Wednesday, August 4

Bangkok Traffic Love Story (Thailand, 2009)

My parents met on a train in the 1960s. After accidentally taking what he thought was a vacant seat, he chatted up mom and offered her boiled eggs, which made mom giggle. He was a soldier on vacation; she was a young social worker who had just moved to Manila. It's a story I got tired of hearing when I was a child. It's a story I long to hear now as a man in his mid-30s trying to make life work.

Impossible lovers transformed by what is possible, there's really nothing more comforting than that. Bangkok Traffic [Love] Story (Rod fai fah...Ma ha na ter) or BTS exploits the formula of mismatched characters finding love with charming agility, hastily moving from one hilarious encounter to another until Li, who sells solar cells, and Loong, a BTS Skytrain engineer who mostly works at night, end up in a planetarium where it is day and night at the same time.

Promoted to celebrate the BTS's 10th anniversary, the film is obsessed with motion: forward, sideways, backward, falling. And wouldn't it be great if we bump into someone to navigate the twists and turns with? Much like being on a train, the scenery changes fast; love and loneliness are fleeting emotions squished between holidays and stations. Oftentimes, the film feels like several stand-alone episodes strung together without much consideration of narrative coherence but I was having too much fun to mind the style.

I remember a friend, Luis Katigbak, once writing about how music transforms into something else when you're listening to it and traveling at the same time. There really is something about trains, about MRTs, MTRs or BTSs, that make you feel more alive than usual, more hopeful than you're allowed to.

My parents met on a train in the 1960s and I've often tried to recreate that moment in my head. Bangkok Traffic [Love] Story is a laid-back, honest, fun ride. It's a breezy commute. It's a possibility I wouldn't mind hopping on. 3/5