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9.27.2007

SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY

Syndromes and a Century
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.* * * * *



9.25.2007

AUTOHYSTORIA / INDIO NACIONAL

Autohystoria
Directed and Written by Raya Martin

Indio Nacional
Directed and Written by Raya Martin





Projector issues- - -that's likely. But there is the way the image in that opening long walk home seems to corrode before your eyes, the way the noise picks out shapes of things that aren't even there, the way it feels less like postwork - - -that is, premeditated but artificial- - -and more the risk you put yourself through shooting on analog then blowing it up to see what happens- - -that is, premeditated but organic. And the way in which what does happen counts as foreshadowing. For how it similarly obsesses on the active degrading of our collective memory, on history as something mutable and suspect, but not with the same elegiac prettiness as Indio Nacional tapping into silent cinema's textures of otherness to find eerie new con/subtexts - - - 1896's hard-won independence as a kind of cultural neutering, for one- - - in our beloved revolutionary saga.

That one opens, too, with a man walking, not home, but down a cave. A returning to the womb, perhaps, also a descent into mystery. The mystery of our birth as a nation reflexively full-circling to our dying as a cultural entity and retold as ghost stories at bedtime so it gets feverish and hysteric with swaths of unease and swaths of whimsy and swaths of surreal imagery - - -the blessed virgin dogging a katipunero down a field , the sun rising from between a man's legs then giving him a wink, a plaster saint flirting with two women in church - - - where Autohystoria gets feverish and hysteric but only with unease and in more than mere swaths, it's nervy with it.

The death it gets under the skin of, after all, isn’t as abstract, as metaphoric, as philosophical. And is,in fact, bloody and viscous. Is, in fact, a murder- - -Andres and brother Procopio Bonifacio’s execution at the hands of Emilio Aguinaldo’s cohorts and the conspiracy to whitewash it, retold with microscopic agony and brutal immediacy as presentday salvage in real-time. Noble aims superseded by gleeful artifice means the pleasures of Indio are purer as mere cinephilic fetishism, nothing wrong with that. More nihilistic, more wounded, Autohystoria triumphs as surface, too, only with more seepage and tackle. Its subtext - - - that political homicide is in our blood - - - runs hardwired with marrow chill and black voltage, but its visceral jolt is the volatile that stays with you. Autohystoria * * * * * Indio Nacional * * * *