Anticipation can be killer for a movie. Such is the case with WisitSasanatieng's Citizen Dog. I can't overstate how enamored I was with Sasanatieng's debut feature Tears of the Black Tiger. Four years after Tears when Citizen Dog debuted in Thailand, I was more than ready. However, two years past before it finally showed up on DVD with English subtitles, and last week when I finally got a chance to sit down and watch it, I think I was already prepared for the disappointment.
The story follows Pod, who is a country boy who moves to the city despite his grandmother's warning that he would grow a tail. Pod falls for a cleaning lady named Jin. But Jin is hopelessly distracted by a book she can't read that was dropped from the sky. When a mysterious ex-pat (played by former ex-pat Chuck Stephens) shows up, Jin believes he hold the key to her book. She joins the environmental movement in order to find her mystery man and leaves Pod in the dust. Hearts are won, hearts are lost and hearts are won again. Lots of other stuff happens too: Pod looses his finger in a sardine factory (that is later retrieved and reattached); Pod's regular motorbike taxi is driven by a dead man (because he was caught in a storm of falling helmets); Pod's grandmother shows up in the form of a gecko (via an absurd journey of death and reincarnation, and death and reincarnation, and death and reincarnation); Pod meets a cigarette smoking teddy bear owned by a child who says she is an adult; Jin's obsessive collecting of plastic bottles results in a huge mountain that towers over Bangkok; everyone grows tails except for Pod, making him a celebrity...I could go on, but you get the point. Details like these more than allow the film to live up to its tag line of 'A surreal love story.'
Regardless of my disillusionment, Citizen Dog is not all bad. As a matter of fact, it is full of charm, whimsy and visual bravado. The absurd humor had me laughing out loud by the opening credits. Unfortunately one cannot survive on whimsy alone, and Citizen Dog is little more than a pretty package. It offers some of the same stunning visuals offered in Tears, and you would be hard pressed to find one frame that wasn't visually captivating or lyrical, but there is not much resonance beyond that. The two leads are adorable geeky loners that never rise above empty caricatures, and the never ending stream of side-stories diluted the so-called love story that we are supposed to be invested in. The vignettes are just chaff, albeit, very interesting chaff. Citizen Dog's biggest fault is being too lighthearted; it's sweet and cute and quirky and totally forgettable.