Man behind the camera
Thae Prakasvudhisarn, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 100, was one of the pioneers in Thai film history. Throughout his long career which began in the 1940s, he was a cinematographer, photographer, producer and director who worked on many landmark films. He also shot newsreels, documentary, historical footage, and still pictures of movie sets and stars, capturing the glamour, eccentricity and radiance of early Siamese films. His photos are an invaluable record of Thai film history. The Thai Film Archive preserves a large collection of Thae's pictures, and you can see some of them in this exhibition.
Thae worked as the cinematographer for Sam Rak Nai Paris (Three Loves in Paris) in 1953. The film was shot both in Thailand and Paris and featured both Thai and foreign actors.
On the set of Chai Chatree (Virile Men) from 1964. The period is known as "the 16mm period" during which films were shot with no sound and relied on live dubbing at every screening.
Thai superstars in the mid-century period combined vintage appeal, sophisticated allure and chivalrous attitude, all of which was captured in the photographs by Thae Prakasvudhisarn. Actresses, such as Amara Asavanond here, expressed the Thai charm in the mould of international celebrity. Doesn't she remind you of Elizabeth Taylor?
Panan (1957) (1957)Thai Film Archive
Jarassri Sayasilp, left, in a scene from Panan. The 1957 film was produced and cinematographed by Thae Prakasvudhisarn, and directed by Tawee Na Bangchang.
Surasit Satayawong, a popular star of the mid-century period, seen here in an action film Suphap Burut Suathai from 1949.
Chai Chatree (1964) (1964)Thai Film Archive
Mitr Chaibancha, Thailand's most famous actor in the 16mm era of the 1960s, pictured here in 1964 with Pisamai Wilaisak, an actress who's still working tirelessly until today.
Sombat Metanee, an iconic star of the 16mm era, and Aranya Ngam-wong, a prolific actress. The still is from from a scene in the film Jao Ying (Princess).
Prajuab Rirkyamdee, centre, is one of the most recognizable faces in Thai cinemas in the 1960s and 70s. The photo by Thae was from the film Panan.
Three generations of Thai actresses seen in this photo from the film Jao Ying (Princess): from left, Marsri Israngkul Na Ayudhaya, Aranya Ngam-wong and Jirawadee Israngkul Na Ayudhaya.
The legacy remains
Thae Prakasvudhisarn (middle, on the set of Sam Rak in Paris) has left a rich trove of cinematic treasure to audiences and film historians. He was named a National Artist in 1999, and his role as a pioneer is celebrated until today. His death in August 2018 was regarded as a loss of a one of the most important figures in Thai cinema.
Thae Prakasvudhisarn and Thai Film Archive collection.