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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.