'Beautiful Boxer' is a Beautiful Film Indeed!
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rising even higher than the greatest expectations engendered by the International Press when it became a favorite of the film festivals, BEAUTIFUL BOXER is one of the more poetic, sensitive, luxuriously vivid and colorful films to come out of Thailand - and that is saying a lot, given the extravagant epics that yearly grow in popularity. This work of art is simply stunning in content, in direction, in acting, and in heartfelt simplicity of message. This is a great one!
Writer/director Ekachai Uekrongtham based his first film on the true story of Parinaya Charoemphol AKA Nong Toom, a famous Thai athlete Muay Thai boxer (better known as 'kick boxer' - a demanding, dangerous sport) who entered the world of Muay Thai to garner enough money to help his family and pay for his ultimate sex-change surgery. A tough story to offer general audiences, perhaps, but Ekachai Uekrongtham presents this edgy biography with such cinematic finesse and care that it becomes a film that should appeal to a very wide audience. And much of that success is due to the towering performance by Asanee Suwan in his acting debut: Suwan is in life a professional kick boxer who won the title role after extensive auditions by many practitioners of Muay Thai.
BEAUTIFUL BOXER takes us through the life of Nong Toom, his childhood in a family of loving accepting parents who respect his love of beauty and things feminine, his brief period of being a monk sho must leave the monastery because of his inclinations, through his introduction to makeup and play-acting women's roles in the Thai theatres, his ridicule as being more girl than boy (a fact that results in his parents' incarceration!), and his devoted friendship with a girl who supports his desire for femininity and a young man who stands up for him in the boys' camp for learning sports. Gradually Nong Toom realizes that the only way he can make enough money to achieve a sex change operation is to become a successful kick boxer and he aligns himself with a trainer Pi Chart (Sorapong Chatree) and with much commitment and practice becomes Thailand's most famous Muay Thai. His self-respect is further established when he openly wears makeup in the boxing ring, causing many to believe his act is a gimmick and not the manifestation of his true transsexualism. He fights the toughest opponents and wins consistently until he at last arrives in Toyko for the 'big purse' of fighting female wrestler Kyoko Inoue (who plays herself). With the money from the fight he is able to have his surgery and becomes the famous actress and model now living in Bangkok.
Under less sensitive eyes and minds this story could have become audacious, but instead the film elects to be sensitive to the transsexual conviction that Nong Toom is a woman trapped in a man's body, and it is the journey of self acceptance and personal victory that makes the story so deeply touching. Asanee Suwan, as a fine athlete, does all of his own fighting in the film and it is more choreography than brutality. He is amazing to watch and coupled with the fact that he is so wholly convincing in his fine acting that he makes this young transsexual utterly credible in movement, emotional density, and purity of vision is an extraordinary achievement.
Yes, the film has a few flaws of editing and other minor aspects, but the overwhelming power of the story more than compensates for those 'first film' learning curves. Highly recommended for ALL audiences, especially for those who fear there will be gratuitous physical scenes that might offend. There are none! Grady Harp, August 05"
The Poetry of Boxing
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 02/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The world of Noon Toom (Asanee Suwan) is a world askew, a paradox really for Noon is not only a terrific and talented Thai Kick-boxer, he is a young man who is sensitive to the female side of his personality. As his mother says to her husband, early on: if my son turns out be a transvestite that is our karma...we must accept him for what he is.
But born into a tough, hard-working farm family, Noon was also taught not to take any guff from anyone even it meant using your fists to settle an argument. And Noon embarks upon his life with the psychological backing and support of his family: a life that places him in a kick-boxing match from which he learns that he has a real talent for the sport, through a short stay at a monastery and ultimately as a champion kick-boxer.
Toom's gender bending becomes more and more apparent to his fans as his talent and stature rises in the Thai kick-boxing world: his fans take his wearing makeup and outlandish colored trunks as a gimmick, even when he takes to kissing his defeated opponents.
But it is when Toom decides to pursue a surgical transformation that the waters part: some take it as an outrage, most see it as insulting and besmirching Thai manhood.
"Beautiful Boxer" is a remarkable film, in that on the one hand it is ironic, soft and supple as a beautiful woman and on the other hand it is hard, muscled and bloody as a well-fought boxing match. That director, Ekachai Uekrongtham, with his unique and knowing insight has bridged the gap between the two is remarkable. That he has made a film of such uncommon grace, gritty realism and transformative beauty is quite another.
Strength, coordination and a willingingness to be hurt. But
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 05/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This Thai film tells the true story of Parinya Chareonphol, a transvestite kick boxer. I was fascinated by the exotic setting and the world of kick boxing. And I was even more fascinated by the fact that this particular young man became famous throughout Thailand by wearing full makeup in the ring as well as consistently winning every fight.
We first meet young Nong Toom as a child. He finds a lipstick and dresses up to amuse his family. Later, when the family falls into poverty, he discovers he is good at kick boxing and helps support them. After schooling in a monastery where he discovers he does not belong, he enrolls in a kick boxing camp where he trains very hard in this form of martial arts. However, he still likes to put on makeup and does it secretly. When he is discovered, his instructor tells him to wear it in the boxing ring. It completely unnerves his opponents.
I found this all fascinating as I had never seen a kick boxing match. It certainly involves strength and coordination and a willingness to be hurt. The combatants wear boxing gloves but they also use their bare feet to fight. It looks like a difficult and precise art that requires discipline and courage to master. Our hero does just that in spite of many obstacles.
However, our hero lives a tortured life as he really wants to be a woman. By now the audience understands this wants him to get his dream.
I really enjoyed this film. It held my interest throughout and although at times it was predictable, I just couldn't stop watching. I loved the setting and found myself learning more than I ever knew about Thailand and its culture. The acting was great and so was the cinematography. And, most of all, I loved stepping into this very different world for a little while and really understanding the character.
+Beautiful Boxer is a beautiful film+
Callaway | florida | 09/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Thai film about the famous transgendered fighter, Nong Toom is an excellent film. It moves incredibly slow at times, but it was not shot in Hollywood, so don't go into this one expecting alot of eye candy. The film is rudimentary at best, but also scathingly open and honest. The fight scenes are good, the build-up to each fight done well...
Beautiful Boxer is definitely worth watching, especially if you like import films or fighting. Half of this movie would be labeled a "chick flick" by most Americans...but the drawn out story of the transition is worth watching."