Friday, January 11, 2008

Mysterious Objects: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is bringing a selection of his films to New York City's Anthology Film Archives for Mysterious Objects: The Films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, running from January 17 to 19.

The program features around a dozen shorts and two of his features, the Cannes prize-winning Tropical Malady (2004) and Syndromes and a Century, which was pulled from release last year in Thailand due to censorship.

The Village Voice's Nathan Lee offers a glimpse at the shorts.

Among them will be the New York premiere of Emerald, an 11:50-minute work shot in the derelict old Morakot hotel in Bangkok. It was made as a video installation for the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

The program will also feature Worldly Desires, made in 2005 as part of the Three Digital Short Films by Three Filmmakers project of the Jeonju International Film Festival. It's a wild jungle romp featuring a film crew struggling to make film.

Another short, My Mother's Garden (2007), is described as "a curious little bewitchment commissioned to celebrate a collection of the house's extravagantly whimsical jewelry. "

Then there will be Anthem, which I saw before the press screening of Syndromes last year. Featuring techno music blessed by a monk, and introduced by three of Apichatpong's chatty aunties, it's an "audio-visual purification service," designed to be played before every film in cinemas. It serves a similar function to the Royal Anthem that is played before all film screenings in Thailand, only it is an anthem to cinema.

Says Lee:

I'm digging Anthem, too - and pledge allegiance to Apichatpong's dream of screening it before every movie begins. In Thailand, that honor goes to a royal anthem, the lyrics of which ("no one shall rob them of freedom!") sound a mite hypocritical given the Ministry of Culture's recent absurdly restrictive censorship of its native cinematic genius.

I'd play Anthem on my home system. It needs some purification. At some point, I hope an anthology of Apichatpong's short films is released. He's done dozens, so all his collected short works could potentially fill multiple DVDs.

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