Apichatpong Weerasethakul on disasters and black magic

The quietly evocative director speaks
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Whereas David Lynch at times uses all the excesses of a bad rock video to give form to the dream logic that structures his films, Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul creates quietly evocative reveries. Pierced by moments of sharp humor and unexpected beauty, Apichatpong's movies are imbued with a sense of openness, a responsive flexibility that allows their course to be redirected by serendipitous forces: a song, memories, folk tales. On the eve of the theatrical premiere of his new Syndromes and a Century, I called him on the phone.

SFBG What sort of movies did you watch growing up?

APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL In the '70s I watched a lot of old Thai films and American films. At the time there were all the catastrophe movies, like Earthquake or Towering Inferno — I love those movies! And then there were [Steven] Spielberg's and [George] Lucas's films. I was really into their special effects.

SFBG In an interview you did with the Web site Criticine, you said movies are a form of black magic. I was really taken with that quote.

AW I don't know if there's a message there. But for me the power of film is not just to hypnotize. It's a kind of magic for living as well. I have to be able to express [myself] as a filmmaker, otherwise it's very hard to share my ideas or feelings. [Film is] like medicine, but it's not. So maybe that's a way in which there is some magic going on. (Matt Sussman)

To read a longer Q&A with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, go to the Pixel Vision blog at www.sfbg.com/blogs/pixel_vision.

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