Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mekong Hotel (2012)

WHO: Apichatpong Weerasetkaul wrote and directed this.

WHAT: Mekong Hotel feels more like a conceptual piece, than an aesthetic work like Apichatpong's best-known films distributed on 35mm prints and commercial DVDs. Very static shots and simple blocking foreground thematic concerns over visual ones. Shot entirely in a hotel beside the titular river marking the border between Thailand and Laos, actors appear to play themselves, discussing current and past events calmly until, just as matter-of-factly, some of their bodies become inhabited by carnivorous "Phi Pob" ghosts. A plaintive guitar soundtrack may seem incongruous for a quasi-horror story, but its agreeability indicates just how normal spiritual visitations are considered in the region. The final shot of jet-skiers on the Mekong is reminiscent of James Benning.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens via CAAMFest twice this weekend: today at 4:00 PM at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, and tomorrow at 2:10 at New People.

WHY: It's a pretty good time to be a Frisco Bay fan of so-called "Thai New Wave" filmmakers. Not only are we getting two screenings of Mekong Hotel followed by one of Apichatpong's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives this Tuesday, in conjunction with access to his Emerald installation in Berkeley through next month, but Yerba Buena Center For the Arts has recently announced a sizable retrospective devoted to perhaps the second-best-known Thai filmmaker currently on the international festival circuit. Pen-ek Ratanaruang will be on hand for screenings of his two most recent features, Headshot and Nymph, and four more of his features will screen in 35mm prints (two of which, Ploy and Invisible Waves, will be making their local cinema premieres along with Headshot). Those of us who are fans of 6ixtynin9 and/or Last Life in the Universe will also be pleased to have opportunities to see them on the big screen again.

HOW: Digital screenings of a digital production, paired with local filmmaker Jennifer Phang's latest digital short Advantageous.


  1. Brian: To follow up on the thread about navigating the transitional time, I really appreciate you are now listing under HOW not just the format in which the program is expected to be projected, but also the format on which the program originated.This will allow readers to make a more well advised decision. In an ideal world, all exhibitors would post this information!

    1. Thanks for noticing! I don't know if I'll be able to make this a foolproof policy (especially considering that there are many films that involve both film and digital inputs in their production- including Marilou Diaz-Abaya: Filmmaker on a Voyage come to think of it) but I'll try to include the information when it's easily gleaned and relevant.