A Visually Stunning, Bold, and Intensely Moving Film
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"JAN DARA is one of those rare films that succeeds on many levels: the story as adapted from a famous Thai novel 'The Story of Jan Dara' by Utsana Phleungtham is one of intrigue and exploration of lust, revenge, and thwarted passion; the cinematography by Nattawut Kittikhun is incredibly atmospheric while at the same time pausing for some of the most beautiful studies of nature on film; the musical score by Chartchai Pongprapapan and Pakawat Waiwitaya mixes the exotic pentatonic Oriental melodies with quaint excerpts from early recordings of Richard Strauss and Puccini operas; the direction by Nonzee Nimibutr is so sensuously elegant that this film firmly establishes him as an important figure in international filmmaking.
Simply stated, the story is about Jan Dara, the son of a woman who died giving birth to him, his life as an abused and unwanted child in the house of his 'father' spent searching for the love of his lost mother, his first encounters with passion and love, his adaptation to the realities of surviving in a family fraught with conflicts and bizarrely tangled interrelationships, and the disillusionment that comes with the discovery of his true family history and how the way his life comes full circle. It is a period piece and includes the outside effects of WW II in an otherwise sequestered house of strange isolation.
While JAN DARA includes many sensuous scenes (the 'first memory' of Jan Dara is watching his 'father' in an indiscretion with his beloved aunt), these scenes are photographed so sensitively that they become studies like Kama Sutra paintings rather than being vulgar. The story makes many flashbacks and flashforwards and keeping the various actors at the different ages of these sequences straight can be problematic. The cast is uniformly excellent and credible, even when they may be too evil to watch!
Here is an example of Oriental films that don't rely on choreographic martial arts to sustain interest. In that way it is similar to the beautiful SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN, WINTER, SPRING, and for those who enjoy the subtle arts of Asia this film is a must. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 05"
If you enjoy The Last Emperor, you will enjoy Jan Dara too!
PFunkster | Iowa City, Iowa (USA) | 12/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I should start out by telling you what not to expect. The front cover might lead you to assume that Jan Dara is going to be a sexy love story. You will be partially correct with that assumption because there is a lot of sex in Jan Dara, from beginning to end, and there is also a love story in it. However, the love story is a very small part of the plot and the sex scenes are often disturbing instead of erotic. Essentially, the movie is about a boy (Jan Dara) raised in his resentful stepfather's home, with tensions heightened because Jan Dara's mother died giving birth to him. People are sometimes in the mood for a tragic movie or play and Jan Dara will certainly satisfy that mood. It even has a shocking ending, which I won't give away other than to mention that it gives teasers to the ending throughout the movie. I am giving it five stars because it is a very well made movie and it does give a glimpse at what Thai culture may have been like for some people fifty to seventy-five years ago. Although Jan Dara is a completely different movie from The Last Emperor that is the closest film that I can think of to compare it to. If you enjoy The Last Emperor, you will very likely enjoy Jan Dara too."
Beautiful Thai film that's erotically dark
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 01/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was quickly won over with one reviewer's perception of this film and sure enough this film was very interesting and intriguing enough for me to never leave my seat. Jan Dara opens with the eccentric statement that the film is based on the writer's first novel, and that it's not for religious people. Jan Dara is a young Thai with a traumatic background. The name "Jan Dara" is given to an infant boy whose mother died giving birth to him. The father (Santisuk Promsiri) blames the boy, actually giving him the name "Jan" the short form of a Thai word meaning "accursed."
Believe it or not, that's probably when the father was nicest to the boy. His earliest memories recall his father's sexual relationship with his childhood nanny. Branded a "bastard" by his father, Jan is later disowned and cast out of the house. Years later Jan Dara returns to seek revenge by outdoing his father's sexual conquests. The movie rapidly progresses through Jan's childhood and the physical and emotional abuse involved. Before long, Jan is a young man (Eakarat Sarsukh) who struggles with his identity and his hatred for his father.
The movie is set in an unspecified region of China in the 1920s through the late 1930s (a date is never given, but a newspaper mentions Pres., who was in office from 29 to 33). However, the outside world never affects Jan or his family. The reason the movie seems to be set there and then is that the producers needed what was a basically a feudal time, when the father was lord of his estate and could legally beat up servants and have sex with their wives.
There is a tremendous amount of sex in Jan Dara. It's not sensual lovemaking, either, just people using each other in the harshest ways. Almost everybody has sex with everybody else. Father and son share concubines (although father doesn't know it). That warning for religious people to stay away now seems like a good idea. The biggest drawback is that the story proceeds much too quickly toward the end. All of sudden people are pregnant, married or missing, and it's never shown how or why. The only member of the cast who may be known to is Christy Chung, who plays the father's main mistress. Jan Dara is a good choice for fans who has a place in there heart for the love of foreign films believe me it captures mine.
Christy Chung is Mesmerizing!
Wing Lee | Toronto, Ontario | 05/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am glad I had seen this movie, because it's Christy Chung breakthrough performance, at the same time it's a very sexually disturbing film which reminded me of Juliette Binoche's Damage. I am not a fan of Christy, but it's amazing to see her transformed herself into a highly sexualized and Westernized stepmother role in this period drama that dealt with issues including abuse, abandonment, abortion, sexual perversion, and revenge in a wealthy Thai household. Also, she not only looked glamorous and beautiful, she also learnt all her lines in Thai. She gets to sleep with the adolence lead and another woman.
A few disturbing scenes in this film including the little boy witnessing his father having sex, and the scene when Christy assisted her lover to have an abortion that caused a massive of amount of bleeding.
This film is provocative, and can be overwhelming for some mainstream viewers. If you are a fan of Christy Chung, then you should not miss it."