By Alicia Garcia de Francisco
Cannes, France, Jul 16 (EFE).- Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest feature film – a picture set amid the breathtaking scenery of Colombia and starring a Spanish-speaking Tilda Swinton – received high marks from many critics after making its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
The meditative, glacially paced “Memoria” is now considered one of the top two favorites (along with Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car”) to win this year’s Palme d’Or, Cannes’ best-picture award, which was conferred in 2010 on Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.”
The Thai director, who turned 51 on Friday, acknowledged at a Friday press conference that he did not understand what was said in Spanish but that what was important for him were the tones, silences and all that goes unsaid.
In “Memoria,” which premiered on Thursday, Weerasethakul reflects on the memories of each person and does so through his protagonist, Jessica Holland (Swinton), a British expatriate and business owner in the Colombian city of Medellin who tries to determine the origin of intermittent noises that only she can hear.
In the process of getting to the bottom of those sounds, she travels to a mountainous area and listens to the ancient inhabitants of those lands.
“We had no borders to create (an) image from that place. It could be like in Thailand, where suffering, happiness happen with (a) really similar cause, situation. So I feel a shared anxiety and shared suffering with the Colombians,” Weerasethakul said at the press conference.
“But at the same time, I’m not a political filmmaker, I think, so for me it’s about channeling this feeling through the film, and especially as a foreigner, you know that’s all I can do is just make you feel, but not explain, just look.”
Swinton for her part said it was surprisingly liberating to be in a foreign country where she does not speak the language and also reflected on the border-less space that cinema inhabits.
“The thing about cinema is that it is an absolute state of itself. It’s completely without borders, completely without nation. And I would even say without any kind of geographical sense of culture,” the 60-year-old Oscar-winning Scottish actress said.
“And to step into the frame with Pedro Almodovar or with Jim Jarmusch … with Apichatpong … it’s a land I love. It’s my hometown, my home state. And it’s completely without any kind of national specificity,” she said, referring to famed directors she has worked with in her illustrious career.
Colombian actor Elkin Diaz, the film’s co-star, said working on the film allowed him inside a “work of art.”
“Api’s cinema could be a bit difficult for many people, but being part of this film taught me that you can narrate and learn things about life in a very simple way.”
Separately, French director Bruno Dumont spoke Friday at a press conference about his latest film, “France,” a movie about the media industry that straddles the lines between comedy, satire and drama.
The star of the picture, which also is in competition at Cannes, is French actress Lea Seydoux, who was unable to make the trip to the festival after testing positive for the coronavirus (despite being vaccinated).
Dumont said he and Seydoux had wanted to work together and that when they met he realized that despite being a film star she is very fun and down-to-earth.
The actress enhanced the initial screenplay by introducing a lot more comedic elements, the filmmaker recalled.
The 36-year-old Seydoux plays France de Meurs, a celebrity anchorwoman whose life veers suddenly off track when she is involved in a freak car accident.
The film is not anti-journalist, the director said, though adding that it does critique the media machine and explores the slightly modified reality that television and the 24-hour news cycle offer their viewers.
The Palme d’Or ceremony will take place on Saturday evening. EFE