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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL's cinema of Now (FILMKRANT)

Last month Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL sent an open letter to the Netherlands's zine Filmkrant (May 2nd 2020) in response to another lockdown letter written by his Chinese peer JIA Zhangke. (This mail connection between CCC masters reminds me of Correspondancia(s) a series of video letters between pairs of CCC masters)

To Apichatpong, (mainstream) cinema is like a journey, and each plot point is a mini-destination along the way, the dramatic denouement is the destination of the journey. Such is the "art" of classical cinema, to make spectators forget about time and to propel them to their destination.

He aptly compares cinema to a road trip, and the mainstream audience to impatient children at the back of the car. They scream for a destination in sight and get bored of the repeated scenery by the windows.
As the audience grows older, they learn to be patient (learn to be patient??? I want to be patient now!), and embraces the scenery by the window, without worrying so much for the eventual destination. In other words he's saying that the CCC audience is more mature and patient than the mainstream audience who finds everything boring and craves for action-action-action.

Maybe Apichatpong was thinking of his short segment "Mobile Men" for the omnibus film Stories on Human Rights (2008) :

Mobile Men (2008/WEERASETHAKUL) segment in Stories on Human Rights

"We try to observe our surroundings, emotions, actions, time, impermanence. When the future is uncertain, the now becomes valuable."

The "Cinema of Now", as he calls it, is something else, without destination.
The Covid-19 crisis has taught us to look at reality differently, with our internal clock and external clock. Some people, during virus lockdow, have developped the ability to stare at things for a long time, to stay in the present moment longer than usual. 

"They need a cinema that is closer to real life, in real time."

In his fantasy scenario, the virus lockdown has trained a new spieces of spectators who demand films by Béla Tarr, Tsai Ming-Liang, Lucrecia Martel, maybe Apichatpong and Pedro Costa, among others... and all these obscure CCC masters become megastars, famous, mainstream and rich. The fantasy scenario escalates some more, to a point that I can only see as a nudge/jab at Contemporary Contemplative Cinema (aka CCC) :

“We demand zero plots, no camera movement, no cuts, no music, nothing. [...] Our cinema has no place for psychological gratifications. The perpetual destination is the audience, the enlightened.”

The entitled crowd would then see "Slow Cinema" as to fast for them and summon a manifesto to call for more slowness and less of everything else : the Covid-19 Cinema Manifesto (aka CCM). He describes a structuralist precursor of CCC, (for example Andy Warhol, Michael Snow, John Cage, Bill Viola...) see Stasis films 1 (conceptual) or Stasis films 2 (landscape) or Stasis films 3 (behaviourist)

Then a wink at the Slow Film Festival (or maybe le Film International du Film Chiant) he introduces us to the "Nothing Film Festival" where films are nothing more than a dim light projected on a theatre screen. (see Nuit noire sur l'écran de cinéma)

And this phase is only to reset the cinema culture back to its origins with Lumière brothers single "views" of a scenery

Thank you very much for this dream Apichatpong Weerasethakul.


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