Both these films are in very limited release.
On a summer day in 1945, an Orthodox Jewish man and his grown son return to a village in Hungary. The villagers are preparing for the wedding of the town clerk’s son. The townspeople expect the worst and behave accordingly. The town clerk fears the men may be heirs of the village’s Jews; and expects them to demand their illegally acquired property back.
This is a superbly rendered tale of loss and guilt. Director Ferenc Török paints a complex picture of a community trying to come to terms with the recent horrors they’ve either experienced, perpetrated or just tolerated for personal gain.
There’s something deeply tragic about the events that unfold. It all goes back to a situation that happened earlier – which we don’t see – but which has left a lasting impression on the town. The film itself leaves a similar impression. It’s something very special.
Middle-aged architect Thana (Thaneth Warakulnakrah) is in the midst of a mid-life crisis. He’s fed up with his job and his marriage to his sexually frustrated and unhappy wife Bo (Penpak Sirkul). She resents him for his lack of ambition and drive. Thana feels unappreciated both at work and at home. The landmark shopping centre he designed is set for demolition. Then a chance encounter with an elephant sets him on a course that will change his life and his attitude. He recognises the elephant as Pop Aye from his childhood. The orphaned elephant was named for the famous cartoon character. He buys the elephant from its current owner and sets off on a journey across Thailand, returning to the village of his youth – a place of happy memories and freedom.
Pop Aye is the debut feature film for Thai writer/director Kirsten Tan, and she maintains an unhurried and leisurely pace throughout that suits the material. Cinematographer Chanon Chotrungroj beautifully captures some lovely landscapes.
This quirky and gentle road movie from Thailand is sure to please audiences of a certain age. It received a Special Jury Prize for screenwriting at the Sundance Film Festival.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television