Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Movie Log: Citizen Dog

Citizen Dog is the first movie from Thailand I've ever seen. (It's probably the first movie from Thailand that most people have ever seen, so that doesn't mean much.) It's a romantic comedy that's generally been compared to Amelie, and not without reason. But Citizen Dog isn't a clone of any other movie; it's set firmly in its own culture and place, and has a distinctive tone of its own.

The movies from foreign countries that make it to the US are typically either very serious dramas or the kind of quirky comedies that are vaguely magic-realist and make Americans think "Oh, those wacky foreigners." Citizen Dog is being marketed in the second category, and it fits reasonably well there. This is a movie with motorcycle helmets raining from the sky, at least one undead cab driver, a mountain of plastic bottles, and two men who swap severed fingers.

Citizen Dog marks out it own individual territory, though, starting by being very heavily narrated. (Seriously, the narrator probably has more lines than all of the other characters put together; he's talking for nearly the entire movie. It works, but it's very unlike most Western movies of the past few decades -- and that does help reinforce that Citizen Dog is something different.)

Pod (Mahasamut Boonyaruk) is a young man from the sticks who goes to Bangkok in search of his fortune, or the fast life, or something -- to be honest, it seems more that he's just running away from a bland farm life where nothing changes than running to anything in particular. He takes a series of minor jobs -- in a sardine-packing factory, as a security guard, driving a taxi -- and runs into the love of his life, Jin (Saengthong Gate-Uthong), who has her own obsessions.

We follow their story mostly through the narrator -- Pod is onscreen for almost the entire movie, but neither he nor anyone else talks all that much. Actually, at this point I should be more specific -- Citizen Dog is both a comedy and a movie with a romance plot, but it's not a "romantic comedy" in any normal American sense of the phrase. (Jin ignores Pod for most of the movie -- and not in the "I'm ignoring you to make you more interested" sense; she's completely caught up in entirely different things.) For me, that was a big plus.

If you can stand quirky, I'd highly recommend Citizen Dog. (And it never feels quirky for the sense of being quirky; just a world in which weird things happen.) And I haven't even said anything about the chain-smoking, talking teddy bear...

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