Force-fed film belongs deep in dark vaults

Strange things have happened at the cinemas. First, Hitler showed up in a Thai short film sponsored by the government (meaning by taxpayers), the radioactive gatecrasher into a party of virtuous citizens. Second, another Thai film featuring, among other things, a joke about the anal cleft — it's funny as long as it's not your anal cleft — is raking in a huge amount of money at the multiplexes, likely surpassing the 100-million-baht mark as you're reading this, which is after just four days of release. Cinema enlightens, even in the dark forest of swastikas and bodily bergschrunds.

Anyway, Hitler, who made a cameo in a movie done as part of the 12-film "Thai Pride" anthology exalting the 12 Values prescribed by the premier, provoked an uproar and was later removed by the authorities who financed it (why you are embarrassed by something you've proudly backed is beyond me). Meanwhile the other film, a romantic comedy called I Fine, Thank You, Love You — a lovely malapropism that shows our readiness to be an Asean leader — is on its way to becoming the highest grossing title of the year, at a projected 250 million baht or more. The first film has shored up our moral quotient, the latter has boosted our sagging mood and flagging economy. In just one December week, what more could you have asked for?

If Thai popular culture were a house, where would we fit our different breeds of movies? First of all, I would make all the arthouse and documentary movies that win critical applause the foundations and the roof of the house, since we need quality materials for those parts even though we never really look at them. Then the moneymakers, such as I Fine, Thank You, Love You, would be pretty vases that entertain all eyes in the living room. Maybe we'd have bloated historical epics as a doormat. All the silly comedy would be a rubbish bin in the guest's toilet. Then the films made by order like those in the "Thai Pride" project — the Fuhrer one as well as most others in the pack — would be put in a box that would then be sealed and put beneath other boxes stacked in the basement, behind a locked door down the cobwebbed stairs in the back of the house. Someone would open the box one day, then he'd cry and laugh, or laugh and cry.

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