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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Motion Picture Teller

Colin Cotterill

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To purchase The Motion Picture Teller

Title: The Motion Picture Teller
Author: Colin Cotterill
Genre: Novel
Written: 2023
Length: 232 pages
Availability: The Motion Picture Teller - US
The Motion Picture Teller - UK
The Motion Picture Teller - Canada
from: Bookshop.org (US)

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Our Assessment:

B : decent, movie-loving fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 18/10/2022 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The heartfelt characters, vividly drawn setting, and subtle humor more than compensate for this lack. Both established fans and those new to Cotterill will be charmed." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Motion Picture Teller begins in late 1996 Bangkok, and features two film-obsessed friends in their early thirties. One is Ali, who got an MBA at Bangkok University but turned down all the offers he received from "greedy companies with logos and retirement plans" and instead pursued his passion, opening Ali's Video Rental. He doesn't eke out much money, but he can indulge his passion, watching films as much as he wants. He is often joined by Supot, who works for the Royal Thai Mail service as a postman -- a job that he doesn't particularly enjoy.
       Ali is working on a screenplay of his own, but it's only very slowly taking shape; Supot is generous in his assessment when he suggests to Ali about the outline: "It needs a bit of polishing". But the real action starts when Ali buys a box of videos from a homeless man. It's a great little selection of a dozen films -- "Collector's heaven", Ali observes -- but among the familiar titles is one they don't recognize: Bangkok 2010. Considering the title, Supot observes:

Never heard of it. Must be a documentary. Or a home holiday video.
       When they do finally get around to watching it they are transfixed. It's a Thai film -- unlike all the other foreign ones -- and it is, surprisingly: "polished, unusual, unexpected, shot in black and white ... mostly black". They are blown away by how good it is, and immediately watch it again. They're just surprised that none of the names in the credits are familiar to them; they suspect it's a new film that hasn't been released yet.
       Supot becomes obsessed with the film: "it became a strange fixation to solve the mystery of Bangkok 2010. A detective story without a crime". Not least, he also becomes obsessed with leading lady Siriluk, contacting her by mail. She actually replies to his first letter -- and has one very firm request: that he makes sure no one else sees the film, or makes a copy, which Supot dutifully agrees to (though it doesn't prove easy).
       Siriluk remains elusive, but Supot is determined to be in touch with her, eventually even trying to seek her out in person, leading him to the Thai countryside -- even as Siriluk tries to head him off, determined to "deflect him somehow". And slowly the secrets behind the film, and Siriluk, are revealed -- explaining much of the secretiveness (and dashing some of Supot's hopes). Along the way, scenes from the film are presented in screenplay-form, giving some idea of the dramatic plot of the dystopian, futuristic thriller.
       It's an amusing enough little novel, with nice little bits of action and suspense. The mystery about the film and those involved with it hovers over much of the story reasonably well and if the ultimate explanation as to why the film should remain unseen isn't entirely convincing, the other circumstances around it are intriguing enough. Supot and Ali are engaging figures -- including in their very different love-lives, with Ali tied to the same woman from when they were young children -- but still not having married her -- and Supot rather hapless in his dating-life.
       The inclusion of so much of the screenplay of Bangkok 2010 is, on the one hand, welcome, making for an intriguing second story-within-the-story -- but also makes for something of a disconnect, as it's hard to imagine that in screen form this film is as sublime and incredible as the descriptions of the various reactions of those who watch it suggest. The screenplay is good enough, but it doesn't seem nearly that remarkable.
       A fairly quickly told story, The Motion Picture Teller has a somewhat restless feel, but the variety of action -- from Supot at his day-job to Ali's store to where Supot winds up -- makes for a lively tale, and good enough fun. It all has some charm, and a good but not overwhelming amount of cinephilia, and there's a decent humorous touch and a bit of drama, making for a quite entertaining little read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 January 2023

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The Motion Picture Teller: Reviews: Colin Cotterill: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mystery author Colin Cotterill was born in 1952.

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© 2023 the complete review

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