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Thread: Citizen dog

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    Thereby hangs a tail
    The Nation, 12th December 2004
    Director Wisit Sasanatieng returns with the Surreal, satirical ‘Citizen Dog’

    Award-winning director Wisit Sasanatieng found Bangkok with its golden spires and grime, high-rises and slums, and socialites and soi dogs a fascinating setting for his latest film, “Citizen Dog”, now showing at local cinemas.

    “Bangkokians have non-normal souls,” the 40-year-old filmmaker says. “We living in a tense city which has so many problems - traffic jams, plastic junk, few parks, a materialistic outlook on life and so many country boys and girls dreaming of finding jobs here. We get used to all this and sometimes forget what constitutes ‘real’ happiness.”

    A surreal and comical love story about Bangkok’s little people, “Citizen Dog” depicts their unending search of happiness in a rapidly changing environment. Theirs is a world overflowing with dreams but void of love and understanding.

    The main characters are Pod (Mahasamuth Boonyarak), a migrant worker from the country, and Jin (Sangtong Ket-Utong), a village girl who dreams of being able to read a mysterious white book. While Pod seeks love, Jin pursues a dream. Wisit seems to be saying that when we seek something too hard, it often eludes us.

    Wisit had the idea of making a film about Bangkok five years ago. He thought of various Thai gags like making love in a packed bus and geckos issuing warnings about misfortunes to come. But gags alone do not make a movie funny. Then last year, he read Siripan Techajindawong’s novel “Citizen Dog” and approached her. Work on the screenplay began soon after.

    The result is a comedy that satirises urban culture. Shooting the film took three months to complete, but Wisit spent more than six months in post-production at The Post Bangkok, assembling and finessing the footage.

    The Bt60-million film shows Wisit’s skill in blending various cinematic techniques: computer graphics, special lenses and camera angles, puppetry, innovative props and colour dying, his signature technique.

    Computer graphics turns a huge mountain of plastic bottles into a romantic park for a picnic while actress Jin has conversations with an animated character, Than Chai. A puppet is used to create a drinking, smoking and swearing teddy bear.

    “It’s like an experimental art project,” says the director who graduated from the Faculty of Decorative Arts at Silpakorn University.

    The post-production process of dying film called “lotoscope” imparts vivid colours to the movie. Like a Gauguin painting, some scenes depict vivid figures in a landscape of huge contrasts.

    Wisit creates perspective to tiny spaces by shooting with a wide-angle lens, such the elevator scene where Pod and Jin first meet. Besides achieving a surreal quality, he says, the shot hints at something bigger and more important than just the characters.

    “I wanted to make a ‘modern’ Thai-style film,” says the director. Like in a post-modern artwork, Wisit uses “retro” motifs like vintage posters, floral patterns and other “out-of-date” props in a contemporary setting. For instance, the cast of rustic characters is dressed in stylised costumes: a granny in a bright orange blouse, green jacket and blue sarong, and Pod in a sardine cannery uniform that comprises chocolate trousers and a sky-blue shirt. Wisit effectively uses colours and objects as liet motifs in different scenes to lend them additional depth.

    Like reading a novel, chapter by chapter, the director has Pod introducing the characters who figure in each episode. He also combines narration (by director Pen-ek Ratanaruang) with music by indie icon Pod of Modern Dog, Mahasamut and himself.

    “Lyrics play the role of dialogue,” says Wisit, who composed the lyrics and melody of “Sao Sue Fah” (“Girl in a Blue Outfit”). He adds that sometimes music portrays feelings much better than melodrama.

    Overall, the film has a fresh, surreal look. It’s unlike his debut “Tear of the Black Tiger”, which had gunfighters on horses racing across the plains of Central Thailand and won the Dragon & Tiger Award at the Vancouver Film Festival in 2000.

    “Although Bangkok has many dark sides, it looks different in my movie. Like a coin, it has two sides. There’re many beautiful things, which makes living happily in this city in an individual way possible,” says the director, who’s a native of the city.

    In the movie, Bangkok’s citizens, except Pod, acquire tails in the course of their unpredictable lives. “Tails can be anything,” says the director. “Let audiences freely interpret the meaning.”

    Yes, tails can be materialism, capitalism, violence, soul-stifling work, idle day dreaming or even attaining “real” happiness in this “unreal” metropolis.

    Find out what the tail means to you and ask yourself, “Am I a citizen dog?”

    By Phatarawadee Phataranawik

    ------------

    Bangkok views

    Mahasamuth Boonyarak, 24, was born in Bangkok, but studied in England for 12 years, After graduation from the London College of Printing, he returned to Bangkok and became active in the underground music scene. Sangtong Ket-Utong was born in Nakorn Pathom, but lives and works in the capital. The 22-year-old has been a model since she was 16.

    Both make their acting debuts in “Citizen Dog”. They talk about how making the film changed their impressions of Bangkok:

    Mahasamuth: “After shooting the film, I feel I love Bangkok much more. We have a lot of beautiful architecture but don’t notice it amid a hectic lifestyle. There’s little urban planning and we have problems like pollution, badly designed buildings and too many mega-stores. It’s like a city of illusions. Though director Wisit Sasanatieng’s intentions are satirical, his artistic approach makes the Bangkok of the movie beautiful. If we develop the city in a sustainable manner, thinking about the environment and aesthetic values instead of only making profits, it will be more liveable.”

    Sangtong: “Bangkok is a ‘robot’ city, urban people have little time for anything. They live and work in square cells. They become robots, working nine to five to earn money. They don’t think about the happiness that money cannot buy. In the fashion industry, there’re so many illusions. You have to really know what you have and what you need, not ape others. Like Jin, my character in search of a dream I dream of studying fine art in England. Now, I’m learning acrylic painting with Chalit Nakpawan, a Silpakorn University graduate. One day I’ll realise my goal.”

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    CINEMA SCENE: 'Citizen Dog' has bite
    The Nation, 12th December 2004

    Wisit Sasanatieng focuses on the contemporary Bangkok scene in his romantic comedy “Citizen Dog”. It’s an even stranger world than the one he depicted in his stunning debut four years ago, “Fah Talai Jone” (“Tears of the Black Tiger”), which embraced the concept of cowboy-hatted gunfighters riding horses across the plains of Central Thailand in the 1940s.

    First and foremost, Wisit’s world is a colourful place full of “Wizard of Oz” yellows, blues, emeralds and rubies.

    Red motorcycle helmets rain down from the sky, conking an ironically helmet-less motorcycle taxi driver on the head and turning him into a zombie. It’s a place where cute little girls dress and act like 20-year-old sluts, smoking cigarettes and ignoring their teddy bears. And the teddy bear? He’s a foul-mouthed wise guy who drinks whisky and also smokes.

    Grandmas are reincarnated as geckos. The characters from a serial romance magazine step from the pages to knock on doors. And a mountain of plastic bottles dominates the Bangkok skyline, reaching clear to the moon.

    This is the world that Pod (musician Mahasamuth Boonyarak) lives in. He’s a country boy who moves to the city and takes a job in a sardine factory. One hot day, in a scene right out of Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times”, the assembly line goes haywire and, in all the confusion, he chops his finger off and it ends up in a can on the shelf at Foodland. He searches everyday, buying can after can of sardines. Eventually he sees a can jumping around and opens it to find a finger. He attaches it simply by pressing it into place.

    But something doesn’t feel right. He must have someone else’s finger. During a lunch break, he recognises his own finger on a guy who’s getting ready to pick his nose. He wrests the finger away and gives the guy the other finger in return. The nose picker is named Yod (Sawasdiwong Palakawong na Ayudhaya), and the two become friends.

    Not wishing to lose any more fingers, Pod quits the factory and becomes a security guard. On the job in an office, he meets Jin (fashion model Sangthong Ket-uthong), a maid who has her nose perpetually buried in a mysterious white book written in a foreign language that she dreams of someday understanding. She has an obsessive-compulsive disorder, which makes her want to constantly clean and set things in order. This is an admirable trait for a maid, but it doesn’t make her very popular with her co-workers.

    Pod is smitten. He sees her face everywhere – in a light bulb, in a plate of fried rice, even in his Bruce Lee movie poster. He wishes to be closer to Jin, like Yod and his leggy Chinese empress girlfriend. Those two consummated their relationship on a crowded bus and have the tickets to prove it. Pod asks Jin if she would like to ride the bus. But Jin refuses, saying she breaks out in a rash whenever she takes crowded public transport. Pod quits his job as a guard and becomes a taxi driver so he can drive her to work. Bangkok’s red and blue taxicabs fit especially well with the set design, by the way.

    Though she wears the same bright blue uniform everyday, Pod makes a point of telling her how beautiful the dress makes her look. She thinks he’s crazy. Maybe he is. From the fat cop directing traffic to the puppies in Pod’s dog’s litter, everyone is wearing the same blue dress.

    Eventually, he expresses his true feelings for Jin, but by then she’s become obsessed with a hippie Westerner (Chuck Stephens) whom she believes is an environmental activist. She starts collecting plastic bottles, gathering enough to create a literal mountain, and joins an environmental protest rally.

    On the surface, “Citizen Dog” is a romantic comedy, but really it’s a satire, poking fun at hectic urban life, cell-phone chatterers and kids hooked on video games. Wisit wants to comment on materialism and conformity. The characters in “Citizen Dog” are given labels. Depending on his job, Pod’s uniform says “Factory”, “Security” or “Taxi”. Jin’s label is “Maid”. And Jin revels in the conformity of joining a crowd of protesters.

    Somehow, Pod becomes a celebrity because he’s the only guy in Bangkok without a tail. If he grows one, he’ll just be one of the crowd, a “citizen dog” alluded to in the title. It’s a confusing, oblique concept that detracts a bit from the overall enjoyment of the film. But that’s part of its appeal. It gives you something to think about long after you’ve left the cinema. There is a lot to enjoy in “Citizen Dog” and enough to make repeated viewing worthwhile.

    i Wise Kwai i

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    Thanx a lot for the info about Citizen Dog. I missed this film in my latest trip to Bangkok. I got to see SARS WAR, SiX and MY SPACE. SARS WAR was screened without english subtitles but very easy to follow. It's based on a comic book?

    Any help and info on new films like Jaew (MAID), Werewolf in Bangkok, Hit Man Files, Seven StreetFighters... will be very welcomed...

    Thanx again and keep posting !
    riCk (BARCELONA, SPAIN)
    Anybody interested in chat about thai cinema can e-mail me to: rikyhn@NOSPAM.hotmail.com

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    Here is the Official Website for Jaew (Maid):

    http://www.maidmovie.com/
    My interesting blog about Thailand at Thailand Blog ---> click here

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    I loved this movie "citizen dog", infact its the reason why i almost one month later is sitting on google and finding this site.

    Anybody knows when it can be expected to be released on dvd, couldnt find it when i was in thailand.

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    Hi granQ !
    Not sure about the release date, sometimes it takes a few month up to half a year after the Movie is not shown in Cinema anymore.
    Check out the following Website. There they will show when the Movie is available. You can order many more good Thai Movies there, also very recent ones. or even Hollywood Movies with Thai Soundtrack.
    have a look at the Link:

    http://www.ethaicd.com
    My interesting blog about Thailand at Thailand Blog ---> click here

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    Citizien Dog <- official site for the citizen dog movie.

    And it plays the music in the background. almost made me cry. missed the girl in bangkok that i saw the movie with..




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    now i am unhappy..

    Finaly i could buy it, but no english sub. ####, been waiting for this so long. Why couldnt they include it??

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    I think they want to shut out american people. Like as if were a bad influence. Thats what I think.




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