Apichatpong Weerasethakul

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 3:30 am

[Moved from Asian Arena thread - OP 08/24/05]


An abstract title such as Mysterious Object at Noon is perhaps an apt one for a film that is one of the most unique and innovative to come out in recent years. It is neither a documentary nor a fictional account of a tale draped in local pop and mythological surrealism. (According to critic Chuck Stephens, the Thai title of the film, Dokfa nai meuman, translates as "Dogfar in Devils Hand," with the name Dogfar breeding a certain familiarity to the Thai audiences aware of their melodramas of the past.) Made by a then twentysomething Apichatpong after graduating with a masters degree in Film from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, this 16mm black-and-white effort employs a storytelling technique known as "exquisite corpse." That requires various writers to add their ideas to the main story in small doses without knowing what has come prior. Therefore, with that in mind, Apichatpong traveled through Thailand, visiting various small villages collecting anecdotes for his "main" idea. And this idea -- involving a disabled young boy and his "alien" female teacher (Dogfar) who is responsible for the mysterious object of the title -- stems from a woman we witness early on when shes asked to tell a fictional story. When its all said and done, we get to watch a theatrical rendition from adults, end up listening to some wildly imaginative kids, not to mention the version from an eccentric old granny, among others. However, its not all fun and games. The woman who created the idea also tells the camera her true story about how she was sold into slavery by her parents. We also hear another account of a couple of young boys who met the same fate. Apichatpongs film is like a local travelogue even though the focus isnt on anything in particular. But this experiment is neither self-sufficient nor some sort of a calling card for higher acclaim. The fact that Mysterious Object has by now played at hundreds of festivals around the world is a true testament to Apichatpong's vision, which has remained quintessentially Thai.

Re: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Postby hengcs » Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:38 am

I guess I have never shared my views about his films ...
So, here are some quick thoughts ...

... In general, I think his films are credited mainly for his style, which is rather atypical from a traditional story telling. But is it that "atypical"? or is it merely a borrow from some other artform? ...

(1) Mysterious Object at Noon
... arsaib4 noted the storytelling technique as "exquisite corpse".
... when i first watched the film (becos of all the accolades), i liked the film but i was NOT crazy over it ... why?! in terms of story telling style, i thought it was sth i was very familiar with, except that it was not filmed and screened in cinema. when i was young, we always played this game in class (and even in a competition), we always tried to invent a story with different people connecting it up, with or without the knowledge of what happens prior ... so in a way, although i thought the film was well executed, i was less surprised by the technique than the effort in transforming it into a film ...

(2) Blissfully Yours
... I thought the beginning was a bit draggy (i.e., the medical checkup scene) etc, the pace took a while to pick up ...
... In the theatre that i watched, i recall a number of people walking off half way ... i guess they find it too boring, and not knowing where the film is going ...
... why do the legs in the stream scene reminds me of Children of Heaven?!
... i have to admit that by asian standards, the ending was shocking ...

(3) Tropical Malady
... Of the four films i listed, i like the SECOND SEGMENT of this film best ...

... i think i wrote it in the OLD board ... when i first watched the film till the end of the first segment, i was still very puzzled by how it managed to win so much accolades (because the first half can be considered rather weak without the second half) ... but by the end of the second half, i thought the film was deserving ...

(4) Syndromes and a Century
Again, another film that impresses with style ... when i watched it, i like the cinematography, i like the well execution ... but i was not totally intrigued by the "novelty" of the story telling ... i had seen a similar act/sketch/play in a HongKong variety show in the 1980s before (that's 20 years ago!). In the stage sketch, they were even better, in my humble opinion ... why?! they used exactly the SAME lines to depict two vastly different MOOD and SCENARIOS ... They acted on a split stage, with the same lines being delivered in separate "screens", NOT one version after the other (like in the film). The contrast was much starker in the stage version! So, in a way, my experience with the earlier act/sketch discounted slightly the number of stars i would award this film ... Still, I think it was a well executed film which deserved to be watched ...

PS: In sum, I want to say that I do appreciate his works and would recommend people ... but I am not necessarily crazy over them ... becos sad to say, I have come across some earlier works that are of similar style, except NOT in the medium of a film ...

Re: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Postby arsaib4 » Mon Mar 17, 2008 11:08 pm

Good post, hengcs. I'll respond shortly.

Re: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Postby hengcs » Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:14 am

The following is cut and paste from another thread ...

originally posted by arsaib4 (17-Mar-08 08:02 PM)

"(3) now back to Syndromes and a Century ... very humbly, i think it deserves a technical nomination at least for its style ... now i recall the controversy, it has to do with the depiction of monks, religion, etc ... "

Apichatpong and his producers tried to argue that violent and disrespectful films are approved every week for mass consumption. The committee claimed that the film depicted Thai society in a bad light and has no artistic merit (which is laughable to say the least). Incidentally, the scene in which a monk plays a guitar was deemed to be okay. The kissing scene between the doctor and his girlfriend wasn't, and neither was the one in which a group of medical professionals share some whiskey. It goes deeper, I think. Apichatpong's sexual orientation has been an issue for a while now, and it seems to me that attempts are made to humiliate him at every turn.

originally posted by hengcs (17-Mar-08 11:06 PM)

arsaib4 wrote:

It goes deeper, I think. Apichatpong's sexual orientation has been an issue for a while now, and it seems to me that attempts are made to humiliate him at every turn.

I am not sure what happens.

But very humbly, I think the Thais are pretty open to different sexual orientation.

Even for the film awards, 2 of the films that got a lot of nominations did win and they were loosely classified as gay films even though they dealt with bigger issues ...

(i) Love Of Siam - 13 nominations, finally 3 wins (Best Picture, Director, Sup Actress)
(ii) Bangkok Love Story - 8 nominations, finally 3 wins (Best Cinematography, Sound, Screenplay)

So, I am not sure what exactly happens btw the director and the authority.

originally posted by arsaib4 (17-Mar-08 11:32 PM
Yes, my comment specifically referred to him and his situation. I'm not interested in the sort of films that won the awards.

originally posted by hengcs (17-Mar-08 11:38 PM)

arsaib4 wrote:

Yes, my comment specifically referred to him and his situation. I'm not interested in the sort of films that won the awards.

guess we need some insider's news or some published info ...

originally posted by hengcs (18-Mar-08 01:10 AM)

since arsaib4 brought up the issue of censorship for Syndromes and A Century ...

here is some info i found on the web ...
Apichatpong gives up, film cut further-Wise Kwai

Re: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 5:02 am

See, I was up-to-date...

Re: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Postby hengcs » Wed Mar 19, 2008 12:32 am

Full reviews
-- Syndromes and a Century (2006)
-- Tropical Malady (2004)

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