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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#AuthorFail 1: Mark Spitzer

#AuthorFail is a new column at BigOther. For the details on how to submit, check here.

The column looks for instances that bury achievement and redemption and genius and artistic growth and special-ness beneath the crushing failure that often constitutes the material experience of art making and so runs counter to the individual myth(s) which power our dynamic culture machine.

Take Samuel Beckett’s line from Worstword Ho!: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

This might be interpreted in isolation as wonderfully inspirational, as suitably uplifting, as a special little parable about the triumph of perseverance and human achievement hiding deep within the secret spaces of the heart.

Here, though, we look for failure-as-failure. No redemption. No #winning. Except when we sort-of break our own rule, as Mark Spitzer does below, since his book was indeed eventually published.

Still, I know Spitzer, and this is definitely an #AuthorFail.  See you next week.

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