Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hotel Angel (1974)

Long before Chatrichalerm Yukol directed overblown historical epics was one of the best and most interesting directors from Thailand. He specialised early in realistic gritty dramas about everything taboo in Thailand: drugs, prostitution and growing up in a harder and cynic world than before. Gunman (read my review here, the 1983 crime-drama is one of the best Thai movies I’ve seen and also has Sorapong Chatree in one of his finest roles. But Sorapong did also star in a supporting part in this interesting drama, Hotel Angel. It’s really about Malee (Viyada Umari) a country girl that follows her boyfriend to Bangkok – but get dumped instantly by him with out money and are forced to work herself out of debt. Sooner or later she finds a place at Hotel Angel, a bordello where the emotionally very unstable pimp Thone (Sorapong Chatree) calls the shots.

Malee starts writing letters home to her father, with money, pretending to have succeeded as a dressmaker. For ever bath she earns, her father builds a house luckily unaware about his daughter’s new job. But Malee wants out of her profession and become a real dressmaker…

Hotel Angel is a very well-made little movie which becomes even better with the amount of real locations and sleazy adventures in the bordello. It’s a Thai movie, so it does not show much of course, but you can feel the dread. Like a fuck-factory, young and old, good and bad. Sorapong Chatree is phenomenal here, and is totally crazy – and incredibly good-looking at the same time. One second he bitchslaps his way through the room and seconds after he breaks down in panic disorder. He plays a very manipulative character, very nice and caring but still a raving psychopath.

But the finest performance is by Viyada Umari, who are in almost every from of the movie. Naïve in the beginning, but her character is growing by experience in every scene and for once she’s learning something. Her feminist stance is also very interesting, learning to be very independent and strong though she’s been fooled into something very stupid and dangerous. The first half of the movie is the most intensive: impressive action (fights mostly) and very colourful characters. After one characters death in the middle it kinda slows down and changes the focus on Malee’s determination to create a new life. This could be a disappointment for those expecting the whole movie to like the first half, but it’s still a great drama with some excellent acting.

I can’t even imagine how controversial this movie must have been when it came, because some subjects are even taboo today in Thai cinema! One scene, a brutal beating, is inter-cut with real demonstrations and burning cars (I don’t know from which incident), which reminded me of the works of Thunska Pansittivorakul, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tiwa Moeithaisong.

Hotel Angel is out on a fine DVD in Thailand. Widescreen, non-anamorphic, and with burned-in English subtitles. A must have for collectors of older Thai movies, you who are fascinated by some extremely cool seventies fashion and those who just want a good different melodrama.

1 comment:

kim percy said...

hej Fred, jag skriver här i kommentarsfältet i ett försök att få kontakt med dej. hittar ingen hänvisande mejl till dej nånstans.

Jag minns att du rekommenderade en film på nån av dina två filmbloggar 08 eller 09. jag har försökt leta fram filmen, men minns inte titeln.
det var någon godzilla-liknande japan-skräp från 80 (?)-talet, med ett gummidräkts monster i huvudrollen.. kan du minnas titeln?

vänliga häslningar
/Kim (