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Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Mystic Master

Author: Mike McCahill 2014-07-25

Cinema needs its mystics and seers just as much as it does its realists and jokers; this is, after all, a medium unusually dependant on visions.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, known commonly as “Joe”, came from the East – Thailand, to be precise, a land rich in superstition and local legend, if the films are anything to go by. Significantly, the younger Weerasethakul studied architecture: rather than letting his ghosts roam free, this filmmaker situates them within recognisable structures, carefully and precisely defined areas of his homeland. His 2010 Palme d’Or-winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives functioned on one prosaic level as a study of the working practices of Laotian migrants, and the dream was somehow even more vivid for that.

Joe became prolific in short films while in his early twenties; his first features have only recently materialised on DVD as items of slow-burning fascination and wonder. 2000’s Mysterious Object at Noon, a drama-documentary hybrid, enlisted passers-by to invent and perpetuate a fiction about the relationship between a boy and his teacher; 2002’s spellbinding moodpiece Blissfully Yours unfolded a love triangle over a summer afternoon’s picnicking; 2003’s transvestite-spy comedy The Adventures of Iron Pussy (co-directed with Michael Shaowanasai) suggested how Weerasethakul runs both high and low.


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