When Miramax ate a 'Tiger'

Wisit Sasanatieng was thrilled when Miramax nabbed his film, but a showdown followed. It lasted six years.

By Dennis Lim
Special to The Los Angeles Times
March 2, 2007

NEW YORK "Tears of the Black Tiger," a Thai musical cowboy melodrama that opens in Los Angeles today, is a delirious pastiche that whizzes through as many incongruous genres as it does implausible plot twists. The movie's real-life trajectory from festival star to battle-scarred survivor is almost as dramatic and convoluted.

Arriving in American theaters nearly seven years after it was completed, it's one of the most notable victims of the old, overspending Miramax, which in the Weinstein era was notorious for acquiring armloads of festival titles and sometimes allowing them to molder in the vaults indefinitely.

The first feature by Wisit Sasanatieng, a former cartoonist and commercials director, "Tears of the Black Tiger" was the most visible manifestation of the renaissance in Thai cinema. (And not just thanks to its retina-searing palette of chartreuse, canary and magenta.) Dormant for years, Thailand's film industry received a jump-start in the late 1990s with the emergence of slick homegrown hits such as the gangster tale "Dang Bireley" and the ghost story "Nang Nak" (both directed by Nonzee Nimibutr and written by Sasanatieng). But it was Sasanatieng's singular directorial debut a movie that evokes countless others and is also like nothing else on Earth that alerted the Bangkok film community to the potential of an international market.
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Miramax frees 'Black Tiger' - Variety 11/28/06