Revisionist Western, maybe, but too stiff upper lippy. If anything, Tears of the Black Tiger is a bubbling soup of neon backdrops, dashing violence and easy laughs that reshapes the best of old Thai movies---or Asian films in general because we seem to share the penchant for gushing melodrama, wooden acting and cowboy-hybrid fetish.
I've seen this movie both drunk and sober and I highly recommend watching it in both state. Sober, director Wisit Sasanatieng's eye for ravishing visuals is breathtaking: The river littered with migraine-pink lotus flowers, the painted swirling sunset, the mansion and its rooms deliciously pink. The plot's simplicity is a necessity; it's Sasanatieng's vision that is allowed to flourish, to explode.
Drunken, it's a fucking hoot. This brought me back to afternoons spent as a child watching Pinoy westerns starring Lito Lapid, which more or less followed the same formula. Rich girl loves poor boy but poor boy a) loses family in a fire b) family is murdered c) family is murdered then house is set on fire. So poor boy grows up to be an outlaw but is pure at heart. Rich girl continues to pine for him but is already betrothed to a rich man or a man in uniform. And it all ends tragically but on a bittersweet note, sealed with a kiss on the forehead, and a solitary tear down a cheek.
Tears of the Black Tiger effortlessly pulls off refreshing a tired genre with intense artistry that is as playful as it is cinematic. The Region 1 DVD includes a featurette on the making of the film. The quality isn't good---I'm assuming it's a TV broadcast recording---but there's nothing like hearing (and seeing) Sasanatieng along with the cast and crew discuss both the technical and artistic aspects of the film. *****