Bangkok Noir

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Hong Kong Money Guy  in Bangkok      Chris Coles


The city of Bangkok, also known as Krung Thep or City of Angels, is an almost perfect setting for noir fiction, films, music and paintings, an artistic movement known as Bangkok Noir. 

Bangkok is a kind of Open City, a chaotic and immense urban center home to millions of people from all over Thailand, Southeast Asia and the world.  Due to relatively lax visa requirements, almost anyone with the money and air ticket can show up and stay for at least a month if not a lifetime.  As a result, Bangkok attracts various criminals, low lifes, scam artists and fugitives from every country on earth.  Sometimes, they lie low, licking their wounds and planning their next foray in their home territory.  Sometimes, they invent business in Bangkok itself, trafficking, drug smuggling, arms dealing, securities fraud, counterfeit goods, nightclubs, whatever.  

The Nigerians from Lagos specialize in the drug business, mainly heroin coming from Burma and Laos, headed out to the world.  Gangsters from Mumbai wash millions thru Bangkok real estate while they plan their next moves back in India.  Yakuza from Japan buy meth for shipment to Tokyo as well as recruiting an endless river of Thai and Southeast Asian women for their Japanese brothels  

The Russians and East Europeans ship impoverished but sometimes beautiful women from Uzbekistan, Moldava, Ukraine, and Valdivastok to nightclubs and brothels in Bangkok, Shanghai, Macau and Hong King.  Burmese generals, Chinese swindlers, Australian bar owners, German drug dealers.  Name any country and there is at least one representative of its criminal underworld resident in Bangkok.  Not to speak of the Thai police, military and Thailand's own homegrown thugs and godfathers.

For fiction writers, filmmakers, musicians and artists resident in Bangkok, there has never been a richer and more undeveloped source of raw material.  Between the gangsters, the beautiful girls, the vibrant nightlife and the gigantic scale of the city itself, full of its diverse millions and their struggles, some penniless, others billionaires, some living in third world slums, others in super luxury penthouse condos, some riding in buses belching raw black smoke, others in sleek S-class Mercedes, it's a setting for a million stories, films, songs and paintings

There is a whole genre of noir fiction already published with the Bangkok crime fiction writer, Christopher G. Moore being one of the leading figures along with Jake Needham and Stephen Leather and more recently, John Burdett.

Christopher G. Moore's Calvino books follow an American Private Detective working the atmospheric Bangkok Expat scene.  The eight Calvino books are filled with wonderfully cynical and nihilistic insights into Thailand's Expat community as well as the unique and complex Thai Way of looking at life and the world.  THE RISK OF INFIDELITY INDEX, PATTAYA 24/7, MINOR WIFE and CUT OUT are four of them.

Jake Needham's stories, BIG MANGO, THE AMBASSADOR'S WIFE, KILLING PLATO, TEA MONEY, LAUNDRY MAN, move from one seedy scene to another, searching for goodness in a sea of sleaze.

Stephen Leather's internet published PRIVATE DANCER became a huge hit  and COLD KILL came next.

John Burdett got off to a fast start in the Bangkok Noir genre with the best-selling BANGKOK 8, featuring a stylish and cunning Thai ladyboy, followed that with BANGKOK TATTOO and more recently BANGKOK HAUNTS.

Thai filmmakers churn out a constant stream of gangster films set in Bangkok.  The original BANGKOK DANGEROUS by the Pang brothers was gritty, edgy and real.  The Hollywood re-make of BANGKOK DANGEROUS starring Nicholas Cage will be more glossy and stylish, featuring some of the modern hi-end side of Bangkok mixed in with the low-end bottom.

Another Thai filmmaker, Smith Timsawit, made PROVINCE 77, starring Jeremy Thana, Pete Tongchua and the ex-Miss Thailand Metinee Kingpayome.  The film has a fabulous original soundtrack from Thaitanium, Thailand's Number One Hip Hop artist.  Set in Bangkok and Thaitown, Los Angeles, the film portrays violent Thai gangsters fighting ruthlessly for territory and status in a nihilistic and cynical world.

In the art area, Chris Coles series of expressionist style paintings titled, THE BANGKOK NIGHT, PORTRAITS FROM PATPONG, BANGKOK NEON, BANGKOK LADYBOY, BANGKOK NOIR, BANGKOK SOI DOG, BANGKOK BOYS TOWN, BANGKOK PORTRAITS and the latest series, ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK, use as their setting the lurid and colorful world of Bangkok's notorious nightlife. Heavily distorted lines and strong, clashing colors dominate in these paintings which portray a chaotic, edgy noir world of colliding intention and misplaced desire, lives out of balance, male-female compulsion, alienation and disassociation. They echo the German Expressionist paintings from Berlin in the early 1900's as well as the Paris nightlife paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas and the early Picasso.

To view a music video of the BANGKOK NOIR paintings click, here.

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Copyright 2005, 2006 by Chris Coles