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Closely Watched Films: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Director

April 5, 2007 - April 7, 2007

Tropical Malady, April 5, 6

Rare it is to find films that are at once "postmodern and prehistoric," as Village Voice critic Dennis Lim calls the fabulist cinema of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. But there they are, modernist dramas materializing from the fertile soil of folktale—delirious in their mystified telling, desirous in their lusty unfolding, but composed with the cool hand of big-city sophistication. Emerging at the turn of the millennium with the aptly titled Mysterious Object at Noon (2000), Apichatpong has since become the most potent proponent of a new Thai cinema. His follow-up features, the wildly erotic Blissfully Yours (2002) and the verdantly realized Tropical Malady (2004), have established him well beyond the bounds of Southeast Asia. His newest, the serenely magical Syndromes and a Century (2006), is cool confirmation of his almost shamanistic talents. Apichatpong's work is not some exotic cinematic concoction, but an inspired effort to bind the fabulous and the formal with the fluidity of a truly new vision.

Twice an award-winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Apichatpong Weerasethakul has graciously consented to be the second participant in our occasional series, Closely Watched Films, in which notable film artists delve deeply into one of their most masterful movies. The series is based on the model of Roger Ebert's “shot-by-shot workshop.” The analysis unfolds as a combination of the filmmaker's personal insights and the audience's copious questions, leading to what some have dubbed “democracy in the dark.” In Apichatpong’s case, we’ll begin with a screening of Tropical Malady, then return the following evening for an hours-long shot-by-shot exploration of this mesmerizing and mystery-laden film. The third panel of our Apichatpong triptych will be a screening of Blissfully Yours—a happy ending to his short stay.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Thursday, April 5, 2007
7:30 p.m. Tropical Malady
Apichatpong Weerasethakul in Person. This shape-shifting blend of modern romance and mystic parable ventures deep into the Thai jungle of myth. "A work of outstanding originality and power."—Sight & Sound

Friday, April 6, 2007
7:00 p.m. Tropical Malady: Shot-by-Shot
Discussion with Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Your chance to talk in depth with the director about the making and meanings of this transfixing film that "requires a relaxed and open mind to watch it, be consumed by it, and enjoy its great and fearful symmetry."—Sight & Sound

Saturday, April 7, 2007
5:30 p.m. Blissfully Yours
Apichatpong Weerasethakul in Person. Young lovers travel to the verdant jungle seeking respite from everyday anguish in “a delicate, ethereal dream of a film.”—N.Y. Times

Closely Watched Films is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks to the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at UC Berkeley for their generous participation; to Chi-hui Yang and Taro Goto of the Center for Asian American Media for help with this series; and to Marilyn Fabe for lending the title of her most recent book.