This week Trent Film Society is showing Citizen Dog, a romantic comedy without the ordinary overused plot and scenes.
Although the film’s title makes reference to the classical film Citizen Kane, it is actually a completely different film. In fact, the film that is most often compared to Citizen Dog is Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, which TFS cohosted a screening of last fall with the Trent Study Abroad office.
Indeed, there are a lot of similarities between the two films. The stories are both narrated by a plain male voice whose indifferent tone adds irony and humour to the film. Their plots both surround eccentric characters and their daily life with lonely protagonists who long for love but lack the courage to pursue it.
Closely following Pod (the protagonist in Citizen Dog) and Amélie, the audience is introduced to the their rich inner world that is full of fantasy, odd superstition, and funny incidents.
Nonetheless, it would be an oversimplification to consider Citizen Dog as a Thai version of Amélie. Set in rapidly developing Bangkok, Citizen Dog is not only a romance story.
Hidden under the over-saturated colour tone, which the director favours in order to create a sense of nostalgia, is an honest observation of the industrialization and urbanization that occurs all over the world in developing cities.
Citizen Dog opens up with a warning from Pod’s grandma that “if you ever get a job in Bangkok, you’ll wake up the next morning with a tail wagging out of your ass.” Pod, who is puzzled by this seemingly joking metaphor, disregards the warning and leaves his country home for Bangkok to search for a new job.
However, when he gets to the city, Jin, the girl he secretly admires, tells him that only the privileged have tails. In the end, when all the people in Bangkok grow a tail except for Pod, he becomes a media celebrity.
So what does the tail, whether metaphorically or physically, symbolize?
Maybe a closer look at Pod’s life in Bangkok would tell us the answer. With Pod and other characters’ experiences as they live, work, and fall in love, the film touches on many common issues that characterize the metropolis in developing countries. The urbanization of population, the consequent traffic chaos, the exploitation of labour in the factory, and the alienation in human relationship in a big city are all part of Pod’s ordinary life. The accident Pod encounters as a worker at a sardine can factory also resonates with Chaplin’s Modern Times, where workers are forced to catch up with demand for faster manufacture line.
Environmental issues, on the other hand, take up a large role in the latter part of the film. Jin becomes a fervent environmentalist by accident and her effort in collecting used plastic bottles creates a surreal plastic mountain at the heart of Bangkok. Like many other unreal things in the film (a talking gecko and ghost motorcyclist for example), the plastic mountain brings magical allure to the story, and juxtaposes Pod’s ordinary yet sincere life, showing how precious this is in a rapidly changing world.
Please join us for a FREE screening of Wisit Sasanatieng’s Citizen Dog, Wednesday January 28, at 8pm @ ARTSPACE, 378 Aylmer Street (between Hunter and Simcoe). All are welcome!