Monday, September 28, 2015

Cemetery of Splendour (2015) New York Film Festival 2015

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR is going to be a film that will divide it's audience after a certain point. The point is after a scene in a movie theater where we see a trailer for IRON COFFIN KILLER (yes it's a real film) Just as you're pondering what in the hell the cinematic weirdness is doing in an otherwise sedate film, the film gets really really weird. The characters are kind of the same and things don't change much but you'll wonder if you're suddenly in Kansas instead of Thailand.

Up until things get weird this is the story of a woman who is volunteering in a hospital where soldier afflicted with a kind of narcolepsy are being treated. As she gets close to one of them she learns, from godesses,that the soldiers are being used to fight a war for long dead kings in the spirit world. It sounds weird but it makes sense in context. It is for two thirds of it's running time a really good examine of life, death and the after life.

The problem is that there's this part where the film loses much of the audience. Talking with a couple of people after the film everyone, even those of us who liked it, said that what happens after the movie theater changed how they saw it.  I can't explain what exactly happens other than the film becomes something else with themes that seem different than the first part. What is happening between characters changes and there are several sequences that just hang there or require too much suspension of disbelief. You could argue that some that is what the film really is about, but honestly there is no build up to it. the film doesn't earn it.

To me this is Weerasethakul's best movie, and its an almost great one. Unfortunately its also this movie where you see it going down the wrong road and its such a seemingly glaring mistake that all you remember is the moment where great became good.

The film screens September 30 and October 1 for tickets and more information go here.

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