MEMORIA. Poesía maravillosa. Apichatpong goes to Colombia with Tilda Swinton as his vessel for struggling to understand an inscrutable world. Nobody does the slow cinema tap dance better than this guy. #cannes www.indiewire.com/2021/07/memoria-review-apichatpong-weerasethakul-1234651430/
Asghar Farhadi's engrossing new film A Hero in @Festival_Cannes reminded me of Kamran Shirdel's brilliant, classic Iranian doc The Night it Rained. Similar theme of the popular desire for heroes and the complexity of that. pic.twitter.com/5u9sykvZK0
On the red carpet at @Festival_Cannes with Tony Wilson, Michael Winterbottom, Andrew Eaton, Steve Coogan and the cast and crew of ‘24 Hour Party People’ ❤️ Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the #CannesFilmFestival 2002 🙌🏽 We didn’t win but we did get to perform at the after-party pic.twitter.com/e9YAKWMidT
My fifth video dispatch from the 2021 @Festival_Cannes covers Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Bergman Island,” Sean Penn’s “Flag Day” and Tom McCarthy’s “Stillwater,” as well as my interaction with Penn at his press conference. www.rogerebert.com/chaz-at-cannes/cannes-2021-video-5-bergman-island-flag-day-stillwater
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The mother-daughter duo held hands as they walked the red carpet together.
On July 14, Tilda Swinton attended the premiere of Les Olympiades (Paris, 13th District) and by her side was her daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne. Swinton wore a designer oversized white button-down shirt while her daughter sported a blazer and mini skirt. The pair last walked the red carpet together at Cannes in 2019.
Swinton shares Honor with her former partner, playwright John Byrne, who she was with from 1989 to 2003. They also have a son, Xavier Swinton Byrne, who's Honor's twin brother.
Tilda Swinton's accomplished career as an actor was not something Honor always wanted to emulate. In May 2019, she told W that the idea of being an actor didn't even cross her mind until an opportunity was offered to her. "It never occurred to me that I would be remotely…valuable to this at all," Honor said. However, once her godmother and director Joanna Hogg asked her to star in the movie The Souvenir, she said yes immediately.
Since the movie's release in 2019, Honor has also shot part two of that film, which made its debut at Cannes this year as well. (Here are Honor and Swinton at the premiere of The Souvenir Part 2 on July 8.) She's also narrated a short film that's in post-production called Born Again. In Aug. 2019, Honor told The Guardian that she was heading to college to study forensic psychology, but that doesn't mean she's saying goodbye to acting. "I'm not ruling anything out," Honor said. "I'm excited to try everything."
Swinton appeared in The Souvenir alongside Honor, and the young actor said it was great having her mother around for her first starring role. "It was the happiest thing to work with my mum," Honor told The Guardian. She added that "it came naturally," but noted that their mother-daughter dynamic in the movie varied greatly from the one the two share in real life. "It was hilarious because our relationship on screen was so different to our real relationship."
Honor explained that she and her mother have "always been physically affectionate and close." However, in the film, they had to play characters who didn't have that, so Honor said she and Swinton would "cuddle between takes, it was so much fun."
Swinton also reprises her role with Honor in The Souvenir Part 2, due in theaters this fall.
Honor told The Guardian that she and her twin brother Xavier are "best friends." "I love him so much," she added.
Xavier is also in the movie industry, but he works behind the scenes in the art department. He's worked on iconic movies including Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, Cruella, and F9: The Fast Saga.
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16 July, 2021 - 12:01am
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Tilda Swinton experiences a tropical malady in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cannes Competition entry, filmed and set in Colombia
Halfway through Memoria, the film’s troubled protagonist is advised against taking Xanax because it will deprive her of the ability to savour the beauty in the world — the kind of beauty, in fact, that Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film offers in steady doses. Graced by Tilda Swinton’s emptied-out performance as a woman haunted by a strange sound whose origins she is obsessed with uncovering, Memoria eludes easy categorisation while becoming a powerful meditation on connection, spiritual isolation and renewal. The celebrated Thai auteur’s first English-language feature — and his first to be made outside of his home country — is as entrancing and wonderfully perplexing as any of his previous pictures.
The boldness of Weerasethakul’s vision — the way he turns simple tales into resonant parables — remains astonishing, even nourishing
With Memoria, Weerasethakul returns to the official Cannes Competition for the first time since Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives won the Palme d’Or in 2010, and Swinton’s arthouse cachet could help widen the filmmaker’s profile. (Indeed, Neon will be releasing Memoria in the US.) That said, this remains a challenging, slow-paced affair.
We don’t learn much about Jessica (Swinton), who lives in Medellin and is plagued by the unpredictable occasional jolt of a loud banging noise that is happening only in her head. With trouble sleeping and concerned that she may be losing her mind, Jessica seeks answers, recruiting a sound engineer (Juan Pablo Urrego) to help her replicate the noise and, later, journeying into the Colombian jungles.
In a more conventional film, Jessica’s strange malady would be fuel for a psychological thriller in which she unravels the mystery of her ailment. Instead, Weerasethakul pushes the story into existential terrain, not so interested in solving the riddle as he is in examining how small physical hindrances can profoundly alter our reality — but also open us up to the offhand wonders around us. There’s no pattern for when Jessica will hear the unsettling banging noise — which sounds like a thudding wallop — but Memoria populates the film with just as many instances of other distinctive noises, whether it’s a crack of thunder or the screech of howler monkeys. In his typically unhurried style, Weerasethakul asks us to contemplate all of these aural sensations and consider how they form the unexamined background of our lives.
Weerasethakul’s frequent cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom shot Memoria on film, lending the images a rich, grainy texture that makes them feel like memories. And although Memoria doesn’t boast the overtly fantastical elements of the writer-director’s earlier work — at least not initially — there’s the usual amount of whimsical narrative curiosities. Why does the sound engineer suddenly go missing, his colleagues telling Jessica that they’ve never heard of him? And why does a very different man she encounters later in the film go by the same name, Hernan (Elkin Diaz), although they seem to have no connection? Like Jessica, audiences will be disoriented as the story rolls along, but the sureness of Weerasethakul’s pacing and calmly composed frames leave no doubt that the filmmaker knows exactly where her quest will end.
Swinton’s raw immediacy has been forgotten of late, but in Memoria she exudes a meek, haunted air playing a woman with few attachments. As Jessica pursues this mystery, the actress strips away more and more — almost as if Jessica is returning to some elemental state the closer she gets to an explanation. Swinton has rarely been so vulnerable, and she acquits herself well in Weerasethakul’s measured, long-take approach, giving us a character who, long before she started hearing this noise, felt separated from those around her.
The Colombian locales provide Weerasethakul with the same otherworldly environment that Thailand once delivered for him. The country’s jungles feel cut off from civilisation, making them ripe for folkloric magic, while the city scenes project an icy sterility that echoes Jessica’s own sense of displacement. Characters switch easily back and forth from English to Spanish, but what’s most impactful are the silences — particularly when Jessica meets the second Hernan, whose remarkable past provides a clue to her malady.
At its conclusion, Memoria remains something of a mystery, as Weerasethakul’s gentle, hallucinatory fables often do after only one viewing. But the boldness of his vision — the way he turns simple tales into resonant parables — remains astonishing, even nourishing. “I think I’m going crazy,” Jessica laments at one point. But she’s not — she’s just seeing the world in a startling new way, an Apichatpong Weerasethakul specialty.
Production companies: Kick The Machine, Burning
International sales: The Match Factory, email@example.com
Producers: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Diana Bustamante, Simon Field, Keith Griffiths, Charles de Meaux, Michael Weber, Julio Chavezmontes
Main cast: Tilda Swinton, Elkin Diaz, Jeanne Balibar, Juan Pablo Urrego, Daniel Gimenez Cacho
Deal on Juho Kuosmanen’s Cannes competition entry also covers Latin America and Easter Europe.
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15 July, 2021 - 09:00pm
Shown anywhere else other than at the Cannes Film Festival and like-minded environs, Memoria would play as nearly pitch-perfect parody of an art film. Arid, potted with risible minimalist dialogue, positively stewing in its own creative amazingness and with Tilda Swinton, no less, in the leading role, this seventh feature from Thai-brow pet Apichatpong Weerasethakul had the Cannes premiere crowd on its feet applauding for minutes after its world premiere. But you could easily imagine other viewers seeing bits of it and believing it something that was made for easy laughs on Saturday Night Live.
One person’s pretentions are another’s red meat, and there are few cinematic practitioners of this sort of highfalutin gobbledygook these days more lauded than “Joe” (the director’s nickname), who won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and can do no wrong with his constituency.
The addition of Swinton to his circle, as well as his move into English dialogue, could expand his audience somewhat. But her performance here might be her most repressed and inexpressive, so up in her own shell is Jessica, a British woman in the unlikely settings of Medallin and Bogota, Colombia, where she tends to a flower-growing business and looks after her ailing sister in a hospital.
Still, the characters here play a distant second to the noises Jessica hears from time to time. Out of nowhere comes a big and startling thump, loud enough to be alarming but heard only by her. In her own somnolent, unhurried way, she gets this looked into by a sound engineer, who tries to re-create the noise, but don’t get too excited about the prospect of a mystery story here; this is a film in which execution of a single panning shot represents a big stylistic deal.
The mystery, such as it is, lies within. There are long scenes in which Jessica just sits alone, waiting for the noise to recur, and she hears it again at a restaurant in the presence of her sister and the latter’s husband, who don’t notice a thing. There will certainly be debates among the faithful about what these noises are and why they occur.
Are they messages being sent from the past? Is God sending her early warnings of things to come, ominous portents of destruction, signals from the ancients or merely the Earth complaining about being disemboweled, such as we see happening during the construction of a massive tunnel?
Jessica’s cautious searching eventually leads her to an isolated house occupied by a man who values his privacy above all. He listens to this interloper for a good long time, and what comes out of their interchange reveals a woman stripped down to basics along with a man who has long since lost the desire to do anything but wait. For something is going to happen.
Faced with the unknown, the existential void, the threat of monsters who make a pounding noise once in a while to let us know they’re out there waiting, most people still go about their business.
All this takes two-and-a-quarter hours, largely because the filmmaker fills his work with the kind of things that directors mostly eschew — shots of waiting, listening, the rain falling, anything that amplifies the sense of stillness required to receive what one day will no doubt happen.
Memoria is high-minded titillation of a sort that happened to find favor with artistic sophisticates. But it still feels like a cute little game calculated to captivate a special few.
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‘Memoria’ Review: The Amazon Jungle Offers a Fresh Playground for Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Usual Obsessions
15 July, 2021 - 01:34pm
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Memoria” starts with a bang, which is not at all typical of the infamously understated Thai auteur, making his return to Cannes competition 11 years after winning the Palme d’Or for “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” Nor is working with an internationally recognized movie star, which the director does this time around, enlisting Tilda Swinton as a kind of stand-in for himself in this oblique and sometimes taxing excursion into the jungles of Colombia.
Swinton plays a foreign-born orchidologist plagued by a strange condition whereby it sounds as if a gong is ringing inside her head — or else a wrecking ball is smashing loudly against a steel drum somewhere off in the distance. The opening bang, therefore, is a literal one, not some big set-piece or action sequence, lest you think the independent art-house director has sold out and decided to go all Hollywood for what’s been misleadingly described as his English-language debut. While Swinton does speak a bit of English, most of her dialogue is delivered in carefully articulated Spanish, as Jessica tries to figure out what the heck she’s hearing.
Apparently, the disturbing sound — which echoes no fewer than 55 times over the course of the film — was inspired by a recurring noise that Weerasethakul himself experienced, thereby recalling the tinnitus and other (tropical) maladies that Pedro Almodóvar revealed in his recent Palme d’Or contender “Pain & Glory.” But here, rather than earning sympathy for having shared such a personal diagnosis, the director seems to be inflicting this rather obnoxious ailment on the audience, turning these loud, impossible-to-anticipate aural bursts into tiny terrorist attacks, interrupting an otherwise largely Zen-like viewing experience.
Weerasethakul’s films may shock at times, coaxing images out of nightmares and the darker corners of the subconscious, but they tend to do so quietly, leaving audiences to mull their mysteries to the sounds of insects and rustling leaves. Rather than limiting himself to what can be explained by science or logic, the director embraces the so-called supernatural: spells and spirits, invisible threats and animals that seem to possess a kind of menacing power only partway understood by humans (like the dog Jessica observes wandering a public square, or the red-eyed primates of “Uncle Boonmee”).
During the movie’s relatively accessible first hour and a half, Jessica could be a kind of 21st-century Mr. Hulot, ambling about the modern Medellín, surrealistically subdivided and framed in ways Jacques Tati might have appreciated. She spends her days either visiting her sister in the hospital or investigating orchid-threatening fungi in the university library. While hanging about one of these institutions, Jessica meets a professor, who invites her in to examine a 6,000-year-old human skeleton. With the academic’s blessing, she hesitantly stretches out a finger and probes the hole bored in the ancient skull. To citizens of the future, “modern medicine” will surely seem as primitive.
Rather than consult a doctor about her own condition, Jessica opts to visit one of her husband’s former students, Hernan (Juan Pablo Urrego), who works in a recording studio. It’s a sign of the film’s unhurried sense of time that Jessica takes a seat and waits as he finishes listening to a piece of music. When it’s her turn, she does her best to describe the banging, as Hernan pulls samples from a library of movie sound effects to help re-create what she’s been hearing — a wonderful scene that plays like the audio equivalent of watching someone describe an intruder to a police sketch artist.
Hernan, who moonlights with a punk band called the Depth of Delusion Ensemble, then takes it upon himself to compose a piece of music that incorporates the noise. Weerasethakul withholds the melody from us, making it one of many things that may only exist in Jessica’s head. But even the young man’s existence might be in question, as Hernan is nowhere to be found when she returns to the studio some days later. But then Jessica decides to hit the road, leaving the clamorous city — with its blaring car alarms and police sirens — for the untamed Amazon. The noises follow her, and so does Hernan. Or maybe he’s been out there waiting for her all along. In either case, Jessica’s surprised to meet a friendly local fish scaler with the same name.
Their connection consumes the rest of the film, which grinds to a halt as she spends the next 45 minutes studying him. Hernan No. 2 (Daniel Giménez Cacho) claims to remember everything. “That’s why I never watch movies or television,” he says. It’s a curious thing for him to tell an orchid specialist, but it makes sense if we read Jessica as the director’s stand-in: a filmmaker questioning the power and limitations of his medium. Like this self-described human “hard disk,” cinema documents things for posterity, but there’s so much it cannot capture — a running theme throughout Weerasethakul’s oeuvre, where shadowed images have a way of bleeding into the background and we often doubt our own eyes. When Weerasethakul finally reveals the source of the noise, the explanation is even harder to believe.
In “Memoria,” the disruptive sounds Jessica hears are a wake-up call of sorts, forcing her to engage with those dimensions of the world humans are ill-equipped to explain: what lives on when someone dies, and the way places serve as a kind of fossil imprint of everything they’ve witnessed. To that old riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?,” Weerasethakul might reply: Of course, and it’s been echoing there ever since. You just have to train yourself to listen.
15 July, 2021 - 12:32pm
Jul 15, 2021 1:32 pm
“Memoria” begins with the first jump scare in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s career, but the sudden impact isn’t as relevant as the way it resonates in the silence that follows. Anyone familiar with the slow-burn lyricism at the center of the Thai director’s work knows how he adheres to a dreamlike logic that takes its time to settle in. The Colombia-set “Memoria,” his first movie made outside his native country, does that as well as anything in “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” or “Cemetery of Splendor.” But this time around, there’s a profound existential anxiety creeping in.
With Tilda Swinton’s puzzled gaze as its guide, “Memoria” amounts to a haunting, introspective look at one woman’s attempts to uncover the roots of a mysterious sound that only she can hear. More than that, it’s a masterful and engrossing response to rush of modern times and the collective amnesia it creates. Anyone frustrated by its patience only serves to prove the point.
All of which means that “Memoria” is more meditation than movie, a transfixing deep-dive into the profound challenges of relating to people and places from the outside in. Jessica (Swinton) is already feeling out of place when the movie begins, as she abruptly awoken by a deep, explosive thump that materializes out of nowhere. A British botanist based in Medellin, Jessica travels to Bogotá to visit her sister (Agnes Brekke), whose husband puts her in touch with a sound engineer named Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego).
Describing the noise as both “a ball of concrete hitting a metal wall surrounded by seawater” and “a rumble from the core of the Earth,” Jessica works through a couple of options with her new friend until he more or less manages to imitate with his soundboard. But that doesn’t get her any closer to the root of the noise, or why it seems to haunt at the most unpredictable moments.
The official explanation for Jessica’s malady might be “Exploding Head Syndrome,” which the director himself apparently experienced at some point in his life, but “Memoria” doesn’t dig into the hard science. Instead, it roams alongside Jessica’s quest in a kind of fugue state, deepening the sense of displacement that surrounds her until it reaches a stunning and strange revelation in its final act. Apichatpong’s filmmaking exists within the hypnotic quality that comes from sitting in silence, surrounding by diegetic sounds, for minutes at end until subtle details come to light. “Memoria” is the purest distillation of that: Despite a single CGI twist that may or may not be imagined, its most adventurous visuals stem from the immersive greenery of the Colombian countryside where Jessica eventually finds herself, surrounded by inexpressible details of people and history that preceded her arrival.
Swinton’s distinctive physique is particularly effective in the story of a white woman roaming an alien landscape, a concept that gets quite literal as the story moves along. The performance plays like a prolonged homage to Maria Vetto’s turn in Lucrecia Martel’s “The Headless Woman,” another movie about feeling out of place with one’s surroundings as they continue to drift along. In this case, as Swinton gazes at her surroundings with a blend of shock and curiosity, the movie becomes an extension of her unsteady relationship to the historical resonance around her. As one man inexplicably vanishes from the plot (he literally ceases to exist) and another with the same name takes his place, Jessica begins to understand that the sudden, jolting noise haunting her head stems from a profound disconnection with her everyday routine. The sound tells a story, but it’s not her own.
This quest has a certain reflexive quality to it. The filmmaker is himself an outsider in a society that has a complex history of violence and class struggle. “Memoria” turns on the desire to understand those profound layers of national identity while acknowledging that some answers will always remain shrouded by the inscrutability of the past. Just as “Uncle Boonmee” alluded to its country’s history of political violence through supernatural events, “Memoria” uses its intricate sound design — and one very weird, very fleeting sci-fi twist — to explore the way Colombia has modernized over the years, even as its indigenous roots remain hidden in plain sight. That contrast comes to light in the transfixing final act, when Jessica ventures to the countryside to check out an archeological dig and instead finds herself in a prolonged, sleepy exchange with a man who finally provides some measure of an explanation for her mental disorder. Their exchange pushes Apichatpong’s liberated non-narrative style to a certain extreme, with results so bold that could very well alienate all but his most passionate followers. But it’s an immersive gamble well worth the risk.
By the time the movie gets there, Apichatpong has enacted a remarkable existential plunge. Re-teaming with cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, the director brings his careful, mostly stationary compositions into a busier milieu than usual. “Memoria” spends its first half following Jessica through modern-day Bogotá, lingering on a prolonged jazz session at one moment, the busy city streets the next, and at one point sitting with an empty plot of greenery surrounded by glass. That last one is less metaphorical than poetic: It conveys a certain kind of emptiness filled by the rush of contemporary people and places, leaving no space to contemplate anything that came before them.
But “Memoria” does. In his own precise, abstract manner, Apichatpong has made an ecological disaster movie about the danger involved in ignoring the natural state of things and the people who respect it. Jessica’s early encounters set the stage for the arrival of a parochial character afraid to engage with anything beyond the small, quiet environment at his immediate disposal. “Experiences are harmful” to his memory, he says, and by the time the movie arrives there, we can relate. The explosion that Jessica hears may be something out of this world, but “Memoria” remains firmly planted in it, hoping against hope to understand what it has to say.
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15 July, 2021 - 11:47am
Please take a second to appreciate this Chanel garter change purse situation.
15 July, 2021 - 11:33am
Tilda Swinton's latest outing was a family affair as she joined her partner and daughter at Cannes Film Festival.
The actress, 60, looked radiant as she attended the premiere of her new film Memoria and was supported by Sandro Kopp, 43, and Honor, 23, on the red carpet.
Tilda was a vision in a billowing white gown that featured a daring plunging neckline.
A vision in white: Tilda Swinton graced the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday in an billowing white dress for the Memoria premiere
Supportive: The mother-of-two was supported by her partner Sandro Kopp, 43, as well as her daughter Honor, 23, with the pair larking around together while Tilda chatted with co-stars
The Scottish star wore her signature blonde pixie cut in a loose wave, and injected a splash of colour with a vibrant pink lipstick.
Looking just as stylish as her mother, Honor wowed in a flowing pink gown with a contrasting orange belt.
Family first: Sandro - who Tilda has been with since 2004 - looked dapper in a black tuxedo and metallic bow tie as he posed for snaps with Honor
Jaw-dropping: Looking just as stylish as her mother, Honor wowed in a flowing pink gown with a contrasting orange belt
While Tilda was joined by her family for the event, she opted to walk alongside her co-stars, holding hands with Juan Pablo Urrego and the film's director Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Memoria is the actress' first project with the Thai director.
The internationally co-produced drama film tells the story of a Scottish woman (Tilda) who begins to experience a bizarre sensory syndrome while she’s travelling through the Colombian jungles.
Turning heads: Tilda was a vision in a billowing white gown that skimmed over her lithe figure but featured a daring plunging neckline
Emma Bunton and Jade Jones got married this week and the singer and her new husband tied the knot after 23 years.
While Jade opted for a Gucci blazer and smart trousers, it was, of course, Emma's dress that instantly caught our eye.
She looked like a gorgeous bride in this Miu Miu mini dress that's crafted from a silk-blend and boasts a lattice ruffle-trimmed bib, organza sleeves and the brand's signature cady silhouette.
Wannabe married in Miu Miu too? Unfortunately, this exact dress Or check out the similar style at Farfetch below.
If you love the look but after a more affordable price tag, shop an Asos or Sugar Thrillz via the carousel dress instead.
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Beauty: The Scottish star wore her signature blonde pixie cut in a loose wave, and injected a splash of colour with a vibrant pink lipstick
Apichatpong told La Tempestad last year: 'I wrote this movie with [Tilda Swinton] in mind knowing that she is an actress who needs no explanation.
'In fact, it was she who showed me this character. The experience was very significant and I really appreciate that.'
Tilda, who's real name is Katherine Matilda Swinton, is known for her portrayal of the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - and its two sequels.
Making moves: While Tilda was joined by her family for the event, she opted to walk ahead on the red carpet and was seen embracing a guest in glee
Successful: The Scottish actress held hands with Memoria co-star Juan Pablo Urrego (left) and the film's director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (right) for snaps
Co-stars: Also starring alongside Tilda and Juan in Memoria are Elkin Diaz and Jeanne Balibar (pictured left and second left)
She also won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role as a ruthless corporate lawyer in Michael Clayton.
Other faces starring alongside Tilda and Juan in Memoria are Elkin Diaz and Jeanne Balibar.
It will be officially released later on this year following Thursday's premiere.
One to watch: Memoria tells the story of a Scottish woman (Tilda) who begins to experience a bizarre sensory syndrome
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15 July, 2021 - 10:46am
The actress takes a metaphysical journey into the jungles and sierras of Colombia in the Palme d’Or-winning auteur’s first film outside his native Thailand.
By David Rooney
For anyone wondering if Memoria, slow-cinema master Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first film in English (and Spanish) and his first made outside his native Thailand, would be a radical departure, the answer is a decisive no. The director’s abiding fascination with dreams, nature, time, solitude and of course memory flows like liquid through this lyrical enigma, which maintains his characteristic aesthetic purity of long static takes, meditative pacing and intimacy negotiated from a coolly scrutinizing distance. Starring Tilda Swinton as a foreigner in Colombia who becomes obsessed with tracing a sound that invades her sleep, this is a sensory experience that unfolds beyond narrative, often in empty spaces and hushed solemnity.
Weerasethakul won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. His best films, which also include Tropical Malady, Syndromes and a Century, and his most recent, 2015’s Cemetery of Splendor, are elliptical visions whose margins conceal biting sociopolitical perspectives on Thailand’s present and past.
The writer-director’s wander through the cities, sierras and jungles of Colombia doesn’t match the cultural specificity that gives his Thai films such hypnotic power, and it perhaps remains even more impervious to rigid interpretation. But as it washes over you, Memoria excavates the country’s bloody history of violence, the fears of its people, and the topographic trauma of earthquakes and mudslides that make the land itself a vessel for memory.
Conventional notions of plot in a Weerasethakul movie are seldom the point, but here goes anyway: Swinton plays Jessica, a botanist from the U.K. who specializes in orchids, in Bogotá visiting her hospitalized sister, Karen (Agnes Brekke). In the film’s opening moments, Jessica is jolted out of slumber in the pre-dawn hours by a loud bang, a single thud she mistakenly assumes must be from construction work on a neighboring property. A mutual friend connects her with a young sound engineer, Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego), who draws from a file of movie audio effects to help her describe what she heard — “like a ball of concrete hitting a metal wall surrounded by seawater; it’s like a rumble from the core of the earth.”
The nature of Karen’s illness remains unclear, but in a dream she recalls seeing a dog injured by a car and left to die, which she took to a vet and then forgot due to preoccupations about her own health. She wonders if the dog cursed her. Later, when Karen is released from hospital, Jessica goes to dinner with her sister and the latter’s partner, academic and poet Juan (Daniel Giménez Cacho). Karen belongs to an experimental theater company developing a piece about an Amazon jungle tribe called “The Invisible People,” whose elders are believed to keep outsiders away with incantations. Again, she wonders if one of those spells is making her sick.
Even while sitting at dinner, Jessica hears the same startling sound over and over, though neither of her companions appears to notice it. She visits art galleries, which are nothing if not vaults of memory, and walks the city streets, stopping in a public square where she hears the noise again.
She has an illuminating encounter with Agnes (Jeanne Balibar), an archeologist studying ancient human remains disinterred during construction on a tunnel. The skull of a young girl has a hole that Agnes explains was probably drilled into it to release bad spirits, in a sense what Jessica is attempting to do by seeking out the noise that triggered her insomnia. She travels out of town past roadside military checkpoints to visit Agnes at the excavation site, still looking for answers in her broken Spanish.
But those only come when she follows a creek in a nearby mountain village and meets an older man also named Hernán (Elkin Díaz). In Weerasethakul’s conceptual world, he appears to be the same person. He explains that he has never traveled nor watched movies, TV or seen news in any format because there are already enough stories and he remembers everything. He picks up a rock and shares the past it contains. He also tells her that his kind never dreams, demonstrating by falling into a motionless sleep on the creek bank with his eyes open.
Their conversation continues in Hernán’s home, where he offers Jessica a glass of liquor he makes himself that appears to be aguardiente. “This stuff brings me close to what you call dreams,” he tells her. When she begins telling a story of a frightening childhood incident involving her mother, Hernán tells her she’s actually reading his memories, like an antenna.
She weeps quietly as she hears storms, rain and tremors of the past intertwined with a tangle of stories, including a ghostly replay of the one Hernán previously extracted from the rock, about a man being beaten and robbed. In a typically surreal Weerasethakul touch, Jessica witnesses an occurrence that introduces a brief sci-fi or supernatural element, which would appear to explain the origin of the sound she’s been chasing.
Her emotional response is quietly moving in Swinton’s otherwise muted performance. Whether audiences will share the character’s clarity depends on how willing they are to tune in to the director’s singular wavelength. Memoria is a challenging film that requires work, and its somnolent rhythms, particularly during an early morning screening at the end of a busy festival, pushed this critic to the brink of sleep a couple times, adding to its dreamlike effect. But that’s somehow in keeping with a haunting contemplation of the porous walls separating personal from collective memory. The beautiful closing landscape shots of the jungles and mountains suggest that memory extends even beyond the human dimension.
Acquired by Neon for the U.S., the film won’t expand Weerasethakul’s following, but admirers will find it an imaginative, thematically and stylistically cohesive addition to his distinctive output.
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15 July, 2021 - 08:40am
Rather than coordinate, the pair took entirely different approaches—Swinton’s, of course, being the more eccentric one. The 60-year-old actor went with a menswear-inspired look, making a statement in a dramatically oversized button-down by Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry. The maximalist vibe extended over to her flared trousers and platinum coif, twirled up into the shape of soft-serve ice cream.
As for Swinton Byrne, she riffed on a classic black tweed Chanel blazer, partially buttoned atop a mini black wrap skirt and worn with fishnets. It was in fact her second irreverent take on black tweed Chanel since touching down in southern France. Swinton Byrne attended last week’s premiere of The Souvenir Part II—which also stars Harris Dickinson, Charlie Heaton, and Joe Alwyn—wearing a strapless mini dress, accented with a mini quilted Chanel bag strapped around her thigh. Her mom also went with Chanel, in the form of a lacy couture jumpsuit that made for one of her more conventional looks.
Clearly, the pair has the range—just like the other standout mother-daughter duo at this year’s festival. The titular stars of Jane by Charlotte, Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg, attended the documentary’s premiere in variations of the classic black suit, making for a double dose of the “French girl style” they pioneered.