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Kino on Video presents

Jan Dara (2001)

"Does anyone ever remember exactly when they first became aware of the world?"- Jan Dara (Suwinit Panjamawat)

Stars: Suwinit Panjamawat, Santisuk Promsiri, Christy Chung, Eakarat Sarsukh, Wipawee Charoenpura
Other Stars: Sasithorn Panichnok
Director: Nonzee Nimibutr

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nudity, sexual situations, brief gore, violence, and brief scenes of cock fighting
Run Time: 01:48:20
Release Date: 2005-05-10
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Kino, with their long-standing interest in world cinema, has stepped forward again to issue two films by Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr. The first is the horror tale Nang Nak; he followed up that film with Jan Dara, a heated tale of familial tensions and passions.

The title character (played by four actors as time passes within the film) faces a difficult existence from birth. Young Jan earns his father's lifelong enmity when his mother dies after giving birth. His father, Khun Leung (Santisuk Promisiri), treats young Jan badly enough to wish for the child's death. Fortunately, his mother's sister, Waad (Wipawee Charoenpura), is there to protect and raise him. As Jan tells us early on, his first memory is of his father having sex with Waad, while Jan slept in the same bed. Waad eventually becomes pregnant with Leung's child, a daughter Leung raises to hate Jan and be as rotten as Leung is. It should be noted that, as Jan tells us, Leung was distraught by his wife's death that he quit his job and swore never to marry again. This did not stop him from sleeping with seemingly every woman who stepped into his house, however.

By the time Jan is a teen, he is experiencing the normal sexual urges of the teenage boy as well as love. The sexual side of his life appears in Khun Boonlueang (Christy Chung), a former girlfriend of his father's, newly back in his life. She moves in to the guesthouse, and invites Jan to get to know her better, since she is another aunt of sorts. Jan, needless to say, is happy to agree. The "pure love" side of Jan's life is embodied in Hyacinth (Sasithorn Panichnok), a girl his age that he awkwardly courts. It is with Boonlueang that his real education takes place, though. It a film full of sex scenes, the most erotic feature Jan rubbing Boonlueang's bare back with ice cubes, to cool her off in the sweltering heat. Their eventual coupling doesn't have nearly the steam this does.

Jan is forced to leave his home when he is falsely accused of trying to molest his stepsister, and Jan discovers that the man he thought was his father was in fact not. He leaves for his mother's hometown, where he discovers the truth of his origins, though he withholds this information until the end. Several years pass before Jan is called back, this time to perform a boon for his surrogate mother Waad. It's a task that will bring him a desired revenge over his erstwhile father, though at a cost greater than he might have imagined.

In the end, one isn't necessarily surprised at the circumstances Jan finds himself in, though it is ultimately disappointing because of that fact. The film does contain numerous sex scenes, as noted above, though none really have any special frisson that elevates them above the mundane. Still, if you want skin, it is here in abundance. The picture is quite attractive to look at in any case, with a lovely golden hue. Nimibutr makes use of fade-outs and fade-ins to frame each segment of the story, giving the film an episodic, fragmentary feel, presumably to elicit the sense of memories being re-lived.

Jan Dara is an absorbing film, but ultimately a frustrating one. While Jan's character is fairly well defined, the rest of the characters remain elusive. Leung is never given much shading beyond that of brutal abuser and serial fornicator, and his worst action, discovered after Jan returns from exile, remains only simmering beneath the surface, rather than used to dramatic effect. Boonlueang is a Catholic in a Buddhist land, which explains perhaps her remaining unmarried despite being a knockout, but it also begs the question of why, if she is a devout Catholic, she would lead the life she does as a kept woman. The film is based on a 1960s novel, which one presumes gives a little more background to the characters. The performances are all solid, it should be said, though Promisiri can do little with the one-note character of Leung.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic transfer presented on this disc looks quite beautiful; the film's golden tones shine through well. The film's relatively limited color palette comes through cleanly and sharply, and a pleasing level of film grain remains. I didn't notice any problems with black levels or shadows, and skin tones looked accurate, given the golden tone many scenes had. A very nice transfer overall.

Image Transfer Grade: A

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Thaino

Audio Transfer Review: Given that the film is almost exclusively dialogue, the Dolby 2.0 track isn't hugely demanding. That said, the dialogue and music are crisp. A scene late in the film set during a World War II bombing could have been more strongly presented, but it's strong enough for what is required in the scene.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: No special extras of note; the theatrical trailer (02m:18s) is provided; it has no dialogue and thus no subtitles. Brief biographical information is provided for Christy Chung and director Nimibutr. The subtitles are clear and without grammatical mistakes, though the chaptering of the disc is a bit scant at only 12 chapters for a nearly two-hour film.

Extras Grade: D

Final Comments

An absorbing drama, some will find Jan Dara too slow, but its tale of family mistakes, passions, and hatred should find adherents among those who want a drama different from the usual. The DVD, while essentially bare bones, presents the film very well.

Jeff Wilson 2005-05-12