Comedy, Films, Reviews, Sci Fi / Fantasy, Thailand

Citizen Dog

Wisit Sasanatieng’s long awaited follow up to Tears of the Black Tiger is a charmingly naïve and beautiful fairytale for adults – think Amelie with smoking teddy bears and zombie taxi drivers…

It’s been several years since Wisit Sasanatieng impressed everyone with his beautiful Tears of the Black Tiger, but the wait has been worth it. A charming fairy tale bound to win audiences over (should it get a proper release?)

Pod (Mahasamut Boonyaruk) leaves simple farm life behind for the big city, ignoring his grandmas warning that he’ll grow a tail if he ever gets a job there. A job at a sardine-packing factory leads to disaster when he accidentally chops of a finger that ends up in the tin, leading to a thorough search of local supermarkets in order to find it. In the end, he finds the finger of a colleague, Yod (Sawatwong Palakawong Na Autthaya) and the two become friends.

Pod leaves the factory to become a security guard, even though he can’t stand to share a lift with anyone. Anyone except for Jin (Saengthong Gate-Uthong), a meticulous cleaner to the point of near obsessive-compulsive disorder, preoccupied with a weekly newspaper serial and an unmarked book in a foreign language that dictates her life – even though she can’t read it – and allergic to public transport.

Pod is besotted with Jin, believing he can win her heart. He gives up his job on security to become a taxi driver, just so he can drive her around. But Jin is oblivious to his feelings, deciding to ditch her job and become an eco-warrior bent on ridding the world of plastic.

Welcome to the world of Wisit Sasanatieng’s Citizen Dog, a place where anything can happen, and often does. Where a motorcycle taxi driver continues his work, even after a deluge of red helmets killed him. Where a 22 year-old looks all of six and smokes like a chimney, and even her only friend a talking teddy bear has a terrible habit after twenty years with her. Where a man can only experience the world around him by licking every surface. Where a mountain of plastic bottles dwarf’s even Bangkok’s skyscrapers.

It’s a charming world seemingly conjured up from the imagination of the child, unsullied by any adult complexity. Yet Sasanatieng uses a variety of the most sophisticated means, from CGI effects to confident filmmaking to make this world come alive. In doing so he’s left behind the overly self-conscious references that spoilt Tears of the Black Tiger. There is a real knowing to how he portrays Bangkok and modern day Thailand, where citizens want to grow tails in order to show how cultured they are. Once again, as is often the case in recent Thai movies (even Ong-Bak) the loss of innocence and simplicity to a technology, money driven world is an underlying concern.

Citizen Dog shares its predecessors colour palette, all blue/greens and pink/purples – like a real life version of an old faded Thai movie poster. It’s artwork from those posters that form a major part of the sets as striking murals, adding to the films distinctive style. And it s beautifully accomplished, from the cinematography to the performances of the leads – with Mahasamut (Pod) appropriately gormless throughout. Even the soundtrack impresses, using a barbershop vocal style that brings to mind the Beach Boys – only in Thai.

Part musical, part fairytale, all heart – Sasanatieng’s Citizen Dog is one of the sweetest movies of the year.

About the author

Andrew Heskins
Founder of easternKicks.com, which he's been running since 2002. And it's all thanks to Monkey, Water Margin and those damn fantastic 80s Hong Kong action movies! Andy works as a graphic designer in London... More »
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