Thursday, September 25, 2008

My DVD Shopping Frenzy in Bangkok

I sometimes get crazy when shopping for DVD titles. Not unlike a child who can't choose which toy to buy when he is placed in the middle of a toy store. To solve this dilemma, I buy everything! LOL

Wherever I go, whether it's in London or Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Malacca, Jakarta or Hanoi, Saigon or Laos, a DVD outlet is always on the checklist. Any movie from any country! Lately though, I have been extra careful buying them since there are several crocodiles manning the customs and even personal effects like DVD for a personal collection are levied. So, I choose titles that I may not find in Manila. Hollywood titles are out. World titles are in!

In Bangkok, I have discovered several outlets from MBK (there are a couple of shops situated beside each other - yet I always get lost everytime I go there - every friggin time!) to the Siam group of malls, the latter having a poor selection of outlets. In the bowels of the stall city of Pratunam is an Indian shop selling original titles straight from India, so... their prices are a bit stiff. Since I have alloted a considerable amount of cash in one of my credit cards (the Diners) - an extra amount of cash that exceeds its credit limit thus allowing me a guiltless use of the card - I made use of it. Credit card invoices will somehow show proof of the legitimacy of the dvd purchase (read: not pirated
items). I keep the receipts in case I get questioned due to the indecent volume of movies that I buy.
DVD 101

Way way back, during my several visits in Bangkok, I would steal some time off any itinerary and head to the notorious Patpong area from 10PM onwards. Famous for their naughty kinky shows, this is also a haven for foreign dvd titles – the likes you hardly see in legitimate stores anywhere in Asia, even in Singapore or Hong Kong! You would find them near KFC along Silom Road, just a hop away from Patpong 1 area. They will offer you 7 albums worth of dvd covers from where you pick your titles. Once everything is settled, this vendor will phone these titles from somewhere – some bodega – while you wait! And it could go from 10 to 30 minutes! This is the very same practice that one will find even in big malls like the Pantip Plaza – the electronics hub! However, as I got a little wiser – and more knowledgeable about my dvd fix – I realized that Bangkok is actually the most expensive place to buy these pirated junks, usually selling 100 baht a piece ($2.93) or PhP136.40 each! In Manila, each disc will only cost you PhP50, 45 even – if you’re a lucky chap! That is almost 3-fold the Manila price!

In Shanghai, where pirated dvd shops have homes in legitimate office spaces – even the posh area of Pudong or (as I was told) Xintiandi– these dvds cost only PhP30 each! The explanation behind this could be that a huge chunk of the pirated dvds really come from China – then they are circulated throughout Asia! Thus, even if you get a supposedly Malaysian-manufactured dvd, the copied originals are still from China – so, you have Mandarin and Fookien in their subtitles.

Having said this, Bangkok is NO place to buy your pirated dvds. Not only are they of inferior quality, they are also 3x more expensive. We do not advocate buying pirated dvds. It is , after all, illegal. But sometimes, you do spot great catches that you can’t help but buy one since some titles are never available in legitimate stores – like Peter Greenaway’s recent release “Nightwatching”. But once again, I shall reiterate, do not buy pirated dvds! If by chance you get yourself into a random airport check at the NAIA, you might get yourself in trouble!

Here's a few of my DVD stash from Bangkok:

Handle Me with Care (Thai)
Director: Kongdej Jaturunrutasamee
Actor: Kerttikamol Lata, Supaksorn Chaimongkol
Capsule: A sweet, surprising road movie about - get this - a guy born with three arms! The filmmaker employs a Tim Burton-style storytelling on alienation and instead deliver a character-driven road movie about two people who have a little extra where they perhaps would prefer not to. A charming and unexpected sleeper.

My take: I saw this movie last June when I was in Bangkok. In fact I saw it twice when I thought a Thai film called noa is a different film altogether (It has thai characters that read like noa... silly me). It has Tim Burton elements of fantasy and a very tender romantic story about a depressed young man who travels from Lampang up north to Bangkok to finally have his extra arm removed. I loved it!

Me…Myself (Thai)
Director: Pongpat Wachirabunjong
Actor: Ananda Everingham (Thailand's Piolo Pascual)
Capsule: A man is robbed while making a call at a phone booth. Staggering in the middle of the road after getting mugged by a band of thieves, he gets hit by a car driven by a woman named Oom. Feeling sorry for him, Oom takes the man home and nurses him back to health. The man, it turns out, has developed amnesia. Based on the name written on his pendant, Oom calls him Tan. Where does this take our protagonists?

Scenes from "Handle Me With Care" (above).

The Golden Riders (Thai)
Director: Udom Udomroj

Actor: Amarin Nitipon, Watcharaboon Leesuwan
Capsule: A young monk catches a train to a temple on the hill. On the way, he meets Pon and Tangmo, two people who are trying to escape from their past. Later, the threesome sfast friends, but they have to go their separate ways to find their respective dreams. I got this original at a cheap 99 baht.

Season's Change is a tender pubescent love story - the genre is not very popular in Thailand which is awash with horror and action films. I was made aware of this movie when I was in the capital 2 years ago. I saw the trailer while watching another Thai film. Unfortunately for me, I was set to fly back to Manila 3 days before the movie would open. My brother finally saw it when he also flew to Bangkok 2 weeks after my arrival in Manila. It took me forever to find this one. It's always out of stock - and there's not a lot of inquiries or back orders.

The vcd above is just part 1 in a series of 3 vcd releases of a popular teen television series - with no english subtitles. I just want to observe how their teen series works. Para bang "Tabing Ilog" or "Berks"? The dvd below - no idea what the title means - looked interesting - and has an english subtitle. A little expensive though.

New York WaitingDirector: Joachim Hedem
Actor: Christopher Stuart and Annie Woods
Capsule: Hoping to re-connect with the one big lost love of his life, Sid sends Coreen an airline ticket and asks her to meet him in New York. To make things more romantic, he proposes a meeting at the view deck of the Empire State Building. Sounds familiar? Passing time, waiting for Coreen to arrive, Sid meets Amy who is leaving New York to start over after a failed relationship. The two of them spend a day together. It’s a story of first meeting and second chances. The capsule intrigues me; it's one of those understated romantic films that we've never heard of. I loved the film.

What My Eyes Have Seen (France)
Director: Laurent de Bartillat

Capsule: Lucie Audibert, a student of Art History, does research work on Watteau. She is persuaded that a hidden sense that nobody has ever deciphered can be found in a few of his paintings. The further she proceeds the more professor Jean Dussart - for unclear reasons - tries to discourage her. But Lucie is persistent, even stubborn, and, aided by Vincent, a mute street mime, she manages to attain her goal in spite of everything.

Silent Light
Director: Carlos Reygadas (Mexico)

Capsule: A father’s faith in God is put to test when he falls in love with another woman. This is Mexican maverick film director Carlos Reygadas' latest masterpiece which won so many awards in 10 international film festivals including Cannes Jury Prize of 2007. It will be screened at the 7th Fiesta - Spanish Film Festival at the Greenbelt which opens on September 30.

Happy End (Amelie star Audrey Tautou in a New York story.)
Director: Amos Kollek; Actor: Audrey Tautou and Justin Theroux

Half Moon (Iran)

Director Bahman Ghobadi

Capsule: An old and legendary Kurdish musician living in Iran plans to hold his very last concert in Iraq. This is a great addition to Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly and A Time for Drunken Horses which we bought from London at 5x the price.

Sappho - a Ukrainean movie lyrically shot and telling the story of the famous poet.

Murk (Darkness) from Denmark – a psychological thriller about a man who’s investigating the circumstances behind his sister’s death on her wedding night.

The Floating Landscape (director: Miu-suet Lai) a Taiwanese art film staple that we encountered in a specialty Manila shop some 6 years ago. Unfortunately for us, it wasn't for sale then. We got this from MBK's 5th floor DVD shop (where the cinemaplex is). See? It's original at just 169 baht!

Hotel is an Austrian-German co-production directed by Jessica Hausner, not the confusing Mike Figgis film. It is a minimalistic suspense film - which intrigues me. There are a very few of the kind. The Sixth Sense comes to mind (although NOT in that calibre). I bought this at 299 baht.

Mischief Night - a mixed London community of British and Pakistanis and Bangladeshis come together to face some community issues.

A Year in My Life - a French film which follows the life of an orphan. I've seen this title in the very same shelf at an MBK store last year. I finally decided to buy it this time.

Bombay to Bangkok - travelogue meets love struck couple.

Black is a cinematographic masterpiece, a true-to-life story of a blind, deaf and mute girl who has overcome the odds of her handicap by going to a foreign university in Switzerland. A 10-hanky melodramatic film that I have seen at one of the film festivals in Manila. Not a favorite, but really spectacular images.

Devdas - a sprawling saga of love and devotion against all odds; an Indian masterpiece! It also boasts of eye-popping visuals. This has a lush and glorious India as you've never seen before! I finally own a copy! Yeay!

The Cup - Football and the exiled Buddhist monks in Bhutan come together in this Bhutan-Australian co-production!

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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