Sunday, March 20, 2022

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Memoria" at SIFF Cinema: Apr 1 - 10 & Northwest Film Forum: Apr 20 - 24

This past January's issue of the New Yorker presented a feature article on “The Metaphysical World of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Movies” and their collective somnambulistic cinematic wanderings through the urban centers, outlying rural expanses, and deep jungles that define the Thai landscape. Lingering specters of Thailand's military past haunt the peripheral of the urban and rural lives of its protagonists, often in contrast to cultural vibrancy and spiritualism of the natural splendor that surrounds them. Giving insights into the otherworldly from the experience of the everyday, these hintingly metaphysical films describe the life of the Thai people as they are, as they once were, and in the more abstract passages, suggesting how they could be, both in the world of the waking and dreaming. The heightened sensuality of his tonal palette defines the whole of what Senses of Cinema in their Great Directors section calls the, "Transnational Poet of the New Thai Cinema". As well as a personal connection with a shared history, both on screen and in life, his filmmography is detailed in Cinema-Scope's "Ghost in the Machine: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Letter to Cinema" on the subject of his Cannes Palme d'Or winning "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives". A director who's whole body of work deals in mystic parables couched within modern life, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's final film in his native Thailand, "Cemetery of Splendor" may lack wandering animal spirits in the night of the jungle, but it's mixing of the political, historic and the spiritual is told through a literally dreamy central metaphor, "A Shared Memory: Apichatpong Weerasethakul on Cemetery of Splendor".

In numerous interviews for Mubi, Film Comment and Senses of Cinema, the director has spoken of the difficulties of continuing to make his cinema in the escalating atmosphere of political tension and censorship following the 2014 coup d'état. Shot in his home village of Khon Kaen and redolent with locations and memories from childhood, his meditation on war, death and social bonds in rural life has become, "A Homeland Swansong: Apichatpong Weerasethakul on Cemetery of Splendor". Thai critic Kong Rithdee describes the effect of this undertow in his insider perspective for Cinema-Scope, teasing out the “friction between tranquility and anxiety, between bliss and pain”, the political from the mythic, metaphoric from the metaphysical that characterizes Apichatpong Weerasethakul's oeuvre. The long-awaited latest from the Thai filmmaker, premiering in 2021 as part of "Cannes Makes Up for Lost Time with a Thrilling Auteur-Packed Lineup", and presented in competition for the first time since his 2010 Palme d'Or winner, stars Tilda Swinton in an elusive and enchanting multi-lingual mystery set in Colombia. Continuing a concern central to the whole of his body of work, "Keeping It Mysterious: A Conversation with Apichatpong Weerasethakul", and possibly the director's first film to fulfill a long-expressed desire to explore his own take on the broad territory that comprises contemporary science fiction. Among the numerous mysteries which its protagonist obliquely explores, is "‘Memoria’: In Search of Lost Time", as "Tilda Swinton Works Her Magic in Enigmatic Fantasy". Justin Chang's review for The Los Angeles Times is not hesitant in establishing that “Memoria” casts a spell like nothing else seen from Cannes this year". It tells a story focused through the slow graceful magic of the director's vocabulary around Swinton's Scottish botanist who finds herself in Bogotá, confounded by a series of auditory encounters from an unknown source. "Memoria" follows here as she attempts to riddle out their nature and origin, as the journey becomes more unusual and melancholic, it eventually delivers her into an abstract realm of painful secrets and ancient histories. Essential to the audience experience of this journey is the sensory component, and the film's distributor “Neon Will Keep ‘Memoria’ in Theaters Forever as Film Will Never Get a Streaming or Physical Release". Seattle is fortunate in that regard, as we will have two opportunities to become immersed in the liquid flow of film's mystery, at SIFF Cinema the first week of April, and later in month again, at Northwest Film Forum.