The weeklong, or more, events which have dominated local non-mainstream exhibition here, seem to be fading.
The Japanese and Hispanics are doing one offs. The Russian Resurrection Festival is still headed towards us but they are doing monthly Sunday shows of popular movies at Event George Street (a more digestible way of delivering product) as well.
Last week’s Yolki poslednie (Yolki 7) proved to be an intermittently entertaining and determinedly feel good addition to the Russian annual "The Last Six Degrees of Celebration" series with Timur Bekmambetov credited among the producers. It cuts among five interlocking stories of events on New Year’s Eve across the country, complete with a light-up map to locate them.
We jump into an impressive police car chase on frozen roads with dumpy blonde Valentina Mazunina at the wheel of her vehicle and the TV celebrity hand cuffed in the back.
Flashbacks link into the story of her video consultant doctor husband’s alienation from his aged father to whom the girl in the bank returns a passport arousing his suspicions that she is a scam artist. Recurring character buddies Ivan Urgant & Sergey Svetlakov are at odds because Svetlakov is off to Yakutsk with his extended family whose so many acres a head land grant (praise for Russia) will be big enough to start a native animal zoo.
Elena Yakovleva has given up hope that her military suitor Dmitriy Nagiev, who is building their dream home, will propose and her son intervenes dragging him back to the family flat.
A winning station kiosk attendant is swept away when a star actor flirts with her and, after giving him the wrong number (“I’m an actor - of course I will remember”) overtakes his train driven by a local motorist with his own agenda and the young skier attempts to set up his snowboarder chum as the nervous suitor of a counter girl in supervisor Ekaterina Klimova’s local McDonalds (!)
Narrator Konstantin Khabenskiy makes a surprise last minute on screen appearance.
These stories vary in conviction but good ‘scope production values with onion dome drone scenics for insets and the winning, unfamiliar players carry things along.
Popular cinema like this is a long way from the more sombre material we are usually served to represent Russian production.
The entertainment cinema of Thailand is even harder to come by. I just checked a Thai local’s idea of the hundred best of the country's movies and was hard pressed to recognize six - the nice Bad Genius, the turgid Jan Dara, Cemetery of Splendour, Chocolate, Tears of the Black Tiger and Ong Bak.
Now, along with their usual Chinese and Korean material, Event Cinemas are running a teenage romance piece called Friend Zone.
Chayanop Boonprakob’s movie pivots on the strained proposition that the fresh faced young couple retain a friendship over ten years without actually getting it on, all in gleaming wide screen.
We kick off with school girl Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon dragging her friend boy, rather than boyfriend, Naphat Siangsomboon off on a flight (close up of his credit card going into the ticket machine) to follow her father Chertsak Pratumsrisakhon on what she is convinced is an affair. What happens to him?
Over the next ten years Siangsomboon, sustained by using his points as an airline cabin attendant, squires her through failed romantic excursions in tourist destinations in Myanmar, Malaysia or Hong Kong announced in screen filling captions. The climaxing footage in Krabi (Thailand) is particularly scenic.
Their activities are monitored by his three dorky friends Benjamin Joseph Varney, Nutthasit Kotimanuswanich and Sukhapat Lohwacharin similarly unable to actualize their romances as they stand, two tall beers in their hands, in the different locales.
Throw in a thinks inset of Siangsomboon breaking his friend zone friend’s boy suitor’s guitar over his head, comments from shaven headed monks crosslegged in temples, karaoke, Siangsomboon simulating bearded lover Jason Young by spreading chocolate desert on his face and a hotel porter wheeling her around on a luggage stand with her broken leg.
The last of her failed affairs, has Young needing to record winning local girl singers around Asia for his multi language commercial jingle. Our heroine flings his top of the line product placement gift watch into the surf in pique.
We get spotless five star hotels and spotless complexions. (it’s a welcome break when they finally manage to find a couple of extras with eczema scars) Even the Hong Kong bus on which Leuwisetpaiboon does her Jackie Chan stunt, is impeccable.
Friend Zone is pitched at teen age Asian girls. I don’t meet any of those criteria so it outstays it’s welcome with me. Occasionally involving or funny but mainly an implausible exercise in wish fulfilling, this one exceeds its quota in tourist attractions and will they or won’t they.
It all leaves you wondering if we couldn’t have been better served by the other ninety-four titles on the list. On the other hand, by their nature films like these are unlikely to hit festivals and broadcasters and any attempt to ring up the celluloid curtain is welcome. We could do worse.