aka FAH TALAI JONE
Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Chartchai Ngamsan, Stella Malucchi, Supakorn Kitsuwon
Director: Wisit Sartsanatieng
Thailand – where fucshia pink lotus blossoms float in beds of grey-green leaves on serene, transparent lakes. These vivid hues form the backdrop and colour-palate of TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER – a sort of Thai fifties WEST SIDE STORY meets OKLAHOMA meets spaghetti western.
The Black Tiger is Dum, a lonesome cowboy roaming the land in stetson and gorgeously sumptous silk neckties. Like all good cinematic cowboys, he’s strong and silent – handy with a pistol and unlucky in love. Dum’s tragedy is that he’s never got over a childhood romance with spoilt rich-girl Rumpoey. Dum’s father worked for Rumpoey’s father – and it was never really going to work.
What Dum doesn’t realise is that despite her return to sophisticated life in Bangkok, Rumpoey never stopped thinking about him either. And as she grew up she began to realise what an absolute horror she was to him as a little girl – forcing him to endure beatings from local ruffians to defend her honour, and getting him in trouble with his father.
We join the story with Rumpoey preparing for her wedding with another man, someone her father approves of but who she can never love. Will the lovers be re-united?
TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER is lovely to watch – the men are as beautiful as the women because the cast was chosen for their 50s/60s star qualities rather than their acting credentials. And the Thai language is so soft and melodious it lends itself beautifully to the romantically, nostalgic quality. The director and screenplay writer Wisit Sasanatieng, who graduated from Bangkok’s leading art college, has paid great attention to capturing a gentle, fairy tale like mood – rather like the scene in WIZARD OF OZ when we change from black and white to colour, and Dorothy knows she’s not in Kansas anymore.
In Thailand the film was promoted with a novelisation in a popular magazine, and a drama serial for the radio just as films were marketed in the 1960s. Sasanatieng wanted to explore some of the authentic Thai style of film-making from this period and he’s done a great job of it.