Philosophy, politics and homage in Tears of the Black Tiger

Sutton, Damian (2012) Philosophy, politics and homage in Tears of the Black Tiger. In: Deleuze and film. Martin-Jones, David and Brown, William, eds. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. ISBN 9780748641215. [Book Section]


The value of Deleuze’s cinema philosophy is poorly served by the assumption that the time-image is the only appropriate tool to investigate a post-Classical cinema of nostalgia and homage, in which the motifs of classical cinema are recapitulated for a reflexive audience. Such an assumption neglects the role of naivety as a device to explore the possibilities of social change, as well as the philosophical potential of Deleuze’s movement-image in understanding it.
This chapter examines through Deleuze’s movement-image the role of naïve homage in Wisit Sasanatieng’s Fa thalai jone (2000), a Thai ‘Western’ which addresses gang crime, revolution and militarism in the 1950s and 1960s. Using highly stylised production design and cinematography, including tinted ‘lobby card’ publicity, the film employs homage to Hollywood and Thai drama and action cinema (particularly that of Rattana Pestonji) alike to mix the politics of nationhood politics into a prima facie revisionist Western. The film follows the tragedy of Rumpoey, caught in a triangle with her doomed sweetheart Dum (‘Black Tiger’) and military police captain Kumjorn, and menaced by Dum’s wayward sidekick Mahesuan. Rumpoey’s dilemma reflects on the historical possibilities offered by different political aspirations and the nation states they might create: honour, order or anarchy. As such the characters of Rumpoey and Dum represent a trend noted by Sumita Chakravarty in non-Western new cinemas, whereby women ‘bear the brunt of the vicissitudes of history [whilst] it is the men who are actually sacrificed in history’s slaughterhouse.’
At first glance the potentialities represented in Rumpoey’s desire reflect Deleuze and Guattari’s three states of the body without organs: full, empty and cancerous. However in order to exploit in narrative the political tragedy of such potentialities, Wisit’s film is required to engage with the structures of the cinema of the period he examines - the Westerns of Hawks or the movies of Rattana for instance - rather than simply pastiche them. This suggests that only a careful exploration of Deleuze’s movement-image philosophy, engaging with his brilliant analysis of SAS' and ASA' narrative structures, will facilitate an appropriate and meaningful understanding of the role of homage as a tool of political as well as emotional cinema.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords (uncontrolled): Deleuze; Thai cinema; Wisit Sasanatieng; Tears of the Black Tiger; Fa Thalai Jone; body without organs
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Visual Culture and Curating cluster
Item ID: 7270
Depositing User: Damian Sutton
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2011 15:18
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2017 15:32

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