April 11, 2007

Syndromes and a Century.

Syndromes and a Century First, a bit of news that'll rankle. Apichatpong Weerasethakul has cancelled the local release of Syndromes and a Century after censors "insisted that four 'sensitive' scenes be cut," reports Kong Rithdee in the Bangkok Post. Limitless Cinema has the article and more linkage.

"David Lynch may have drawn sold-out screenings at the very beginning of Inland Empire's recent theatrical run, but Apichatpong's movie casts a more rewarding and successful spell with trademark gambits and surreal touches," writes Johnny Ray Huston. "Syndromes and a Century reinvents a genre that would seem beyond rescue, the romantic comedy.... When Apichatpong and his actors hit their improvisational stride, the results can be as funny as - and less forced than - 60s-pop Jean-Luc Godard at his most madcap.... When Apichatpong lets the story go underground and grow aimless, Syndromes starts to levitate."

Also in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Matt Sussman talks with the director. And here's the 12-inch remix.

"On the crest of festival circuit success and critical favorites like Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady, Weerasethakul has carved out a space in international filmmaking resolutely, uncompromisingly his own," writes Michael Joshua Rowin in the L Magazine. "When Dennis Lim opened his review of Malady with words of intrepid reverence - 'World cinema's premier maker of mysterious objects, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is on a one-man mission to change the way we watch movies' - it was an understatement: Weerasethakul has already done so."

Earlier: "Venice. Sang Sattawat."

Update, 4/13: "In the spirit of bifurcation," Michael Guillén presents two capsules, originally written for the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, one on either side of the edit. Michael also interviews "Joe."

Updates, 4/15: With Unknown Forces: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, opening opening Wednesday and on view through June 17, the filmmaker "presents his first solo exhibition in the United States. Weerasethakul's films explore perception, impermanence and the imaginary, cultivating fanciful potential within the mundane. His abstract interchanges interrogate conventions of cinematic narrative while exploring desire, reality and a kind of melancholy perhaps peculiar to our times. Weerasethakul's exhibition at REDCAT features a newly commissioned video installation that expands upon characters developed in his previous feature films, shorts and video installations through comedy."

See also: "Syndromes and a petition."

Update, 4/16: At indieWIRE, Michael Koresky does his best to "persuade his readers to get out of the grindhouse and into the rhythms of Apichatpong... Syndromes is funny. Syndromes is pure - to the extent that I don't believe that there's a wasted moment, extraneous visual, or unharmonious cut, and that everything you see comes from the genuine expression of a painter and philosopher who just happens to use film as his medium."

Updates, 4/17: In his interview for IFC News, Aaron Hillis asks Apichatpong Weerasethakul about censorship in Thailand, the sort of music he listens to, "bisected" structures, globalization and: "What was the last blockbuster that left you smiling?"

Answer: "I enjoyed Grindhouse very much. Is that a blockbuster? I really loved Tarantino's part."

And indieWIRE sends its questions to "Joe."

"Syndromes and a Century presents a world in which multiple times coexist and more-or-less congruent personalities experience two different sets of lives, working in two different hospital," writes J Hoberman in the Voice. "Are these parallel tales a Buddhist romance? An attempt to induce something like 3-D narrative depth? A consideration of repetitive human activity over the course of a lifetime? You might as well ask why the breeze is rustling the leaves."

And Nathan Lee talks with Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Update, 4/18: "Syndromes and a Century, like its curious title, has the logic of a dream, a piece of music or perhaps a John Ashbery poem," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Its coherence is evident; it is too lovely and lucid to be frustrating or dull. But it takes place just on the other side of conscious apprehension."

For the Los Angeles Times, Fiona Ng talks with Weerasethakul about the installation at REDCAT, consisting "of a four-screen video projection; taking up one side is footage of a pickup truck rolling down a highway, with passengers in the back. Ostensibly laid back, the scene in fact references the population of itinerant construction workers in Thailand, on whose backs the country's real estate boom is built. The installation is a tribute to these workers, Weerasethakul said, as well as an allegory about the country's political history."

Daniel Kasman: "One of the unexpected - and most welcome - things about Syndromes and a Century and Weerasethakul's films in general is that while maintaining a familial resemblance to the monumental master-shot style made famous by Hou Hsiou-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, Weerasethakul's work carries a serene air of gentleness, off-handedness, openness, and a complete lack of pretension - traits that strongly humanize and personalize his work."

Writing in the New York Press, Armond White notes that "reviews feature interpretations seemingly as arbitrary as the film itself, made up from press release clues that it's about 'memory,' 'the director's parents,' Thailand in 'the 70s.' None of this is apparent in the film's content. The repetitive scenes create an undeniable formal structure, but due to Weerasethakul's casual rhythms (hesitating to move in on precise emotions), Syndromes and a Century remains light verse, not great poetry."

Updates, 4/19: "Syndromes and a Century is probably the strangest hospital drama since Lars von Trier's The Kingdom," writes Jürgen Fauth. Another comparison: "While Lynch dregs shocking epiphanies from the gunk of the subconscious, Weerasethakul’s mysteries lie right on the surface, in the obvious, seemingly trivial moments that are riddle and answer at once."

Doug Cummings: "Unknown Forces emphasizes momentary feeling and sensation, and arranges that experience in a way that provokes extended contemplation."

Update, 4/20: "As human beings, we're geared to desire an actual plot in our movies, and I regret to inform you that nothing really happens in Syndromes and a Century - and yet the experience of the movie is all about the not happening," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon.

Update, 4/21: "[I]t's Weerasethakul's most enigmatic film since his debut, Mysterious Object at Noon, writes Steve Erickson at Gay City News. "The director's work looks minimalist, but it's so loaded with ideas that its simplicity is deceptive."

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Posted by dwhudson at April 11, 2007 11:51 AM


it‘s a shame about all the political ideas of islamist fundamentalists. it could be helpful, to have more dialog ..

Posted by: gerhard Crepaz at April 19, 2007 2:17 PM