Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jacques à la plage, or Thoughts on The Beach

The Beach (2000), from the novel of the same name by Alex Garland and directed by Danny Boyle from 28 Days Later (2002) and Trainspotting (1996, and one of the greatest soundtracks of the 90s), is a Thai tourist thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Richard, an American backpacker in search of an optimal experience.  He’s searching for the authentic Thailand, far beyond the standard typical venues, and a life less ordinary, (which coincidentally was the title of Danny Boyle’s previous 1997 film).  Together with Francoise, as portrayed by Virginie Ledoynne and her inconvenient boyfriend Etienne they find a small community on a secluded lagoon on a secret island that’s completely unspoiled. 
The compound is commanded by Tilda Swinton from Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and Doctor Strange (2016) as Sal, the benevolent dictator.  In the book Sal was obese, she was described as an ancient fertility goddess.  (Regrettably, as much as I love movies, I am one of those people who will compare the movie to the book).
Nothing supernatural or particularly grim happens, this isn’t The Ruins (2008) or Turistas, (2006), but the movie takes a dark turn as the micro-society de-evolves into Lord of the Flies or Walking Dead territory but you know, without the zombies. 
Watch out for Paterson Joseph, Johnson from Peep Show and Giroux in Æon Flux (2005) as Keaty, one of the beach hippies.   If Alex Garland seems familiar that’s because you remember him as the writer and director of ExMachina (2015).  Leo as you know was fresh off Titanic (1996) and 2 years away from making Gangs of New York (2002), the movie that truly signified his break from teen idol to serious actor.
The beach is the real star of the movie; filmed on Ko Phi Phi Lee island, เกาะพีพีเล, it is spectacularly perfect and unspoiled.  The irony is this movie brought so much attention and tourists to the island that it’s now another standard tourist destination that Richard was trying to avoid.  Incidentally, Scaramanga’s lair from The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) is Khao Phing Kan, เขาพิงกัน, on the same coast.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).