The Motion Picture Teller

Image of The Motion Picture Teller
Release Date: 
January 17, 2023
Soho Crime
Reviewed by: 

“a whimsical story of a hero on a quest, who attains his goal only to discover a changed life as his Happily Ever After.”

It’s Bangkok, 1996. Supot Yongjaiyut is a mailman for the Royal Thai Mail, but that’s only his hobby. His real occupation is watching movies with his friend, Ali, who own a video rental store. Although a good many of the movies aren’t dubbed into Thai, he’s seen a variety—Casablanca, It Happened One Night, Batman, The Blue Angel, Naked Lunch—and he gets the overall impact of the story through the acting alone if not the actual words.

Supot and Ali’s lives otherwise are humdrum except for these videos. Ali is mentally composing a screenplay that may never be written. Every day, he and Supot add to it so when he actually puts pen to paper, it will be everything a film producer could want.

This is their lives until the day Woot, “one of the sorriest tramps you could ever hope to avoid on a dark night,” comes into Ali’s store hoping to trade some videos for a bit of change.

Ali buys the videos, find a few gems, and also an unknown film, Bangkok 2010, a dystopian science fiction romance of star-crossed lovers in a future Bangkok.

“. . . the start was good. It was a clever technique. Dark shadows of shuffling people dragged the titles back and forth across the screen. Each caption was erased by another shuffling person dragging in their own caption in the opposite direction. It was polished, unusual, unexpected, shot in black and white . . . mostly black.”

It stars no one they’ve heard of but the lead actress, Suriluk, captures Supot’s heart.

“I’ve got a serious thing for the actress.”

“Me, too.”

“You leave her alone. She’s mine. Plus, you’re engaged.”

Supot watches Bangkok 2010 again and again. He’s enchanted. Obsessed. He has to know more about Suriluk.

“Wouldn’t it be something if we can get in touch with these people?” said Supot. “We could get to be fans before they’re famous. We’d be like pioneer groupies.”

He tries to learn about the film, but all his efforts lead to nothing. Woot has no idea where he got the video. The address for the producer reveals he has died. No film company is mentioned in the credits and the local company had no information. A phone number for a long-gone technician is his only clue, leading nowhere. Falling back on his employer, the Royal Mail, using a great many lies, and even more subterfuge, he finds an address for Suriluk, and writes a fan/love letter.

Ali is skeptical.

“Beautiful princesses only fall in love with lowlifes if it’s in the script. It only happens in movies.”

“It doesn’t have to be love. I’d like to know her as . . . as a friend.’”

Supot’s letter is answered.

For a short time, he’s in heaven as he and Suriluk correspond. The fact that she stresses that he mustn’t show the film to anyone and make no copies is strange, considering what a great movie it is. “I want you to promise me that nobody else will watch it, and that no copies will made of it.”

Supot doesn’t tell that he’s shown it to others—who are equally enthralled by the film—and that some of them did make copies. Instead, he scrambles frantically to round up the copies and keep them safe.

Then, Suriluk stops writing. Has she tired of Supot’s mail-order wooing?

The Thai mailman makes a momentous decision.

“There’s usually a line between doing insane things and actually being insane. On that occasion, the line got rubbed out in Supot’s mind.”

He decides he’s going to find Suriluk and have her tell him face-to-face she never wants to hear from him again.

What Supot doesn’t know is at the end of his search, he’ll find the answers to why Bangkok 2010 has to be kept forever from video-viewers’ eyes, the secret Suriluk has been hiding for decades, and a story of political intrigue, love, and murder truly worthy of a film noir.

This is a fairytale for adults, written with enough tongue-in-cheek to keep it from being too dramatic or dark, though noir definitely hovers around its edges. One-liners abound, with so much dry wit that the reader may have to go over some of the lines more than once to actually “get” the sarcasm in the deadpan delivery.

This novel will make readers into Cotterill fans.

The Motion Picture Teller could’ve been set anywhere in any era. It’s a love story that is and isn’t. With an unmissed absence of violence or erotica, it’s a whimsical story of a hero on a quest, who attains his goal only to discover a changed life as his Happily Ever After.