internazionale at Locarno Film Festival. In the credits of Bangkok Nites, the special thanks for the film range from Apichatpong Weerasethakul to Abel Ferrera, and this breadth of influence is felt throughout the work. There’s an enormous scope—multiple countries, cities, towns, different approaches to aesthetics for these various regions, and an ensemble of characters to juggle—yet Tomita owns it, creating the strongest work of his career to date, and one of the most impressive films to emerge out of Japan in the last decade.
(Jeremy Elphick, September 2, 2016, FourthThreeFilm)