Vientiane in Love (2015) by Anysay Keola, Phanumad Disattha, Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy

A great introduction to Lao cinema


In the latest years, Laotian cinema seems to begin overcoming the plights of the past, that tortured it with forced propaganda and the lack of funding, through directors like Mattie Do and the ones included in this omnibus. Furthermore, Anysay Keola, Phanumad Disattha, Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy, who are responsible for the five segments of the film, are part of a collective known as  Lao New Wave Cinema, whose main purpose is to change the face of the Lao movie industry. Their efforts have resulted in this particular collection, which presents five love stories taking place in the country's capital.

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The first part of the omnibus is called "Update Status" and is directed by Xaisongkham Induangchanthy. It takes place in a cafeteria, over two tables across each other. At the first one, a middle aged American and a girl in a school uniform are talking. The girl seems to be bored with his constant talking, but she bares with it. At the table across, two young men watch the scene and assume that she is a prostitute who came to meet a client. Furthermore, they take a photo of them, and comment just that on Facebook, creating a torrent of misunderstandings. At the same time, the girl, who watches the two talking and laughing, thinks that they are a gay couple and does the same thing they did.

The director highlights the consequences of the extensive use of smartphones and social media and how much they affect the social lives of people. On a second point, he also presents the consequences of "assuming" instead of actually knowing. On a third one, through the American's monologue, he makes a comment about idiocracy currently ruling the world, a point I found completely accurate. However, the tone of the segment is rather light, and finishes with optimism.


The second part is called "The Truth" and is directed by Vannaphone Sitthirath. It revolves around a businesswoman who discovers that her husband cheats on her with one of the models working for her agency, and proceeds on getting to know the woman.

The short starts as a social drama, but Sitthirath transforms it into a thriller midway, through agony and even some minor gore, in a tactic that makes it rather interesting. The cheated woman provides one of the best performances in the whole film. Furthermore, the color palette and the lighting are rather impressive, presenting a number of very beautiful images.

The third one is called "I'm fine, Thank you" and is directed by Phanumad Disatth. The story involves a couple who meet again after years and a bad break up, and reminisce about the past, as they walk on the streets of Vientiane.The man is a singer in a band and the short features some very interesting pop/rock performances.

Disatth directs the most impressionistic segment of the omnibus, in a rather abstract fashion. He uses a very interesting technique of cinematography, presenting the past in color and the present in black-and-white, while he takes a definite side on the matter with the ending

The fourth one is called "Against the Tide" and is directed by Anysay Keola and written by Xaisongkham Induangchanthy. The script focuses on an elderly fisherman working and living by himself near Mekong River. When he decides to visit his daughter, she and her husband try to persuade him to sell his house and come to live with them. He protests.

Headed by a great performance from the elder man, the segment highlights the gap in Lao society among generations and among the rural and the urban people. At the same time, it makes a comment about the blight of illegal fishing on Mekong, that has made the lives of the fishermen much more difficult.


The last segment is called "Longing for Love" and is directed by Anysay Keola. The story revolves around a street photographer, who meets a girl that wants him to photograph her while she is crying, in order to remember to avoid her ex-boyfriend in the future. On her initial, the two of them even go out on a date, in a series events that make the photographer extremely happy, until her ex-boyfriend reappears.

This segment is the most funny one, drawing humor through a great performance by the photographer, some utterly unexpected dancing and singing (bollywood style), and a number of hilarious sequences, intensified by quirky sounds and fitting music.

Overall, the five parts of "Vientiane in Love" are rather entertaining, implementing a (more or less) light tone, highlighting many aspects of life in Vientane, through different kind of love stories. The fact that they differ much in theme and style definitely plays a major role in that aspect. In that fashion, the film provides a great introduction to the unknown cinema of the country. And on a final, and rather superficial note, I have to stress the fact that almost all the women appearing on the five parts are gorgeous.


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Asian Film Vault: Vientiane in Love (2015) by Anysay Keola, Phanumad Disattha, Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy
Vientiane in Love (2015) by Anysay Keola, Phanumad Disattha, Vannaphone Sitthirath, Xaisongkham Induangchanthy
A great introduction to Lao cinema
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