'Hi-So'

Artsy romancer is well performed but suffers from muddled, meandering plotting.

Following his highly regarded debut, “Wonderful Town,” which won the New Currents award at Pusan in 2007, Thai helmer Aditya Assarat marks time with sophomore feature “Hi-So.” Co-produced by and starring Ananda Everingham as an actor more or less reliving a failed previous relationship with a new g.f, this artsy romancer is well performed but suffers from muddled, meandering plotting. Everingham’s local popularity should ensure a strong domestic opening, but word of mouth isn’t likely to be glowing; offshore prospects appear limited to fests and specialized broadcasters. Thai release date is yet to be set.

Early scenes, about survivors coming to terms with life after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, are reminiscent of “Wonderful Town”: Ananda (Ananda Everingham) is acting in a movie about an amnesiac searching for threads of his lost memory at a hotel abandoned after the disaster.

In real life a star of Thai cinema from an Australian-Laotian background, Everingham appears to be playing an American who’s accidentally become a thesp — at least, that’s the impression given by his American girlfriend, Zoe (Cerise Leang), when she arrives for a visit.

Ananda and Zoe begin drifting apart when his Thai accent starts to falter during takes, and she gets sick of being left alone in a near-deserted hotel while he works. Eventually, she starts hanging out with the staff and takes an innocent trip to the beach with cheery young bellboy Him (Pison Suwanpakdee).

That’s the last viewers see of Zoe, as the action switches abruptly to several months later and the plot wiring comes unglued. Ananda is now in a relationship with May (Sajee Apiwong), a pretty production assistant briefly glimpsed in the previous seg. The couple appears to be living in a tsunami-damaged apartment block, which turns out to be one of two adjacent Bangkok properties being renovated by Ananda’s mother, a rich jet-setter who’s much talked about but never seen. Extraneous details regarding the secret sale of one of the buildings and Ananda’s wishy-washy recollections of family life do not advance the narrative cause.

Script does hit the right mark when Ananda and May play out scenes mirroring moments he shared with Zoe, but these are too few and far between to drive the pic into realms of meaningful self-reflexivity. After an unhappy night out with Ananda’s drinking buddies, the story simply peters out.

Elegant lensing by Assarat regular Umpornpol Yugala and a swirling electronic soundtrack are highlights of a thoroughly pro tech package. Title denotes a Thai term, often used derisively, to describe Bangkok high-society types.

Hi-So

Thailand

Production

A Spicy Disc presentation in association with Halo Prods. of a Pop Pictures production. (International sales: Memento Films Intl., Paris.) Produced by Aditya Assarat, Soros Sukhum, Napassarin Prompila, Ananda Everingham. Executive producer, Pichai Chirathivat. Directed, written by Aditya Assarat.

Crew

Camera (color), Umpornpol Yugala; editor, Lee Chatametikool; music, Shimizu Koichi, Desktop Error; production designer, Rasiguet Sookarn; costume designer, Cattleya Paosrichareon; sound (Dolby Digital), Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr; line producer, Jetnipith Teerakulchanyut; assistant director, Sivaroj Kongsakul; casting, Tanwarin Sukkapisit. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), Oct. 9, 2010. (Also in Tokyo Film Festival.) Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Ananda Everingham, Cerise Leang, Sajee Apiwong, Pison Suwanpakdee. (Thai, English dialogue)

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