Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

Tears of the Black Tiger 2000

Fah talai jone

Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng

Thailand In Thai with English subtitles
100 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay

Production Co

Film Bangkok


Nonzee Nimibutr


Nattawut Kittikhun


Dusanee Puinongpho

Production Designer

Ek Iemchuen

Art Directors

Akradech Kaewkotr
Rach-chanon Khayanngan

Costume Designer

Chaiwichit Somboon

Make-up Artist

Benjamin Soi-intr


Amornbhong Methakunavudh


Chartchai Ngamsan (Suea Dum "Black Tiger")
Stella Malucchi (Rumpoey)
Supakorn Kitsuwon (Mahesuan)
Arawat Ruangvuth (Police Captain Kumjorn)
Sombati Medhanee (Fai)
Pairoj Jaisingha (Phya Prasit, Rumpoey's father)
Naiyana Shiwanun (Rumpoey's maid)
Kanchit Kwanpracha (Kamnan Dua, Dum's father)
Chamloen Sridang (Sgt Yam)


Direct from its Cannes success, this zesty pastiche of 50s Thai popular cinema is as fleet-footed and enjoyable as the recent Mask of Zorro. Thai popular cinema, it turns out, is as indebted to Hollywood as any other, except for the ripely kitsch settings, which make the most of beaches, jungles, water buffaloes and pavilions amongst the lotus blossoms. The film has been printed in lurid faded colour, with freshly applied scratches and changes of stock for flashbacks. Like its prototypes (apparently), it is a Thai feast of contrasting flavours, mixing wild western action movie with doomed Sirk-style romance as deliciously as lemon grass, chili and palm sugar. — BG

The cult hit of the Cannes Film Festival this year has to be the bizarre and wildly enjoyable Tears of the Black Tiger, a Thai western by the former ad director Wisit Sasanatieng. I saw this at a packed and very overexcitable midnight screening at which I seemed to be the only person over 30. It has a lurid, pulpy feel, with brash overacting and oversaturated Day-Glo colours, cheekily obvious sets and back-projections. It delivers sheer outrageous enjoyment. — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 14/5/01

A sustained riff on the impoverished excesses of Holly- and Bollywood-inflected mid-century Siamese filmmaking, when compositional frontality reigned and the phrase ‘reverse angle’ (as well as the philosophy behind it) was apparently lost in translation, Tears of the Black Tiger was born of Wisit’s desire to locate the historical essence of a truly Thai cinema. The look and feel of the film isn’t based on just movies, mind you, but on Thai cinema’s theatrical roots (from the musical and gestural mannerisms of Likay performance, mainly) and its florid advertising artefacts (hand-painted posters and lobby cards). There’s also ample evidence of the 70s Thai cinema’s fateful alien encounter with the spaghetti cinema of Sergio Leone. The result is a hybrid of hybrids. At once a perfectly traditional (and hilariously clichéd) Thai romance about lovers corralled by class difference, as well as a pad thai Western where cowboys covet machine guns and swear blood oaths to one another under the shadow of an impassive Buddha, Tears of the Black Tiger doesn’t just succeed as a modernist commentary on the sorry physical state of the nation’s rapidly deteriorating film heritage. It’s also an oddly nostalgic projection of what Thai filmmaking has the potential to become. — Chuck Stephens, Film Comment, 5-6/01