One Take Only (US - DVD R1)
Gabe checks out another Thai film, a drama from the co-director of The Eye...
On the mean streets of Bangkok, Bank and Som do what they must to survive. Bank sells drugs, Som is a prostitute. When these two young deviants find out they live in the same apartment complex, they become fast friends, and eventually fall in love. Plagued by nightmares of failure, this would-be Bonnie and Clyde attempt to score the money they need to make a better life.
In my last review, for a film called Sars Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis, I said that I only remembered seeing one other Thai film, Tony Jaa's Ong Bak. I've since remembered that I've also seen Bang Rajan (the R1 release of which has one of the worst transfers I've seen in a long time), and what do I find in my mailbox a few days later? Another Thai film, Oxide Pang's One Take Only.
Though I consider myself an avid horror fan, I'm unfortunately unfamiliar with the work of Oxide and his sometimes-collaborative twin brother Danny Pang. I caught about fifteen minutes of The Eye on TV one day, but opted to not watch it from the middle. Had I been more familiar with the director's work this film may've come as more of a revelation, as it's a valid attempt at adult drama, not a ghost story. I like it when filmmakers allow themselves to grow, but I'm left unsure of how much Pang grew when making this particular film, which does predate his first real hit The Eye by one year.
One Take Only is obviously a vanity project. Pang has written, directed, and edited the entire film on his own. This tells me that this was more or less exactly the film the young filmmaker set out to make. I appreciate this. Though I found the MTV visuals a little excessive, I cannot deny Pang control over the media. I'm assuming that the flick was made on the relative cheap, but it looks like a couple million bucks.
The film's Thai title translates to Bangkok for Sale, which makes a lot more sense than the rather nonsensical US title. The theme of the film is selling. Bank sells drugs to people who sell the drugs for more money. Som sells her body, an occupation her sister tries out later in the film, only to realize she isn't cut out for it. Through-out Bank and Som seem to express their love for each other by shopping and eating out, and there is an emotionally effective sub-plot involving a little girl selling necklaces at a busy intersection where Bank meets his partner.
All this underlining socio-political commentary is unfortunately lost among Pang's visual razzle dazzle, which itself is very reminiscent of two better films about disaffected, listless, and drug addled youth— Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream. The style similarities, as visually and thematically the same, do great damage to the film as a whole. Similar stories have also been tackled ad-nausium by East Asian filmmakers like Takashi Miike and Toshiaki Toyoda.
There are some original and moving moments throughout, specifically a major characters death and the little girl sub-plot, but despite the best efforts of these talent young actors, there isn't an honestly likeable lead character to be found in the entire film. Films like Trainspotting work beyond their flashy style and moralistic stories because the criminals portrayed are charming and engaging. In the end, it was my apathy towards these characters that caused me to not particularly enjoy the film.
One Take Only is very stylized, but utilizes mostly clean film stock, so the evaluation of the DVD's video output was pretty simple. When needed, colours are vibrant without too much blooming, specifically during Bank's monochromatic dream sequences. Pang has not sugar coated or over stylized most of Bangkok’s reality, and sometimes-darker scenes can be grainy, but compression and low-level noise are minimal. The prints only real detractor is the slight presence of edge-enhancement.
The film's hipper than hip music sounds great on both the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks. Bass throbs without buzzing, and the surround channels jump into the mix regularly. During dialogue sequences, audio often sounds damaged, inducing distortion. This may be due to the use of location sound recording, especially with-in the echoing halls of Bank and Som's apartment complex. Had the music numbers not sounded so great, I may not have noticed this distortion, or the general flatness of non-musical sequences. It appears that the stereo and surround channels are only utilized when bumping techno music is involved.
So far as extras pertaining to One Take Only, this disc is bare bones, with the exception of a trailer. Fans of the director who already own Tartan's release of follow up his solo effort, Ab-Normal Beauty, should be pleased as the disc contains a decent 'Making-of' that film. Unfortunately, those who haven't yet seen Ab-Normal Beauty (like myself) will have no real context when watching the behind the scenes material. I'm happy that Tartan hasn't jumped on the double-dip bandwagon just yet, but including additional material for a different film already on release is weird. I'm not even sure that this isn't the featurette already included on the Ab-Normal Beauty release.
Unsympathetic characters, unflattering comparisons to other films, and a bit too much flashy editing make One Take Only a bit low on my recommendations list. It's not an awful film, more of a missed opportunity. Fans of director Oxide Pang will definitely want to give this DVD a rent, at least. Thumbs up to Tartan USA for another fine video transfer, and a big shrug for the inclusion of a behind the scenes featurette concerning a different film.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 29th August 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Thai, Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: The Making of Ab-Normal Beauty, Trailer, Tartan Asia Extreme Trialers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Oxide Pang Chun
Cast: Pawarith Monkolpisit, Wanatchada Siwapornchai, Pawalit Mongkolpisit, Chalermporn Paprach
Length: 90 minutes
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