Bangkok Nites

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Bangkok Nites

Directed by Katsuya Tomita

  • Japan, France, Thailand, Laos 2016; 183 min
  • Original version: Japanese, Thai, Isan, English, Lao, Tagalog, French
  • Genre: Drama

Synopsis

Bangkok, an endlessly expanding megalopolis. In its heart is Thaniya Road, a red-light district, frequented by Japanese men. Luck is one of the reigning queens there. Living alone in a luxury apartment, she provides for her large family in the northeastern provinces, near the Laotian border. One day Luck comes across Ozawa, a Japanese client with whom she had fallen in love five years earlier. An ex-soldier with the Japanese Defense Army, he barely ekes out a living, and has a modest room on skid row. When Ozawa has to go to Laos, she accompanies him to introduce him to her family and childhood friends. During this short stay, weary of his life in Bangkok, Ozawa starts dreaming of a quiet life in this little village, but becomes aware of the scars left by colonialism.

Director's Statement

“Thailand is paradise.” Two men say this same line in our previous films SAUDADE and OFF HIGHWAY 20. When Japan was riding high on its bubble economy in the late 80s, the travel stories told by older men returning from trips all over Asia were all about women. And we Japanese with our strong currency boasted proudly about how cheap everything was, and bragged about what a paradise it was we had visited as though we personally had achieved something.

For me, as an adolescent at that time, my first image of “paradise” was Okinawa, which travel companies tempted us to visit with catchphrases like “paradise of everlasting summer.” Okinawa, Japan’s westernmost point, a beautiful subtropical archipelago, had been under occupation by the American army since World War II (Okinawa being the only battle to be fought on Japanese soil) but was returned to Japanese rule in 1972. I was immersed in the exotic feeling the ad copy had promised as I walked down the street there. I set out for the base with my camera in hand to take souvenir pictures. An American soldier immediately shouted, “NO!” at me in a menacing tone. Flustered, I pointed my camera in the opposite direction, and I saw a woman standing alongside the highway on the sidewalk where there were a number of shops. I was enchanted by the beauty of this woman who appeared to have mixed Asian and European ancestry. The experience was so new to me that I was transfixed. She disappeared inside somewhere, and I walked down a back alley. When the shops started to open in the run-down red light district for American soldiers, a strange old lady seemed to be approaching the soldiers who came out of the base and soliciting them. Even I could tell from the way they treated the old lady that this was an ordinary occurrence.

Right after I finished my previous work, SAUDADE, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant explosion of March, 2011 happened. Almost all the people who wanted to get far away from Fukushima by heading west set their sights on Okinawa. One thing that I’ve come to understand as a result of this disaster is that people who have lost their paradise are the ones who go looking for paradise.

What is “paradise?” BANGKOK NITES starts by drawing on the image of “Thailand” encountered in SAUDADE as a “Japan within mainland Asia.” They are separated by an ocean, but they are linked today by colonial history.

Production

  • KUZOKU

    Terutarô Osanaï