Thursday, April 19, 2012

Apichatpong-a-rama: Mekong Hotel for Cannes, plus Rocks, Walker Art and Quattro 2

Swinton and Apichatpong at a Bangkok press conference last month ahead of the Film on the Rocks festival . Nation photo by Anant Chantarasoot.

The French Riviera will get another blissful dose of Apichatpong Weerasethakul next month. In the announcement today of the main line-up for the 65th Cannes Film Festival, Apichatpong's Mekong Hotel is listed among the non-competitive Special Screenings.

Heavy on Hollywood titles, this year's Cannes line-up has only a handful of Asian films, Film Business Asia reports.

Mekong Hotel has been a long-gestating project, with Apichatpong talking about it more than a year ago, saying he'd long wanted to make a film about "water", specifically the Mekong. And there was a mention of Tilda Swinton somehow being involved.

“It’s definitely not going to be a film that will just have a foreign movie star for the sake of it," he was quoted as saying back in February 2011. "It’s going to be an exchange of ideas, of images, of ... I don’t know. It’s like a game for me: the river, the pigs, and Tilda Swinton.”

It should come as no surprise that Mekong Hotel has been selected for Cannes, where Apichatpong has a long relationship, going back to 2002, when he won the Un Certain Regard prize with Blissfully Yours. Then came the main-competition Jury Prize in 2004 for Tropical Malady, a spot on the main jury in 2008 and finally blowing up big time with the Palme d'Or top prize in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

However, at this point, I am uncertain whether Swinton is actually involved in Mekong Hotel.

But earlier last month, Apichatpong and Swinton finally collaborated on a project, having stoked their mutual admiration of each other through lengthy e-mail correspondence. The British actress had invoked the filmmaker's name in her 2006 State of Cinema address.

That collaboration turned out to be Film on the Rocks Yao Noi, an exclusive little festival at the luxury Six Senses resort in Phang-nga Bay near Phuket. With only a 100 or so people invited, mainly artsy high-society types, the quirky event seemed designed mostly to attract press attention, which it did, including international coverage.

The festival's eye-candy quotient was boosted by the unique floating Archipelago Cinema designed by Beijing-based architect Ole Scheeren. The screen was erected in front of a towering pair of Phang-nga Bay's scenic karst rock outcroppings. Film-goers had to take a boat to reach the platform, which had benches and beanbags for seating. The eclectic selection of rarely seen movies included a 16mm print of Empire by Andy Warhol.

Kong Rithdee had a write-up of the fest last month. Go read that if you want to know more about what you missed.

The captive audience of Film on the Rocks. Photo via HuffPo.

Meanwhile, there's more work ahead for Apichatpong. Among his upcoming jobs is a video commissioned by Minneapolis-St. Paul's Walker Art Center. There's brief report about it at the Star Tribune.

The Walker Art website has more:

This much-anticipated online piece from boundary-breaking director Apichatpong Weerasethakul makes its debut as the first artist commission on the Walker Channel. The source for live and archived video of the Walker’s public programming, the Walker Channel includes lectures, dialogues, and performances involving artists, scholars, and critics of contemporary art and culture.

Weerasethakul’s short video, under discussion since he was the subject of a Regis Dialogue and Retrospective in 2004, has been created amid a packed schedule of projects — one that’s only grown more intense since his feature film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2010. The artist is also making work for documenta 13 in June and is completing his newest film, Mekong Hotel.

Walker film curator Sheryl Mousley calls Weerasethakul an ideal choice for the multidisciplinary institution’s first Walker Channel commission: “His ability to mix genres — experimental, narrative, documentary — is only part of his distinctive vision,” she says. “He’s also so accomplished in both old and new media: besides films, he makes objects, video installations, and exhibitions, and integrates his vision across those art forms, always with amazing results.”

Plans are to launch the channel in June.

Finally, closer to home, Bangkok's SF World Cinema will host a Hong Kong Film Festival from April 26 to May 2. Among the titles is Quattro Hong Kong 2, a pan-Asian short-film omnibus that was commissioned for last year's Hong Kong International Film Festival. Apichatpong's M Hotel is part of a package that also features work by Filipino director Brillante Mendoza, Malaysia's Ho Yuhang and Hong Kong's Stanley Kwan.

Update: The Wall Street Journal's Scene Asia Blog has more on Mekong Hotel.

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