Reviews of "Samui Song"
Thai auteur Pen-ek Ratanaruang returns to the festival circuit in fine form. At times noir-ish, at times cheeky, and at times a little too self-aware, Samui Song thriller surfs in and out between straight genre exercise and winking critique of many things: blind faith, crypto-Buddhism, marriage, filmmaking, patriarchal oppression.
Boonyasak gives an assured performance conveying Vi’s desperation under a veneer of icy confidence. Asavanond, speaking fluent Thai, retains a continental suaveness even at his shiftiest and most down-at-heel. Pansringarm, who has become the go-to guy when it comes to casting shady police chiefs and mafia dons in Thailand-set international productions, can play 50 shades of sinister.
The film is a chain of successive escapes and disappearances, a mix of drama, giallo and noir, and its plot morphs entirely when the audience is catapulted onto the island of Samui, a sort of picture-perfect oasis promising a new way of life, in which love, harmony and simplicity reign supreme.
For his return to the big screen, Ratanaruang’s goes Noir with a drama turning to thriller. As it has become a habit, he defines conventions precisely by shifting from conventional story telling with unusual change of genre and pace.
Among the major filmmakers that burst onto the Thai film scene in the late 1990s/early 2000s, Pen-ek Ratanaruang occupies an interesting aesthetic/narrative space between elliptical, contemplative dreamscapes à la Apichatpong Weerasethakul and reinterpretations of the horror/thriller by the Pang brothers and Nonzee Nimibutr. […]
[In "Samui Song"] Ratanaruang honours and reimagines film noir’s scenario of murder through a laconic and fragmentary approach to scenes, thereby lending them a cryptic, ominous quality. [...] in Boonyasak and Asanavond, Ratanaruang has actors who are able to project a kind of curious, lackadaisical front beneath which bubbles unspoken desire (more existential than physical) and draw the viewer into their world.
"Samui Song" is a brilliantly shot and directed film, narrated with wit and with a lot of attention to detail. Both the cinematography by Chankit Chamnivikaipong and the editing by Patamanadda Yukol is very cared and studied.