So, if you’re reading this site, you probably have at the very least a passing interest in the art of film. Then WHAT ARE YOU DOING READING THIS SITE WHEN YOU SHOULD BE IN THE THEATER WATCHING SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY?!?
That’s right, the movie that’s sweeping the nation [‘s intelligent lovers of cinema and all things human] is finally playing. Opened yesterday at New York’s IFC Center, and probably soon coming to a Netflix queue near you, Syndromes and a Century, directed by eminently huggable genius-auteur-of-the-moment Apichatpong Weerasethakul solidifies the almost extraterrestrial brilliance of this Thai filmmaker. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: With Apichatpong, Tsai Ming-liang, and the Dardenne Brothers consistently working, the cinema will remain as vital and thrilling as all of us who have dedicated our passions to it have dreamed.
Hyperbole? YES, GODAMMIT!
So go now and ensconce yourselves in Apichatpong’s latest gorgeous world. If his earlier films are a valuable reference point for you, then Syndromes has the digressive anecdotal surprises of Mysterious Object at Noon, the lovely, nature idyll of Blissfully Yours, and the bisected narrative daring of Tropical Malady. Don’t try to “figure it out”; you wouldn’t do that to David Lynch, would you? Just sit back, climb in its trees, wander its hallways, enter its open doors and gaping pipe-holes, sing along, drift away, and dance to the closing credits.
What, you need more?
Well, our staff writers have a lot to say about it:
“Syndromes may well be the filmmaker’s most assured, complex, and rewarding film to date. I hate to praise a director I love with such milquetoast terms of approval as “gentle” and “lulling” (“visionary” and “bold” are certainly much sexier), but Weerasethakul’s films approach a level of calm hugely unfashionable in a culture attuned to the hyperactivity of Park Chan-wook. A whisper in the ear when audiences respond more readily to a punch in the face, Weerasethakul has been able to work surprisingly regularly since his debut feature, Mysterious Object at Noon, becoming a fixture in international cinema in only a few short years. Somehow his brand of warm, honest humanism straddles a fine line—never really in fashion, while never quite going out of style for the discerning. A majority of film students might steal from the likes of more overtly cinematic directors like Martin Scorsese or Sam Peckinpah, but the ones to watch out for—the real talents—are going to be those expert in early Renoir.”
Click here to read the rest.
“How does a good, upstanding critic, wary from years of singing the praises of films that he convinced only his lover, grandma, and some random dude in Wyoming to go see, persuade his readers to get out of the grindhouse and into the rhythms of Apichatpong?
Well, one could dote upon the calming pacing and visuals, but then the film’s not reducible to its mood and atmosphere—Syndromes and a Century is truly sublime, a bridging of the gap between avant-garde and narrative forms made by the sure, steady hand of an artist. Syndromes is funny. Syndromes is pure–to the extent that I don’t believe that there’s a wasted moment, extraneous visual, or unharmonious cut, and that everything you see comes from the genuine expression of a painter and philosopher who just happens to use film as his medium.”
Michael Joshua Rowin in L Magazine:
“As foreign film audiences veer toward the middle of the road, choosing in greater numbers Pan’s Labyrinth over challenging fare like Regular Lovers (even while once controversial classics like Antonioni sell out at BAM due to their canonical infallibility), forward-thinking innovators like Weerasethakul become more and more the ignored picks of selective critics. Understandably: Weerasethakul’s sensibility encompasses several of the experimental tenets of modern narrative filmmaking, making his movies manna to the art house hardcore and head-scratchers to most other audiences. Like Tsai Ming-Liang (The Wayward Cloud) and Hou Hsaio-Hsien (Three Times), Weerasethakul deemphasizes plot momentum, shooting action — often punctuated by awkward moments of dead time — in extended long takes and creating serene moving portraits that heighten the senses by making each movement, sound, and change in light a miraculous occurrence. Weerasethakul doesn’t just slow things down, he literally takes his sweet time — not for nothing do the opening credits of his films appear, to one’s shock and discomfort, one or two reels in.”
And, if you need more reading on Apichatpong (there’s never enough), here’s our interview with the man himself upon the release of Tropical Malady.