Jan Dara (2001)

Directed by
Is tragic erotica a new genre?
Reviewed by Simon on 2002-07-21

Whilst the prospect of Christy Chung getting kitless wasn't exactly horrible to me, it was rather the fact that JAN DARA was directed by the consistently excellent Nonzee Nimibutr that landed the DVD in my shopping cart.

Poor Jan Dara has a bad start in life - his mother dies in childbirth, and his father hates him thereafter as a result (or maybe just because he's an unpleasant person at heart). Not a great household to be growing up in in the 1920/30/40-ish years in which Jan is a young boy. But as he reaches young man age, the affluent household seemingly full to the brim of luscious females does turn out to have some benefits.

The movie is about Jan's early life, and particularly about his early sexual experiences - and the sexual experiences of everyone around him for that matter. This is one of those movies that makes me feel that everybody in the world is having more sex than me (admittedly, every movie from Mary Poppins up has that effect - it's just the movies, right?). The characters here hop into and out of each others beds with such frequency and complexity that it's like they're the pieces in a game of sex-chess or something. Former Miss Hong Kong Christy Chung is just one of a bevy of pretty ladies who end up on their backs for half the movie.

But JAN DARA is far from a bedroom farce - Nonzee Nimibutr is a film maker with much more skill, class and brains than that. Actually it's taken from a Thai novel, and it does feel very novelistic - quite high brow (though down-beat). The characters are very well developed and explored, and the period setting is loving realised with great cinematography. Totally excellent soundtrack too.

Ultimately JAN DARA is not a happy movie - there's a viciousness in his family environment that leads to basically unhappy people all round most of the time. One can hardly blame them for trying to screw themselves into a coma in search of a little respite from the gloom. Though not happy, it is very enjoyable however - because it's a well written, well directed, well acted and generally very well made piece of film. That and all the sex :))



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