Feature Friday: “Syndromes and a Century” (2006)

Easily one of the best films of the past seven years, by one of the greatest living filmmakers, Apichatapong Weerasethakul.

A funny story: I actually knew him, when I lived in Thailand (2003–5). I was given his cell phone number by a mutual film friend. One day I went to visit him at his studio in northern Bangkok. We sat around for a while, talking movies. Finally I asked what he was working on. [Note that this was in 2004, by which point I had seen only his first feature, the brilliant exquisite corpse Mysterious Object at Noon (2000).] He told me that he was finishing a new film, trying to get it ready in time for Cannes. “If we finish in time, we go,” he said. “If not—mai pen rai” (“no worries”).

That film turned out to be Tropical Malady (2004), which went on to win Cannes’s Jury Prize, effectively launching Apichatapong’s career. I’m glad I didn’t distract him overmuch!

Two years later, Apichatapong followed it up with a film some consider even better. (I myself rank them about the same, which is to say that they are both essential masterpieces of contemporary cinema.)

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Human Rights Activism and Filmmaking: Glasgow Film Theatre, June 26, 3pm.


If you happen to be in Glasgow this weekend, please check out the Human Rights Activism and Filmmaking event on Sunday, June 26, at the Glasgow Film Theatre. The event will feature multiple shorts and a panel discussion, and is part of the UK-wide Refugee Week. (Tokenization alarm bells should go off here, and they do, but the event should nevertheless be a good opportunity for discussion, exchange, and critique.)

My short film RECREATION will be representing Digital Desperados, and will be shown alongside short films from other local filmmaking groups. Also to be screened is one of my favorite shorts, Mobile Men, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

From the Scottish Refugee Council Website:

Refuge England (d. Robert Vas, 1959, 27 mins); Mobile Men (d. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2008, 3 mins); plus selected short films from Camcorder Guerillas, Digital Desperados and Diversity. The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion on human rights activism and filmmaking.

Robert Vas’ Refuge England depicts the experience of a Hungarian refugee arriving in 1950s London. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mobile Men is a portrait of Jaii, a migrant worker from Burma, in a rare moment of escape from the realities of everyday life. These contrasting films will be followed by selected shorts from local filmmakers working with people seeking asylum, and a panel discussion addressing film and human rights activism.

A D & Jeremy Talk about Movies: Source Code, Moon, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

[You click this link, you go back to the first installment, which found me and Jeremy unable to get service at an Applebee’s, following a screening of Duncan Jones’s Source Code. Increasingly hungry, increasingly desperate, we debated the nutritional value of our napkins and tablecloths, before Jeremy remembered that Applebee’s coats all such textiles in an indigestible plastic (to prevent sullen teenagers from rending or defiling them). Our gazes fell upon the Awesome Blossoms sizzling on our various neighbors’ tables.]

A D: Let’s keep talking about movies; it’ll distract us.

Jeremy: Capital! I liked Source Code better than Thor, I’d say (though not so much as Ang Lee or Bill Bixby’s Hulks). Because Source Code is a nice little movie. Though not as nice or little as Moon, Duncan Jones’s debut.

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In Buenos Aires with Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Seeing that A D recently mentioned seeing Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (see my first post on Big Other, also partially about Uncle Boonmee and Weerasethakul’s short film Phantoms of Nabua), thought it might be fitting to post the “Delirium” master class with Weerasethakul, which took place on November 12, 2010 in Buenos Aires.




“You don’t know if you’re creating a monster.” On Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Phantoms of Nabua, Camille Roy, Jacques Derrida, xenia, domestication and writing, being possessed.

I am someone who has long been a host or playmate for monsters and ghosts. My maternal grandmother had to spread chicken blood around my house as an offering to the ghosts who were befriending me and thereby killing me. These friendships were thought to be the source of my early (and enduring) frailty and sickness.

(And not, for example, the great quantity of immunosuppressive and antibiotic drugs of which I had regularly been the recipient. But this essay is not about the trials of children of medical professionals, of which there are many, all with varying levels of hilarity and cutting.)

The idea of “Being friends with ghosts diminishes your health” is similar to: “Whom the gods love, die young.”

Camille Roy, “Monstrous”: “For me writing grinds itself into what’s familiar yet unbearable.”

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