Wednesday 7 January 2015

The Sperm (2007)

Director: Taweewat Wantha
Stars: Leo Putt and Pimpaporn Leenutapong

Index: Weird Wednesdays.

Back in the late eighties when I was really beginning to immerse myself in the ocean of underground film, one of my primary guides was a documentary show (and its sequel) in which Jonathan Ross profiled and interviewed some of its legends. It was called The Incredibly Strange Film Show and the title wasn't lying; I'd found a few of the subjects before the show but it certainly introduced me to many more and I'm very grateful to Ross for the discovery. A quarter of a century later, I've done a lot more than immerse myself; I've been dancing in delight on the ocean floor for years watching outrageous shipwrecks of movies. The view down here is truly surreal; you should hitch a ride on a B-movie shark and join me for a whole slew of truly bizarre movies that go beyond merely 'incredibly strange'. I'll be showcasing these at Apocalypse Later in a series called Weird Wednesdays, with one astounding picture a week to bludgeon you into an astounding state of mind. And I'm kicking it all off with a teen comedy from Thailand called The Sperm.
Once I'd read about The Sperm, whose original Thai title is, courtesy of the synchronicity gods, Asujaak, I knew I had to see it and, while it wasn't quite what I expected, I wasn't disappointed. How can any movie go wrong with a set of inflatable alien sex doll ninjas who can do synchronised dance routines? Well, for all that this contains more masturbation, more flying sperm and more sex-crazed babies than any movie ever should, it's really just a teen comedy, a coming of age yarn (if you don't mind the pun) that is oddly almost Mormon-friendly. Everything has to do with sex, but we don't actually get to see any, even with a number of porn movies broadcast during the film, and the only nudity is a brief shot of boobies on a DVD case being filed away. If there was any swearing, and it wasn't prominent in a couple of viewings, it could be easily replaced in the English subtitles. Just like the lead character, Sutin, this picture is obsessed with sex but it doesn't ever get any. That would only happen in a theoretical sequel once he grows up.

We meet him at a crucial time in his life. He's moved to Bangkok to become a rock star, but he spends a lot more time dreaming and obsessing over a teen idol. She's called Lammy in the version I have, Laem-Mee on the film's IMDb page and La-Mai on Wikipedia. Whatever the real Anglicised spelling is, she's an irresistably cute girl next door type model who appears on billboards and magazine covers, acts as the draw in an advertising campaign for Addict body spray and judges the local battle of the bands. It's like she was designed to be everywhere in Sutin's life, but he even sees her when his eyes are closed, as all his dreams are erotic fantasies featuring Lammy. One night she's saving him from a mob of ravenous fan girls in return for the privilege of giving him a blow job, the next she's knocking on his door in underwear and bubbles because her bath ran out of water and she needs to finish up by pouring his bottle over her head. If only he didn't wake up before the climax, as it were.
While he wants to be famous, he isn't, at least not yet. Soon he'll be famous in ways he'd never dreamed of and would rather be undone. When his local grocery store erupts in a fanfare because he's picked the winning can of Addict and he's asked to say something impressive to Lammy, he just hopes that he'll be able to screw her, even if it is just a dream. Which it isn't. He's live on national TV, promptly becoming a laughing stock for the whole country. No wonder he gets blistering drunk and has to be carried back to his apartment by his bandmates. But the next erotic dream goes horribly wrong and he finds himself back on the streets, trousers half undone, being accused of attempted rape by the first woman he literally bumps into. She calls the cops, who arrest him while whacking off to a poster of Lammy in the dark street. If that sounds like a detailed synopsis, it's just the beginning. We're 19 minutes in but we've only just got to the animated title credits, with his sperm finding their way into the sewers and sprouting faces.

And now it gets weird. Those sperm find their way back to the surface, where they float around like a icky swarm, impregnating every woman they can find, all of whom suddenly turn up pregnant. Very pregnant. After a day, they find themselves ready to give birth. Lives are suddenly ruined all over Bangkok, couples breaking up because of clear infidelity, and both the media and the army are all over it. And when all 400 women promptly give birth to babies with Sutin's face, there's a 500,000 baht reward out for information on the father. Even though he's just met up with Lammy in the grocery store, where she tells him that his words were refreshing because nobody ever talks straight to her, his life has just got considerably worse and is about to take a swan dive down the crapper because his sperm children are growing at the rate of four years per day, utterly obsessed with sex and reproducing by whacking off and dissolving, while their sperm impregnate women afresh. Sutin's sperm children might just bring about doomsday!
Everything I write seems to be dripping with semen, because it's everywhere here, but then the film aims to recount the growing pains of a young man so that's entirely appropriate. Sutin is really a nice guy, with the usual problems magnified because he's one of those people who the world seems to happen to. Sure, he has Marilyn Manson on his door and he wears a Cocknoose shirt, but he's just a sweet kid who's polite to everyone. He's played by Leo Putt, whose real name is Putthipong Sriwat (yes, every name is going to sound juvenile when associated with a movie like this). While he has a number of films to his credit, such as Dynamite Warrior, he also hilariously turns out to be the Thai dubbed voice of Spider-Man in the Sam Raimi movies. I'll never look at Peter Parker the same way again. Putt has oodles of fun being placed into hilariously awkward situations. How would you react if you had to masturbate to save the world? Or if an army of sex-obsessed babies with your face rush your girl? Or a giant child you threatens Bangkok?

If Sutin is a sweet kid, Lammy is the nicest and most grounded celebrity I've ever seen in film. Pimpaporn Leenutapong (what did I tell you about those names?) is the sort of young lady who could spark your lust and warm your grandma's heart at the same time. She's not conventionally beautiful but her smile is the work of angels and it's easy to understand Sutin's obsession. She's only made one other picture, Sayew, another coming of age comedy feature that revolves around sex, this time with her in the lead, playing a tomboy who writes the reader's experience column in a porn mag, even though she has a severe lack of experience in the subject, so decides to seek the reality of the subject from the public at large. I wonder why she hasn't done more, because she glides through this picture with a grace that is astounding given the subject matter. She's believable on those magazine covers and billboards, doing her shopping in the grocery store and as a damsel in distress stuck in the breast pocket of a giant child with the hots for her.
While Sutin and Lammy are by far the most prominent characters, there are a host of fascinating ones in support. Sutin's bandmates are an odd bunch, with the slow but UFO-obsessed Prasert and Surachai, the drummer, who apparently decides partway through the movie that he's a transvestite, playing the battle of the bands set in full drag, right down to a serious upturned hairdo. They're a thoroughly normal bunch when compared to the mystery man who reappears with his daughter in a barrage of increasingly surreal scenes until we figure out who he is. Apparently his character is called Dr Satifeung, though I didn't hear a name in the movie itself, and he's played by Somlek Sakdikul from the Buppah Rahtree movies with an agreeable relish. His hair is grey and wild, he creates miniature dogs for fun and he gets insane lines like, 'Such a genius... showing porno movies to children.' His daughter and assistant gets the dirty jobs, some of which fit every meaning of that word you can think of.

In Hollywood, coming of age movies tend to revolve around mundane things like being left at home while your family go on holiday or your dance group needing to win some talent show to avoid breaking up. It's no surprise that I find most of them depressingly dull. Sure, some have nuns and corpses and tongues on frozen poles, but how many of them have inflatable alien sex-doll ninjas, porno drive-in movie theatres or armies of identical masturbating children. Nah, I couldn't think of any either. That's a shame, because this is a lot more fun than anything I grew up watching. Sure, the pace is wildly inconsistent and the CGI faces make Sutin's bastard sperm children look like football players from a twentieth century video game, but I don't care. What they look like is far less important than the fact that they're bastard sperm children in a movie that could be shown on network television. You owe it to yourself to watch this and drink a shot for each scene that features flying sperm. 'For the human race,' says Lammy. You can do it too!

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