Syndromes and a Century Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Thai upstart Apatichatpong Weerasethakul has always been a bit of a head scratcher, especially for those married to traditional narrative. His latest is no different, though it’s enjoyable for a relaxed tone, which we could use a lot more of. Taking the relationship of his doctor parents as a model, he tells two similar stories of romance in a hospital, both feature female Dr. Toey and her shy suitor Toa, as well as a variety of their colleagues and patients. The first episode is set in a country hospital where an arthritic monk tries to cajole the doctor into treating various village members (who are naturally, not present) while she thinks back to experiences with an orchid expert. The second is set in a more modern hospital and features an episode where a carbon monoxide victim is given chakra healing. But those in search of a straight narrative are asked to search elsewhere; Syndromes is more concerned about time hanging in space rather than rushing headlong into a hasty conclusion. If you have the patience for these aimless encounters, the film will reward you in spades with gentle pleasures and unforced attitude; if you don’t, God help you as you flounder in apparently "meaningless” encounters. As it happens, I belong to the former camp, and thus the movie worked like a charm for me — if the auteur is slightly overrated by his large, pointy-headed cheering section, there’s a reason he’s well liked in circles where thoughtfulness and originality count for something. The film is part of a sidebar dedicated to a commissioned series fêting Mozart; the connection to the composer is rather tenuous, but if you’re on the director’s wavelength you won’t much care. (Kick the Machine)