FOR THE LOVE OF LIGHT AND SHADOW: A REVIEW OF COLIN COTTERILL'S THE MOTION PICTURE TELLER.
Colin Cotterill demonstrates that rare ability that it seems only someone British possesses. He can deliver biting satire while capturing a deep humanism from his characters. In his Dr. Siri Paiboun series that is a biting critique of Laotian government while embracing its people. With The Motion Picture Teller, he switches the location to Thailand and the subject to movies.
Cotterill gives us Supot Yongjaiyat, the worst member of the Royal Thailand Postal service. He escape his failed life through cinema. He watches much of it with his buddy Ali in the back of Ali's video store. The two Thai slackers would be at home in a Kevin Smith movie, talking girls, picking on each other, and most of all, picking apart movies. Their biggest complaint in life is the state of modern Thia cinema.
The prayers for a great film of their homeland are answered. A box of tapes are left by a homeless man who tried to sell them. Most of the movies are the Western classics they revere, except for one titled Bangkok 2010. Supot and Ali discover a noirish sci-fi set in a dystopian Thailand. Shot in mesmerizing black and white, with a story and performances both moving and unsentimental, Bangkok 2010 proves to be a dream movie. Even more of a dream, since Supot and Ali don't recognize any of the players and there proves to be no history on them or any crew member.
With a little detective work, Supt is able to send a fan letter to the lead actress, Siriluk, who he's fallen for. She responds politely and begs Supot not to show the film to anybody else. Now even more obsessed, Supot travels into the rural part of the country to find Siriluk and uncovers the mystery of Bangkok 2010. He discovers so much more.
Cotterill uses his mystery to delve into the relationship films have with their fanatics. Supot and Ali could have easily been a part of my circle of friends in the who lived thousands of miles away from them, hitting the new releases every Friday night. The book understands that for this social culture talking about movies, either good or bad, is as fun as watching them. When that movie touches greatness that all agree on, each feel changed and that bond is strengthened. Their reaction to Bangkok 2010 reminded me of walking out of the theater with my buds after Pulp Fiction. Cotterill captures twenty something cinephiles in their knowledge, wit, and, yes, snootiness.
Movies provide dreams in many forms. They push some of us to pursue making them, create a dream space to occupy oneself for a couple of hours, or a critical one to discuss one for hours after. The people touched y them create a meaning to the work greater than the creators themselves. Cotterill expresses all of this with a deft hand and full heart. The life of a movie geek can be tough, but there is a lot of love under that snark. Far from the worst book ever!