Friday, August 7, 2009
The Lav Diaz retrospective continues
I've been in recovery of sorts for the past week since seeing Lav Diaz's Melancholia, a breathtaking 7.5-hour drama that examines identity, memories and grief, and offers plenty of commentary on society and culture.
When I briefly met Diaz last year at the Bangkok International Film Festival, I told him that his films -- I'd seen Heremias Book I and Death in the Land of Encantos by then -- had changed the way I viewed cinema. But I didn't really know what I meant by that. And anyway, I'm not the first person to tell him that either. So he probably gets that a lot.
After the brief taste in the two-hour rough cut of Heremias Book II and Melancholia, and getting to hear Diaz talk about his films last weekend, my ideas about what I meant have begun to form a bit better.
I've found myself accustomed to the rhythms of Diaz's films, and take comfort in the monochrome footage, the lack of a score, the long, poetically composed shots and the lack of camera movement.
Watching anything else -- especially movies with fast editing and wacky camera work -- can be jarring. And in comparison, other movies seem mundane, incomplete and compromised.
As for writing about commercial Thai cinema, well at the moment neither my heart nor my head are into it, even if I do have a few items of interest to report.
I find it hard to concentrate. At home, I wanted to turn off the color on my TV set, and I've had to play DVDs with the volume setting way down, and watch things two or three times in a row just to feel anything.
It's like withdrawal.
Well, I'm going to get a good dose tomorrow, as the 11-hour Evolution of a Filipino Family is showing. It's going to be an experience, screening in Bangkok's Conference of Birds art gallery where there's no seating. I have a folding camp chair that I hope I can use.
But such things must be endured to appreciate Diaz's films, which are made without any consideration for commercial prospects. They are about the filmmaker's freedom to tell his stories the way he wants.
These are only a few thoughts I have racing around in my head at the moment.
In "Things I Like in Lav Diaz's Films", Limitless Cinema has thoughts that are better stated and more fully formed.
"Death in the Land of Melancholia: Lav Diaz Retrospective" continues around Thailand until September 6.
Update: More on the retrospective is at Kawadjan (via bkkdreamer)