View Post


Asian Cinema, Festival, Film Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Memoria starts with a locked off, very mundane shot of a curtain with a dark, triangular shape in the foreground. This holds for around a minute until an incredibly loud bang provokes the shape to move. This is the shoulder of Tilda Swinton’s Jessica, and she slowly rises and wanders through her apartment, settling at a table next to some caged mice. Cut to a car park at night, where alarms start sounding and continue for what feels like ages. They eventually die out one by one, all held in a glacial zooming shot. The director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), is deliberately setting out his stall.

The source of the loud bang is the nominal thrust of the film, as Jessica, almost half-heartedly, investigates the cause. But the noise is just a pretext for Weerasethakul to explore ideas of displacement, disconnection, memory, and the weight of history. Jessica is an English botanist, working in Colombia, where her sister and sister’s family also live.

This is an elliptical film, most of the decisions are made off-screen, and the setting suits its cryptic nature. Jessica is alien to this place, and her discombobulation affects the audience as well. She visits a sound mixer called Hernán (Juan Pablo Urrego) to try to pinpoint the exact noise. This is a great scene, maybe the most technical of the film, the rest hang somewhere between the oblique and the spiritual.

Audio is an important touchstone in Memoria. The soundtrack is filled with noises, from a creaking chair, incessant bug chirping, running water, to the recurring bang. The whole thing plays out like a mild psychological horror film. There’s a scene in a restaurant where the bang happens a few times, each one cranking up the tension, as Jessica’s sister and family react to her reaction, and it’s oddly mesmerising. Incidentally, the bang Jessica hears is actually a phenomenon called ‘Exploding Head Syndrome’. Yep, really. Anyway, the constancy of sound is highlighted near the end when Jessica puts her hands to her head and ALL sound disappears from the film for a moment – it’s a neat trick by the director.

The look of Memoria is simple, even perfunctory at times, yet comfortingly rich at others. The aforementioned long takes are there throughout, and though ponderous (and sometimes boring), they suit the feel of the film. At one point, Salvador Dalí is mentioned by a doctor and the events following this moment would certainly fit Surrealism, though some of the shots border on Abstract Expressionism or maybe Suprematism, in their near rejection of art.

Jessica’s search takes her to the jungle, accompanying an archaeologist friend, where she meets another Hernán (Elkin Díaz), who helps her ‘discover’ the source of the bang. The film does something strange here. It slows down dramatically, while also speeding up the resolution. It’s maddening, unsettling, almost close to a joke at times, but if you can go with it, there are enough enigmatic touches to maintain curiosity levels.

View Post

You and Me, Before and After: Tattoo You

The latest short film from writer/director Madeleine Gottlieb attracted Yael Stone and Emily Barclay to play sisters in this highly personal comedic drama, which will have its NSW premiere at the 31st Flickerfest International Short Film Festival.
View Post

Uncovering Becoming

Few films spell out the rapid development of new Saudi cinema like Becoming, offering an intimate and sometimes humorous peek into the secret world of Saudi Arabian women.
View Post

Haifaa Al-Mansour: The Perfect Candidate

Returning to her homeland Saudi Arabia to collect a special award for her extraordinary contribution to cinema, award-winning filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, couldn’t help pinching herself when she landed at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz airport, witnessing a cultural shift that she had only heard about but not witnessed until now.
View Post

RedSeaIFF Finally Launches in Saudi Arabia

Postponed for almost two years due to the pandemic, the inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival [RedSeaIFF] kicked off in great style last night (December 6) with a red carpet Arab premiere of Joe Wright’s Cyrano attended by a host of stars from across the international and Arab film worlds.