Friday, April 24, 2015

Apichatpong-a-rama: Cemetery of Splendour set for Cannes Un Certain Regard

Image from Cemetery of Splendour, courtesy of Kick the Machine.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul will return to the Cannes Film Festival with his latest project, Cemetery of Splendour, which was among the official selections added in a special announcement by the fest.

According to Apichatpong's Kick the Machine website, Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น, Rak Ti Khon Kaen) is about a lonesome middle-aged housewife who tends to a soldier with a mysterious sleeping sickness. She falls into a hallucination that triggers strange dreams, phantoms and romance – all the usual ingredients of an Apichatpong joint. Featuring Apichatpong's longtime leading lady Jenjira Widner, it was filmed last year in the director's boyhood hometown of Khon Kaen, in the Northeast of Thailand.

Cemetery of Splendour is among a trio of Asian titles added yesterday to the Un Certain Regard program. The others are also Cannes returnees. Filipino director Brillante Mendoza will be there with Taklub. He was in the main competition in 2008 with Serbis and won the best director gong the following year with his gritty crime drama Kinatay. And Japan's Naomi Kawase has been given the opening slot in Un Certain Regard with her latest AN. A frequent Cannes attendee, she was in the main competition last year with Still the Water.

They join a roster that will be judged by a panel headed by Isabella Rossellini, whose mother Ingrid Bergman adorns the festival's poster this year. Previously announced Un Certain Regard selections include Neeraj Ghaywan's Fly Away Solo and Gurvinder Singh's The Fourth Direction from India, Shin Su-won's Madonna and Oh Seung-wook's Shameless from South Korea and Kiyoshi Kurasawa's Journey to the Shore from Japan.

For Apichatpong, this year will mark his return to Un Certain Regard, an enigmatic category that tends to be more adventurous and avant-garde than the main Palme d'Or race, which can also be pretty far out. He competed in Un Certain Regard on his first trip to Cannes in 2002 with Blissfully Yours, which won the top prize. It was the first Thai film to win an award at Cannes.

Apichatpong returned to Cannes in 2004, entering the main competition with Tropical Malady, which won the Jury Prize from the panel headed by Quentin Tarantino.

His big triumph at Cannes came in 2010, with the top-prize Palme d'Or win for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, awarded by the jury led by Tim Burton.

Apichatpong also served on the Palme d'Or jury in 2008, and his mid-length effort Mekong Hotel had a special screening at Cannes in 2012.

Such a track record had fans and pundits assuming Apichatpong's latest project would be among the official selection that was announced by festival chiefs last week. But it wasn't. Instead, the fest's programmers went with another Asian trio for the main competition – Hou Hsiao-Hsien's period martial-arts drama The Assassin (starring Shu Qi as a sword-for-hire who falls for her target), Mountains My Depart by China's Jia Zhang-ke and Japan's Hirokazu Koreeda with Umimachi Diary. Hard to argue against any of those choices. Anyway, Film Business Asia had more on that.

Cemetery of Splendour also Love in Khon Kaen or Rak Ti Khon Kaen has been backed by the Berlin Film Fest's World Cinema Fund and the Rotterdam fest's Hubert Bals Fund. It is produced by Simon Field and Keith Griffith of Illuminations Films, who had previously backed Uncle Boonmee and the related Primitive art project.

The 68th Cannes Film Festival runs from May 13 to 24.

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