music friday: 2012
widows (steve mcqueen, 2018)

syndromes and a century (apichatpong weerasethakul, 2006)

 For the third time, I'm going to take advantage of the fact that that Weerasethakul asks English speakers to call him "Joe". Now, if you had told me at some point I would have seen three of Joe's movies, I'd have thought you were a little nuts. They aren't "my kind of movies". Think Terrence Malick, only Thai. Joe's films move at their own speed, inviting you to meet them on their own terms. He doesn't insist on this process ... he has said more than once that he doesn't mind if people fall asleep during his movies. Oddly, I never feel like dozing off when watching one of his films. It helps that they aren't endless ... the ones I've seen all get in under two hours. Joe doesn't piss me off with his obscurities, the way other filmmakers do. I don't know why.

Syndromes and a Century is split in half, a fact I'm glad I knew in advance (I always try to remain clueless about a movie before I've seen it, and don't how this information snuck in, but it helped). Both halves tell similar stories about similar people. The second half uses some of the same dialogue as the first. And "nothing happens" in either half. (It should be noted that there is no moment marking the switch into the second part.) The movie, like all of his I have seen, is beautiful looking and eccentric. And besides the feeling of giving myself over to Joe's rhythms, I could see that he was playing with the ways memories work (and don't work). If he had told the story a third time, it would be similar yet different once again, the ways memories are.

I'll add that there are some funny things in Syndromes and a Century. A monk who once dreamed of being a DJ. A doctor who keeps liquor in a prosthetic leg. Even the way, during what seems to be a job interview to work as a doctor in a hospital, the prospective employee is asked what "DDT" stands for. ("Destroy Dirty Things?") In one scene, a sick monk tries to con a doctor out of prescriptions for drugs for other family members, making us question not only if these family members exist, or even if the monk himself is actually sick. If you can stick with this movie, you will find rewards. Just don't look for them in the narrative (or lack thereof).

Thai censors demanded that Joe cut several scenes. These included a monk playing guitar, doctors kissing, and monks playing with a toy UFO.

The other Joe movies I have seen are Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Tropical Malady. #55 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 film of the 21st century, #728 on the All-Time list.

Here is a scene (for lack of a better word) that culminates in a remarkable shot of a vent sucking up smoke: