Thursday, September 30, 2010

Apichatpong-a-rama: Monkeying around in New York

Following last weekend's screenings of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives at the New York Film Festival, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul was the toast of the town.

Appropriately for a movie that features a monkey ghost, a private dinner was hosted at Manhattan's Monkey Bar.

The evening was hosted by longtime fans Francesco Vezzoli, artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, Black Frame’s Brian Phillips, designer-lawyer Chomwan Weeraworawit and Tilda Swinton and Marc Jacobs (neither of whom attended but attached their names because they wanted to support "Joe").

Apichatpong said that he was wearing a suit by Jacobs, though they've never met. "I think he gave it to me," he's quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal. "I don't know him, but somehow he chipped in for the party. He loves what I do."

He's also never met Swinton, but they have been in correspondence by e-mail and plan to meet in London when Uncle Boonmee plays the October 13-28 London Film Festival (tickets for which reportedly sold out in one hour). "We e-mail," he tells WSJ. "She wrote, 'Let's make a film for children together.' I said, 'I cannot make a children's movie. I feel like making a scary movie.' She said, 'Okay, I'll do whatever.'"

Big names in attendance included former Talking Head David Byrne, actress Greta Gerwig, filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell and Diana Picasso, granddaughter of Pablo.

There's more coverage of Apichatpong's night at the Monkey Bar, and pix by Patrick McMullan.

At the NYFF, Apichatpong sat for an interview with Peter LaBuza, and explains some of the symbolism behind the monkey ghosts in Boonmee admits the reluctant monk at the end of the movie had a deeper meaning.

Apichatpong gave another interview to Interview Magazine, in which he talks about his background as an architecture student and how that manifests itself in his films. "Buildings are designed as a journey and films are the same," he says. "You have an opening that you come through, an angle you follow, maybe a disruption in space."

The New York Film Festival has also been the garden for a fresh crop of reviews of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Tom Hall at IndieWire's Back Row Manifesto:

What to make of the dissonance within me that deplores the irrational in my real life and deeply embraces it in cinema? Perhaps I allow films to tear open a part of me that I otherwise suppress, or maybe there is something about the nature of sitting in the dark that allows me to recognize the poetry of certain fictions without feeling threatened by what my acquiescence might mean in the workings of the world. Every time I confront a film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, I face this dilemma; give myself over to his dream world, safe in the knowledge that by doing so, my local school board won’t suddenly be populated by people rallying for the inclusion of tiger boyfriends and monkey ghosts into the science curriculum or resist the considerable charm of the many inducements into Weerasethakul’s universe, instead using my rational mind to combat the seductive power of his narratives, scene by scene, shot by shot. Often, I find myself doing both, pushing and pulling myself away from the films like a turned on lover who can’t make up his mind, before I ultimately surrender to their gentle touch and fall head over heels into the milky reality that Weerasethakul creates. I just can’t help myself, I guess. For me, it seems, that’s what film is for.

David Ehrlich at's Cinematical blog:

I never expected Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul to become this popular. For one, his name is Apichatpong Weerasethakul (but he insists you call him "Joe"). Moreover, his films are gauzy reveries of a deceptively inaccessible variety – from the exquisite corpse of Mysterious Object at Noon to the tender queer romance of his bifurcated masterpiece Tropical Malady, Joe's films are all fractured abstractions of what it feels like to be alive on this earth, and how slippery that feeling can be. His non-linear stories are gleefully surprising and often very romantic, but they can feel as impenetrable as listening to a stranger share a dream about their friends, and ever since Joe dramatically ended his working relationship with Shia Labeouf his commercial prospects have looked rather dim (note: Joe has never actually worked with Shia Labeouf, but now that I've planted the seed I'm sure Shia's agent can hardly think about anything else).

Raffi Asdourian at The Film Stage:

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is one of the coolest titles to come in a long time. This critically acclaimed entry from the often overlooked Thailand cinema scene is the latest from up and coming auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul who won the Palme D’Or aka the highest honor earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festvial. It is film filled with mystery and beauty, touching on a myriad of themes ranging from reincarnation to animals entwined with spiritual mythology among others. However despite it’s ambitious scope in terms of thematic expression, Uncle Boonmee can often times feel painfully slow and extremely random with very little explanation offered besides your own interpretation filling in the gaps.

And finally, there's film scholar Michael J. Anderson at his Tativille blog, which is impossible to excerpt. Just go read it.

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