A black-comic thriller from Thailand’s most inventive commercial filmmaker, Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s 6ixtynin9 (1999) enlivens some dingy genre predicaments (dirty money, corpse disposal) with gusts of dreamlike whimsy and a sardonic take on local economic woes. (Palm recently released the movie straight to DVD and is now playing it for a week at Anthology.) A day after being laid off from her banking job, suicidally glum Tum (Lalita Panyopas) wakes to find herself in possession of a cash-stuffed instant-noodle carton. Turns out a couple of goonish thugs botched a drop-off—the 6 on Tum’s door, missing a nail, sometimes flips down into a 9, hence the title—and when they return to claim the stash, Tum, without quite meaning to, kills them. As the carnage mounts, the alienated heroine gains an amusing aura of invincibility, her dazed numbness in effect rendering her bulletproof as she sleepwalks through a network of fight-fixing mobsters and corrupt high-level execs.
Though overlong at two hours, 6ixtynin9—only the director’s second outing (after 1997’s spoofy Fun Bar Karaoke)—is impressive for the tonal control Ratanaruang applies to his swerving scenario. The director’s knack for harmoniously melding disparate moods and genres is in greater evidence in the two films he’s made since: the 2001 retro musical Monrak Transistor (available on import DVD) and Last Life in the Universe, which opened here last summer and returns to Anthology this week for an encore run. Reconfiguring 6ixtynin9‘s suicide scenarios and problematic corpses into a languid, bruised rumination on chance, symmetry, and international relations, it’s a minor-key ballad filled with delicate but haunting shifts in register, best summed up by its original Thai title: Tiny Enormous Love Story.