Sunday 8 June 2008

6ixtynin9 (1999)

Director: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
Stars: Lalita Panyopas and Sirisin Siripornsmathikul
Economic times are hard and a financial company needs to lay off people, which it does by means of luck, or lack of it, by pulling numbers from a cup like a lottery. Three numbers lose their jobs, two of which are 6 and 9. While the English title is 6ixtynin9, that's just a dumb marketing gimmick which may just be the curse of Se7en. It would seem that every film nowadays that has a number in the title has to mix up the letters and numbers. In this instance it's completely meaningless, because the Thai title, Ruang talok 69 translates much better to A Funny Story About 6 and 9. No, this is not a lesbian porn movie.

This is a Pen-Ek Ratanaruang film from 1999, four years before Last Life in the Universe, which impressed me immensely, and not just because it featured Tadanobu Asano, who I didn't really know at the time but who I'm now keeping an eye out for. This one features a young lady called Lalita Panyopas and I wonder if she's going to become a new favourite too. Panyopas plays Tum, who is the 9 in the getting fired lottery but lives in an apartment building at number 6. Because the number is missing a screw on her door, it frequently becomes 9 and it's this sort of mixup that provides our plot. A day after dreaming about various methods of suicide, she finds a noodle box outside her door containing a huge amount of money, presumably intended for delivery to 9 instead of 6. Just as she's deciding what to do with it, two kickboxers turn up to collect it and Tum finds herself becomes a complex and very dark comedy of errors.

I love the quirkiness of so many of the Asian movies I've been seeing lately. Beyond being a complex comedy of errors with some deep and delicious ironies, there are moments of pure genius here and plenty of them. I think my favourite is the one with the black market visa photographer, who kills a customer who insults him, but then apologises for being so rude, but the deaf guy who answers the phone and the conversation about how to get revenge on a cheating boyfriend both come close. There are so many great moments that I have a feeling that this film will probably end up like a favourite album, where my favourite track varies according to the day. It's definitely a film to come back to and I wouldn't be surprised if I have whole new favourite moments next time round.
Pen-Ek Ratanaruang was the only name I knew coming in and this makes two great movies to his name out of two. He's made six films so far as a director, four of which he also wrote. It's definitely time to find the others: Fun Bar Karaoke, Transistor Love Story, Invisible Waves and Ploy. Lalita Panyopas has only one other film to her credit, but it's Ploy, so that one looks like a double treat. Sirisin Siripornsmathikul is an awesome downstairs nosy neighbour, Tasanawalai Ongartittichai is a great brat of a friend and Black Phomtong is a highly memorable bad guy. He has long hair, wears a kilt and looks like a cross between a friend of the family and Shoko Asahara who is currently under sentence of death for masterminding the sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway system. Somehow I can't help but think of that and wonder how Pen-Ek Ratanaruang would fit it into a comedy of errors.

Note: I haven't seen the whole film yet. Sundance Channel advertised it as a 1 hr 32 min film and it recorded as a 1 hr 45 min recording. Yet it didn't fit into the timeframe, possibly because IMDb list it as a 1 hr 55 min film. So I'm missing the end and I don't know how much of it I'm missing. My better half and I are so hooked on wanting to know what happened that we've just ordered it on DVD, so watch this space to see if the ending makes everything even better or completely suck or what.

Update: I'm adding images and links in 2010 and can happily report that we did buy the DVD and loved the ending too, but as I can't remember the details perhaps it's time for a rewatch.


jimgusto said...

This was really a pretty funny movie. I got lucky and found your blog after doing a web search to see if there was anything written about this film online. I'd forgotten the title. But remembered how the girl lost her job. And when she went home, found all that money left there by mistake. And all the crazy things that happened from that point on. I've seen it twice but hope I get to see it again.

Hal C. F. Astell said...

Welcome Jim. I loved this film and really need to go back and write a more thorough review. In the meantime I've added images and links. This and Last Life in the Universe turned me on to Thai cinema, at a time when I was happily discovering Korean films. I've reviewed a few since (Dorm was a favourite) and look forward to plenty more.