Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, starring Chartchai Ngamsan and Stella Malucchi.
Set in a parallel world (roughly translating as 1950's Thailand) 'Tears of the Black Tiger' weeps the story of the doomed love between rich girl Rumpoey (Malucchi) and poor boy Dum (Ngamsan). They meet as children during the war and then as students in Bangkok and on both occasions Dum sacrifices his own welfare to protect Rumpoey. The first time he saves her from some local yobs on a riverboat but is savagely beaten by his father because Rumpoey nearly drowns; the second he pulverises three men who attack her in a park and is expelled from university for his conduct.
Rumpoey promises to wait for Dum even if it is against her politician father's wishes, but the worst is yet to come: Dum returns home to the country to find his father has been murdered by bandits. Throwing away any hopes of happiness, he becomes an avenging angel, joins a rival gang of cowboys and earns the name of the fastest gun in the East - The Black Tiger. But through every shootout and standoff, Rumpoey is never far from his thoughts...
A former ad director, Sasanatieng became the toast of Cannes for his debut which pays tribute to both the Thai action films of the 1960's (known locally as 'Bomb-the-mountain, burn-the-huts' movies) and the godfather of Thai indie flicks, Rattana Pestonji. Mixing the melodrama of Sirk with the gun play of Peckinpah, he's created a hilarious and touching trawl through genres: men laugh as if their lives depended on it, women cry as if the practice is soon to be outlawed and the music sounds like it came from a cinema organ recently bought from a pawn shop.
In Sasanatieng's universe cowboys wear just as much lipgloss as the heroine and face blood oaths in front of Buddha statues, hankie heavy romance on deserted beaches and a finale which suggests that Sasanatieng has seen 'Scarface' more than once. With its over the top day-glo images, this film will make you squint more inside the cinema than when you leave it – it's like someone let a toddler play with the colour on a telly for 90 minutes.
But even the tacky palette can't detract from Sasanatieng's visual flair: on no budget he has superb set pieces and manages to appear both gifted (when Dum injures his head in a boat fight the entire river turns red) and irreverent (the audience are asked whether they missed a bullet ricocheting and are then shown it in slow motion) from scene to scene.
Hollywood should come calling soon for Sasanatieng, in the meantime 'Tears of the Black Tiger' gives you some idea of what would happen if Ang Lee and John Woo were asked to make a cartoon together.