There’s a moment early on in Tears of the Black Tiger (rolling release starting Friday, 1/12) when a Looney Tunes–worthy gunfight whips by so fast, you wish you could hit the instant-replay button. Fortunately, Tears comes through for you: A title card appears, asking “Did you catch that? If not, we’ll play it again!” — at which point the absurd trajectory of the magic bullet is shown in comic slo-mo.
This neo-Western is, amazingly, Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng’s first feature. (A Cannes hit in 2001, it’s finally getting U.S. distribution.) It’s not only a fabulous genre mash-up — imagine Sergio Leone doing Romeo and Juliet — it’s a visual riot, thanks to the super-saturated, candy-colored, lo-fi special-effects palette. Think of Sasanatieng as the Southeast Asian Michel Gondry; like Gondry, he honed his crowd-pleasing skills directing TV commercials.
The story, set in the Thai countryside, is winningly basic (peasant boy Dum falls in love with rich girl Rumpoey and spends much of the film in gunfights defending her honor), but Tears is a joyfully, ingeniously convoluted thrill ride, a good old-fashioned movie movie.
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