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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A realistic look at Thai prostitution, 12 March 2005

I first saw this movie shortly after its release. I found it quite interesting. My wife, who is originally from Thailand, did not. I will try to keep my focus on the film itself and not on the social aspects of it.

The girl, Aoi, seems quite attractive, and that point helped the filmmaker create a more moving documentary, I believe. A poor girl from the Northeast area of Thailand with a young child, abandoned by her husband and desperate to survive, she adopts a life of prostitution in Bangkok's "Red Light District". Dennis O'Rourke ably portrayed this woman as a victim of circumstance, forced to use whatever means necessary to survive. When I first saw this film I felt great sympathy for this girl. Good filmmakers can portray a situation any number of ways, leading viewers to feel sympathy or scorn, apathy or anger. Mr. O'Rourke succeeded in creating a powerful and moving chronicle of the life of this Thai prostitute.

The scenes of her small, rural hometown, and the interviews with her Aunt, contrast sharply with the busy, noisy atmosphere of Bangkok. A clear disparity is drawn between the street-tough hookers and this country girl from the north. You can look at some of the "working" girls and see an eerie, almost sinister cast in their faces. Aoi clearly does not belong there, but out of devotion to and sacrifice for her family, she pursues this sordid avocation. Again, the filmmaker skillfully elicits sympathy from the viewer, I feel.

There are parts of the film that should probably have been edited out, such as when she is laying in bed and the camera pans over her; she modestly pulls the covers over herself. Or when she is eating noodles and the camera has a tight shot of her face. These scenes seemed a little amateurish to me.

Also, the music chosen for this film "The Good Woman Of Bangkok", from an opera similarly named, seemed quite appropriate. It creates a sort of ethereal air as you listen while watching nude dancers perform various strange and unnatural acts on a stage.

There are short clips of commentary by some of the various westerners that frequent these bars. Overall they are portrayed as lecherous slobs, swilling liquor and groping the girls working there. The filmmaker competently causes the viewer to feel disgust at the sight of debauched, middle-aged western men pawing these young women.

Near the end Dennis O'Rourke states that he bought Aoi a rice farm in return for allowing him to make this film. That seems quite noble, if indeed it is true. He also states that he went back to Pat Pong a year later and found her back in that same, sad circumstance. True or false, I don't know. But it does make for a doleful, sober finale.