Philosophy, Politics and Homage in Tears of the Black Tiger

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The value of Deleuze’s cinema philosophy is poorly served by the assumption that the time-image is the only appropriate tool to investigate a post-Classical cinema of nostalgia and homage, in which the motifs of classical cinema are recapitulated for a reflexive audience. Such an assumption neglects the role of naivety as a device to explore the possibilities of social change, as well as the philosophical potential of Deleuze’s movement-image in understanding it.
This chapter examines through Deleuze’s movement-image the role of naïve homage in Wisit Sasanatieng’s Fa thalai jone (2000), a Thai ‘Western’ which addresses gang crime, revolution and militarism in the 1950s and 1960s. Using highly stylised production design and cinematography, including tinted ‘lobby card’ publicity, the film employs homage to Hollywood and Thai drama and action cinema (particularly that of Rattana Pestonji) alike to mix the politics of nationhood politics into a prima facie revisionist Western. The film follows the tragedy of Rumpoey, caught in a triangle with her doomed sweetheart Dum (‘Black Tiger’) and military police captain Kumjorn, and menaced by Dum’s wayward sidekick Mahesuan. Rumpoey’s dilemma reflects on the historical possibilities offered by different political aspirations and the nation states they might create: honour, order or anarchy. As such the characters of Rumpoey and Dum represent a trend noted by Sumita Chakravarty in non-Western new cinemas, whereby women ‘bear the brunt of the vicissitudes of history [whilst] it is the men who are actually sacrificed in history’s slaughterhouse.’
At first glance the potentialities represented in Rumpoey’s desire reflect Deleuze and Guattari’s three states of the body without organs: full, empty and cancerous. However in order to exploit in narrative the political tragedy of such potentialities, Wisit’s film is required to engage with the structures of the cinema of the period he examines - the Westerns of Hawks or the movies of Rattana for instance - rather than simply pastiche them. This suggests that only a careful exploration of Deleuze’s movement-image philosophy, engaging with his brilliant analysis of SAS' and ASA' narrative structures, will facilitate an appropriate and meaningful understanding of the role of homage as a tool of political as well as emotional cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (Print)0748641203, 9780748641215
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Deleuze
  • Politics
  • Thai cinema
  • Guattari

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Cultural Studies


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