Bad Genius (2017)


Directed by Nattawut Poonpiriya
Country: Thailand

Who would have thought that common school exams could motivate so stressful situations? Thai director Nattawut Poonpiriya manages to create exactly that in “Bad Genius”, a scholastic, teen-centered heist drama with favorable doses of originality and intense pace.

The story, co-written by Poonpiriya, Tanida Hantaweewatana, and Vasudhorn Piyaromna, was based on real-life occurrences involving cheating students on SAT, the American standardized test widely used for college admissions.

The star of the film, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, is a young fashion model turned into a promising debutant actor. She flawlessly impersonates Lynn, a top-notch student and gold medal in math, who engenders a scheme to help her colleagues passing the tests in exchange for significant sums of money.

It all starts when Lynn is transferred to a new school, one that will give her ampler possibilities of a bright future. This is the wish of her supportive father (Thaneth Warakuklnukroh), a teacher himself, who makes huge financial efforts to have his only daughter studying in such a prestigious school. Yet, Lynn doesn't feel intimidated when explaining to the school’s principal how this change will bring extra expenses to her struggling divorced father. Her fierce determination, clarity of speech, and mental agility will immediately provide her with an unplanned scholarship and free meals.

At school, Lynn befriends Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan), a sympathetic artist-wannabe who does much better at the extracurricular activities but is not so expeditious in dealing with the school subjects. Lynn agrees to help her cheating in the exams, but soon, the task extends to Grace’s wealthy boyfriend, Pat (Teeradon Supapunpinyo), who pays her good money for the right answers. Soon, nearly all the other students are attempting to hire her in order to progress in their studies.


That’s when Lynn has the brilliant idea to start out an exam-cheating business that is directly related to piano chord fingering. Four harmonic patterns establish a direct correspondence with each letter of the multiple choices of an exam, a hassle-free stratagem to get everybody excellent grades. However, things can get very complicated whenever there are two different versions of a test. Besides, Bank (Chanon Santinatornkul), an honest, hard-working scholar and direct competitor, finds out the conspiracy and snitched on his classmates.

Later on, Bank, who also struggles financially, also agrees to become part of the team in a wider cheating machination that will bring him some advantages but also inconveniences. Things start to change when, after a venturesome trip to Sydney to take the STIC test, Lynn urges herself to reflect on her conduct.

Remarkably edited by Chonlasit Upanigkit, “Bad Genius” presents a few quibbles that are easily dissolved by the emotional side of the story. One cannot deny the slickness and freshness of its self-confident moves. The tension is unstoppable and the film has no dead moments or delays in its well-planned course of events. Throughout the two-hour odyssey, I kept my fingers crossed for the cheaters, regardless their misconduct and dishonest business.

With social inequalities at the center of this examination, Poonpiriya vouches for a solid entertainment, deftly portraying astute teens whose intelligence combines with a tenacious firmness of purpose and strong personality.


Cemetery of Splendor (2015)


Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Country: Thailand / other

If you ask me why Apichatpong Weerasethakul is considered one of the most respectable contemporary directors, my answer is: go see “Cemetery of Splendor”. As an admirer and avid follower of his unique creative style, I can easily state that ‘Cemetery’, in its beautiful humanity, spirituality, gracious humor, and emotional splendor, is the most accessible work of his distinguished career, which comprises titles such as “Blissfully Yours”, “Tropical Malady”, “Syndromes and a Century”, and the Palme D’Or “Uncle Boonmee”.
However, and similar to the films mentioned above, this enchanting opus will only reward the viewers with the time and patience to let themselves be grabbed by the magical spells of life and death, sickness and cure, modern and ancient, physical and spiritual forms, past and present, dream and reality, national and foreign, and happiness and sadness.
Still, I’ve found an extensive openness in this film that I can’t find in any of the others. Perhaps because of its immense generosity since giving and receiving are also central elements of the story.

The enigmatic narrative presents us with Jen (Jenjira Pongpas), a housewife who volunteers at a local hospital and former school, where soldiers spend most of their time sleeping, with colorful respiratory tubes connected to their mouths and noses through a mask. These men are known as the ‘sleeping soldiers’, and all of them suffer from an inexplicable medical condition in which they abruptly fall asleep, remaining in that deep state for several hours. Jen gets fascinated with Keng (Jarinpattra Rueangram), a sympathetic psychic who helps at the hospital and has the ability of mind reading, and befriends with Itto (Banlop Lomnoi), a beloved soldier whom she considers her own son, often taking him out to eat and to engage in warm conversation.
When she’s not with Itto or Keng, the patriotic Jen is with her American boyfriend, Richard Widner, an ex-military who sold everything in the States and came to live with her. In a pretty funny scene, we find them in a shrine offering miniatures of animals to the goddesses in exchange of some requests that includes the cure of her shorter leg and Itto’s condition. 
Later on, the goddesses, in flesh and blood, interact with Jen, and according to them, the soldiers’ mysterious sickness has no solution. The reason is that the hospital where they inhabit is placed on top of a cemetery of kings who use their spirit during the sleep to win ancient battles that continue to occur. In this interaction, the director wittily suggests the factor ‘aging’ as a concern for Jen. The goddesses look so young and their skin is so perfect that only death can do that miracle. They won’t make Jen younger than she is, but rather make her see beyond the physical world that surrounds her.
In the company of a Goddess, she goes on a transcendental expedition, exploring a forest that once was a luxurious palace. The finale is simply enthralling, with Jen with her eyes wide opened in the direction of a destroyed soccer field where kids are playing. What does she see beyond that desolated landscape?

Mr. Weerasethakul’s highly distinctive vision is passed to us through the conjunction of a praiseworthy boldness in the writing and affable cinematic gestures, without the need of one single act of violence or a bad manner to be effective. This tranquility had a mesmeric effect on me, kind of an unutterable feel-good sensation that comes from a righteous world showing compassion, understanding, and good will.
Languid yet rich, peaceful yet liberator, floating yet self-assured, “Cemetery of Splendor”, is a film about the ‘unseen’ that feels simultaneously urgent and indispensable.

Uncle Boonmee (2010)

Realizado por: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
País: Tailândia
Este realizador de culto já nos habituou a filmes difíceis, de múltipla interpretação, ritmos lentos, ambiências hipnóticas e argumentos sobrenaturais. Este não foge à regra, lidando com temas como crenças místicas, memória e morte. A bela fotografia e narrativa desafiante contrasta com a frustração sentida quando nos perdemos no meio do enredo surrealista, sobretudo porque mexe mais com os sentidos e menos com as emoções. Não tão conseguido como os anteriores "Tropical Malady" e "Syndromes and a Century", não deixa de ter o mérito de ser amplamente debatido, dividindo críticos e audiências. Fantástico para uns e aborrecido para outros, fica a experiência de assistir a um filme no mínimo original.

Nymph (2009)

Realizado por: Pen Ek Ratanaruang
País: Tailândia

Não é um filme para todos.
Apresentado com um ambiente estranho e hipnótico, este misterioso filme baseia-se na relação de um casal que acaba numa surpreendente viagem através da selva.
É do tipo de filme que agradará a todos aqueles que não gostam de argumentos previsíveis. É uma busca constante por respostas que ficarão ao critério dos espectadores.
Recomendo também deste realizador "last life on the universe"(2003) e "ploy"(2007).