Sunday, April 20, 2008

'It is really a corpse, not a film'

As a followup to his "Stranger Than Fiction" tale that broke the news of Syndromes and a Century: Thailand's Edition, producer Keith Griffiths has more commentary about the censored version of the film.

In his introduction, he draws parallels between censorship in Thailand and the so-called "Degenerate Art" of Nazi Germany, before reporting on the angry feelings of director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and the reactions of the baffled, clueless audiences that have been confronted with "meaningless blackness". Here is an excerpt from his guest blog at Film In Focus:

The show apparently opened with a discussion and Apichatpong recognizes that he was tired and has written that he "became very aggressive lambasting the stagnant system that we are floating in… Something possessed me and I couldn't help it. Somehow I thought this was useless in this glitzy cineplex…but this was the last chance to display my accumulated anger. This was not only about this film…there are countless films, self censored, censored, banned. Where is the audience's voice? In a way it was liberating but while watching the film, I felt so bad of course. It was the most stupid film ever shown. (Even though I enjoyed the black scratches…) Somehow with some scenes removed, especially the longest one, it completely changed the movie. When you consider that the cut scenes don't have much narrative connection with the others, the movie just fell apart…so, it is really a corpse, not a film."

Unsurprisingly quite a number of people, both Thai and foreign visitors, complained to the cinema about the film when they were confronted with "meaningless blackness". The cinema was forced to display a board at the ticket booth explaining what was actually screening and that they should only see it, at their own risk. "I feel sorry for the unknown audience to have to put up with our 'statement.' But come to think of it, this is amazing…maybe this will be only one time we could do this in a commercial theater here."

I thought it was interesting that when I called Paragon Cineplex to check on showtimes for the film, the guy who answered made a point of telling me that it is censored and has black scenes to replace the scenes that were cut. I guess I take it for granted that people who are going to see a film like this were making an informed decision, and not just walking in blind, with popcorn and Coke in hand. But that is the danger inherent, as well as the ironic opportunity, when a film like Syndromes is presented in a shopping-mall multiplex.

See also:
(Via Filmmaker Magazine)

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