Directed and Written by Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul
*Syndromes and a Century is one of seven films commissioned for the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.
Amadeus is in the details here* so it isn't a diptych but variations on a theme, two views of a memory- - -they're movements. But whether across time or geography is what Joe Weerasethakul isn't making apparent - - - that's always been part of his elliptical charm and past/present and rural/urban overlap as dichotomies anyway so it's not as if knowing which is which is crucial to getting anything. And neither is getting anything per se. Knowing a bit about its Mozart connections sort of is, though, because as used as we may be to the way his work splits in half, the one thing we do get is how melodic the whole piece feels. How benign with happiness, too. Joe's remembering something he has no memory of- - -how his doctor parents met - - - so it's hazy, so it's fond, so idyll drapes it. From the first half's country hospital - - -where a young doctor is torn between her forthright suitor and the elusive orchid farmer she's starting to fall for and a dentist who wants to be a pop star strikes an odd friendship with a monk who wants to be a DJ- - -to the secret wing of the city hospital in the second half - - - where mysterious diseases with no names are treated and brandy is stashed in the hollows of prosthetic limbs for the staff to sneak a nip in. And all over, between bisected halves, murmurs and ricochets and rhymes and refrains and shapeshifts : an outdoor concert becomes an outdoor aerobics session, a pop CD given to the monk becomes a remote-controlled UFO two other monks play with, a solar eclipse becomes an ominous air duct, and one deceptively passive woman with one leg shorter than the other crosses over both segments unchanged by the transition the way other reappearing characters are. All exuding, even at its most obtuse, this persuasive calm that makes you fear decoding them will upset its delicate, contained loveliness. So you don't. There's bliss enough in just humming along to those magic changes, those melodies - - - prettified with mystery, soaked in bearable lightness, invincible to regret.* * * * *