Saturday, July 24, 2004

My cinematic mid-life crisis, with elephant battle scenes

This week I watched a Thai film that turned up on one of the cable channels, "The Legend of Suriyothai," and I watched it because of a fear that I’m getting old (some people would have bought a red sports car or gone bungee-jumping; me, even my mid-life crises are sedentary). See, in the last semi-annual rejuggling of channels by my cable company, which they do so that when you sit down to watch the "Daily Show" you thought you taped, you find yourself with half an hour of golf, I started getting the Sundance Channel, and I’ve been finding that my approach to which movies I’m willing to watch on that channel is much more unadventurous than it would have been twenty years ago. I mean, I’m a person who has watched more than one movie with an all-midget cast, and more than one movie in which the actors were hypnotized (movie adepts will have recognized that one in each category was directed by Werner Herzog, who has much to answer for), but now I find that my reaction to the prospect of watching a partly-improvised Icelandic movie directed by an American who could not understand the language his actors were speaking in ("Salt") is to reject it utterly. So in reaction to my own newfound conservatism, and since it’s been a while since I’ve added to the list of countries I’ve seen movies from, I felt I had to watch the Thai film, despite not very good reviews, because I couldn’t remember ever having seen a Thai film before (I’ve seen several Icelandic movies, so that wasn’t an issue; a few months ago I saw an Icelandic, updated version of King Lear--in case you liked the Shakespeare play but thought it didn’t have enough herring). And since you ask: the Thai movie was an overlong lavish historical spectacle, with cardboard characters, beautiful to look at, and its battle scenes had elephants, like all good battle scenes should.

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