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A Thai film with a unique story = "Beautiful Boxer" - CinemaDave

Feb. 16th, 2005 10:59 pm A Thai film with a unique story = "Beautiful Boxer"

One of the most influential books for Hollywood
screenwriters is Professor Joseph Campbell's "The
Hero with a 1000 Faces." George Lucas often referred
to this book when he was creating his "Star Wars"
saga. Professor Campbell's thesis states that
regardless of different cultural influences, the story
of the hero was always the same. Frequently born in
poverty, the antagonist would go on a journey, learn
something important about them self and return to
their home. Once home, the hero would then use his now
found powers and become a community hero. Ulysses,
Frodo Baggins and Luke Skywalker all share this
similar pattern in their story.

"Beautiful Boxer" is a movie from Thailand.
"Beautiful Boxer" has much in common with the
American made "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" movies
because all these leading characters mask their secret
identity. Parinaya is a sensitive young child who is
taught by his parents to avoid violence. Parinaya's
parents work long hours for a laundry service. Like an
Irish Mother who sends one of their sons to seminary,
Parinaya's mother decides that her little guy needs
further education in a Buddhist commune.

Besides prayers and meditation rituals, Parinaya
learns that he has a talent for kickboxing. Among his
peers, Parinaya becomes the prodigy of his temple. As
he begins to gain national recognition, Parinaya
begins to feel uneasy. He is shy in the communal
bathing area and has problem sleeping when his male
colleagues are near. As Parinaya rises through the
ranks towards the kick boxing championship, he begins
to act more effeminate. Taking on the public name of
Nong Toom, Parinaya becomes a media sensation in Asia
and develops a large cult following.

Based on a true story, "Beautiful Boxer" features a
likable character whose motives are bigger than his
personal need. While his initial motivation is to
support his family, Parinaya personal struggle is
identity. Parinaya wants to raise enough money for a
sex change operation.

Given the subject matter, Director Ekachai Uekrongtham
needs to be commended for not creating a "Jerry
Springer" show rip off. The dramatic scenes are
handled with taste and dignity for all the characters.
Humor does arise from these situations. Rival kick
boxers provide peculiar reactions to battling this
girlie man. A mentor encourages Parinaya to obtain
waterproof make-up due to the heat and sweat of
battle. One rival attempts to out diva the diva. The
most brutal beating Nong Toom issues goes to a former
friend. These old friends become new rivals because
the old friend broke a moral code. The friend lied.
Despite the flamboyant Muhammad Ali showmanship, all
participants generally emphasize the respect for the
sport. The fight scenes in the ring are well done. In
fact, fans of "Rocky" and "Rambo" will appreciate
this manly art of self-defense. The avant-garde crowd
will appreciate the issues of sexual identity and
social norms. Either way, one will appreciate the
flamboyant visual perspective. One interesting
footnote, the real Parinya Charoenphol has a cameo
appearance as the facial masseuse in the beauty parlor
scene late in the movie.

While English subtitles are required given the
language barrier, "Beautiful Boxer" is an arresting
motion picture. The outdoor visuals enhance the
storyline. As Parinaya, actor Asanee Suwan gives a
universal and empathetic performance. There are many
cinematic elements that blend together that makes
"Beautiful Boxer" an entertaining two hours.

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