BLACK SILK (PG)

RATTANA PESTONJI

1961  |  Thailand  |  119 min  |  35mm  |  In Thai with English subtitles   |  PG

SYNOPSIS

Prae is a young widow who, still grieving over the death of her husband, refuses to start life anew with her lover. Desperately in need of money to convince Prae to marry him, Thom finds himself in the middle of a murder and an elaborate scandal. Prae is unwillingly dragged in as a victim, and the couple gets entangled in a web of deceit and heartbreak as things spiral out of control.

Black Silk, widely regarded as Thailand’s first film noir, was director Rattana Pestonji’s second colour film. Due to budget constraints, the director took on most of the production roles, including writer, producer, cinematographer and editor. His daughter was also cast as the main actress Prae.

One of Pestonji’s best works, Black Silk was also one of the first Thai films to be screened in competition overseas, earning the Golden Berlin Bear nomination in 1960.

Contemporary Thai filmmakers continue to be inspired by Black Silk. Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, considered to be one of Thai cinema’s leading “new wave” auteurs, said, “If I could choose, I would love to remake Prae Dum (Black Silk). It is so, so, so atmospheric and film noir. The shot when the camera pans from the coffin to the pair of sandals on the floor still gives me a chill. That shot would have made Hitchcock proud.

Awards: Berlin International Film Festival 1961 (Golden Bear - Nominee)

 

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR

Rattana Pestonji was considered by many as the ‘father of contemporary Thai cinema’. He constantly pushed for innovations in the Thai film industry, and Black Silk was among the first Thai films to be shot in 35mm when most directors were still shooting with 16mm.

A champion of local independent cinema, Pestonji had numerous run-ins with the government because of their conflicting ideals. Most notably, upon returning from the 1954 Asia Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo, the filmmaker was charged $5,000 tax for the $16,000 Mitchell Camera he had won for his first 35mm film Santi-Weena.

Pestonji continued to lobby for independent cinema in Thailand till his last breath. He died on August 17, 1970, while giving a speech appealing to Thai government officials and film producers for more support for local films. The Thai Film Promotion Board was set up a few days later in his honour to promote and encourage investment in Thai films.