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With: Anchalee Saisoontorn, Supphasit Kansen, Dul Yaambunying
Written by: Aditya Assarat
Directed by: Aditya Assarat
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Thai, with English subtitles
Running Time: 92
Date: 10/08/2007

Wonderful Town (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

After the Flood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Nestled somewhere in southern Thailand between a mountain and the sea, this place does indeed seem like a wonderful town. It's quiet and restful and seemingly stress-free. It's the type of place where hotel clerk Na (Supphasit Kansen) can take a nap at the front desk and nobody will notice. Na could be described as pretty, in a simple way. She's not gorgeous or glamorous or even particularly cute. She's just pretty. She moves prettily as she mops and changes the hotel's bedsheets. She's pretty as she goes shopping and shyly tries on a white hair band.

Ton (Anchalee Saisoontorn), an architect from Bangkok arrives to oversee the building of a new seaside resort (most of the town was wiped out in the devastating tsunami of 2004). Rather than stay nearby, he chooses the tranquility of the town and the simplicity of Na's hotel. He likes it quiet, he says. Ton notices Na and they start up a sweet little love affair, complete with secret make-out sessions and picnics in the tall, wavy grass. The Thai-born, American-educated director Aditya Assarat makes his feature debut here, and he spends time studying the rhythms of the town, watching Na at work, watching Ton at work, watching laundry dry, watching rain clouds gathering. The love affair seems to happen gradually, organically, just as the weather changes from cool to warm.

Just as gradually, we learn more about the town and it becomes less wonderful. We begin to notice that buildings are rotting, stained black with too much moisture. (Characters use the word "ruins" more than once.) The population isn't what it should be; we hardly see any people. Indeed, this is dying town, and its cancer cells come out late in the film when Na's brother -- a local gangster -- discovers her relationship with the outsider. Ton's car is broken into, and young motorcycle thugs circle around him as he drives along the roadway. Ton receives a verbal blessing -- "take care of my sister" -- or is it a warning? These things happen just as gradually as the other rhythms of the day; they just flow by.

Wonderful Town is a rare film in that it contains all the usual elements, such as love and villainy (Godard's "girl and a gun"), but understands that these things need not always be presented at a breakneck pace. It's a film that seduces rather than grabs. Villainy, like love, can flower slowly, taking time to absorb the rain, bask in the sunlight and admire the breeze.

DVD Details: Wonderful Town received a very small New York theatrical release in 2008, and now Kino has released the DVD for all to enjoy. Extras include a photo gallery.

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