Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Spirit and Enigma
October 6 - 30
“Weerasethakul makes serious movies without the burden of solemnity. He’s one of the most excitingly unburdened directors in the world…a man of sly humor and great patience.” — Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
“You feel yourself moved, even enchanted, by the beautiful, oblique stories unfolding before your eyes.” — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
This four-film series is presented by the Gene Siskel Film Center in cooperation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sullivan Galleries Exhibition “Apichatpong Weerasethakul: The Serenity of Madness.” Feature films by the SAIC alumnus include the recent CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR. His Cannes Palme d'Or winner UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY, and TROPICAL MALADY will screen in rare 35mm prints.
Born in Bangkok of physician parents, Weerasethakul earned an undergraduate degree in architecture, even as he was gravitating to filmmaking. With an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he moved rapidly toward mastery of a unique non-traditional narrative form in which lush imagery, rife with earthy eroticism and off-hand flashes of humor, conveys an ethereal sense of the unseen.
A prevailing theme in Weerasethakul’s work is the integration of the spirit world and the concrete world of his human characters. Spirits walk casually among the living in CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR. Images of eerie beauty and the more mundane sights of everyday life mix, and there is little boundary between the real, the mythic, and the supernatural, as when a soldier stalks a shape-shifting tiger spirit in TROPICAL MALADY. What can’t be explained is nevertheless easily accepted as part of the flow of life by these characters.
“Joe,” as Weerasethakul is known by his friends, debuted his second feature BLISSFULLY YOURS at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2002, where he moved unknown through throngs of press, passing out modest fliers for his film. BLISSFULLY YOURS went on to win the festival’s Un Certain Regard Award. Two years later, he was back with TROPICAL MALADY, which won the Cannes Jury Prize. In 2010, he was awarded the festival’s prestigious top prize, the Palme d’Or for UNCLE BOONMEE. In 2015, Joe received a rousing, whooping welcome from 3,000 friends at the Cannes press screening for CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR. Ascending the stage to hug festival director Thierry Frémaux, he assured the crowd that his films remain as personal as ever.
— Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming
For their assistance the Gene Siskel Film Center thanks: Nathan Faustyn, Strand Releasing; Steven K. Hill, UCLA Film & Television Archive; Bruce Jenkins and Trevor Martin, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Cemetery of Splendor
Rak Ti Khon Kaen / รักที่ขอนแก่น
2015, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/UK/France, 122 min. With Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomnoi.
“Weerasethakul is utterly unique among filmmakers…CEMETERY evokes a sense of alien wonder…the purest expression of cinema as it was meant to be seen.” — Jessica Kiang, The Playlist
Weerasethakul proves masterful in exploring the intersection of the human and spirit worlds through a film of delicate, sumptuous beauty. A few soldiers lie stricken by a mysterious sleeping sickness in a rural town’s veranda-like hospital. The film’s subtle theme of healing brought about with the help of otherworldly forces encompasses not just the prone figures in the beds, but characters including a hospital volunteer, a psychic, and an awakened soldier, all of whom will come to walk, knowingly or unknowingly, with resident spirits. The real and the supernatural mix with casual concreteness and infusions of offhand humor under the placid spell of Weerasethakul’s mythic world view. In Thai with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat / ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ
2010, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, UK/Thailand, 113 min. With Thanapat Saisaymar.
“One of a kind...a sensory experience that makes its own rules.” — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
An enchanted pool, a shimmering golden fish, and a water-bound transformation spin a tale of haunting delight in this Cannes Palme d’Or-winning feature. Breathtakingly mystical, and steeped in a Buddhist worldview, the film is a loose narrative spun around the last days of a dying man. Uncle Boonmee retreats with two family members to a small jungle home, where he is soon visited by guests from the spirit world in some of the most delicately beautiful and fantastical sequences in all of contemporary cinema. In Thai with English subtitles. 35mm. (BS)
Syndromes and a Century
S̄æng ṣ̄atawǎat / แสงศตวรรษ
2006, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/France/Austria, 105 min. With Nantarat Sawaddikul, Jaruchai Iamaram.
- Fri, Oct 20th 8:15pm
- Sun, Oct 22nd 4:45pm
“A quiet masterpiece, delicate and full of wonder.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
“Absolutely mesmerizing.” — David Ansen, Newsweek
The filmmaker explores his own roots obliquely, transforming the handed-down memories from his parents’ pasts into a series of narrative puzzle pieces that suggest a larger story that remains tantalizingly out of reach. A small rural hospital set in a lush jungle landscape is the setting for the first half of the film, in which encounters with patients, would-be suitors, and job applicant Dr. Nohng (Iamaram) flow through the days and recollections of young Dr. Toey (Sawaddikul). In the second half, set in a large urban hospital, Nohng’s encounters with the past and present begin to come full circle. In Thai with English subtitles. 35mm. (BS)
Sud pralad / สัตว์ประหลาด
2004, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 118 min. With Banlop Lomnoi, Sakda Kaewbuadee.
“A spellbinding, beautiful, enigmatic film.” — Patrick Z. McGavin, Chicago Reader
Weerasethakul has become one of the most celebrated filmmakers of the past decade, known for his challenging of traditional narrative forms in favor of open-ended structures that evoke both modernist experiments and folklore. TROPICAL MALADY is divided into two parts that have a suggestively mysterious relationship to each other. The first part depicts a tentative romance between a soldier and a country boy; in the second part, a soldier (the same one?) plunges into a jungle haunted by such creatures as a ghost tiger and a talking baboon. Winner of the Jury Prize, 2004 Cannes International Film Festival. In Thai with English subtitles. 35mm. (MR)