After two high-profile international co-productions, Invisible Waves and Last Life In The Universe, Pen-ek Ratanaruang has returned to his Thai roots with the $2m Ploy, a riff on The Seven Year Itch. The film played in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes, where critics described it as dark, erotic and funny.
Ploy follows a married couple who have been living in the US and return to Thailand for a funeral. Their marriage is put to the test when a young girl named Ploy appears. Pen-ek is impressed with the acting debut of Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, the cute 17-year-old who plays Ploy.
"You'd never guess this is her first film," he says. "I'm amazed at her directness and honesty in front of the camera."
Putting Ploy together was a swift affair, says the director. He spent a month writing the story, while finance was secured within two weeks. Shooting lasted 24 days followed by six weeks in the editing suite.
"No frills, no excess. That's the way this project was designed," he says. "Everything is compressed. By the time we finish the film, the initial feeling of why we want to do the film is still there,' he says.
Pen-ek describes Ploy as a chance to get back to "playing street football". He was plagued by the weight of expectation placed on him in his previous two films. "I had to be on form every day and it took a lot out of me," he explains. "But it was rewarding. It was like I had gone to play for the English (football) Premiership."
Ploy reunites Pen-ek with actress Lalita Panyopas from 6ixtynin9 and actor Ananda Everingham, who last year appeared in his short Twelve Twenty, as well as cinematographer Chankit Chamnivikaipong with whom he worked on Monrak Transistor and 6ixtynin9.
Ploy is due to open on June 7 in Thailand, with international sales handled by Fortissimo Films. "For the first time, a commercial release is scheduled before I actually finish the film,' he says.
PEN-EK RATANARUANG'S CULTURAL LIFE
Favourite recent book: The comic book Black Hole.
Favourite recent movie: William Greaves' documentary Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One.
Newspapers and magazines: I don't read newspapers and only occasionally flip through magazines, usually while I get my hair cut.
Websites: I don't usually have time or interest to surf the internet. I'd rather read comic books.
Inspirations: Usually from people around me. But by the time their stories get into one of my films, they hardly recognise them.