Monday, April 14, 2008

SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND'S EDITION OR WHEN "BABETTE'S FEAST" MEETS "SALO"

I went to see SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION (2008, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, A++++++++++) on Saturday. I haven’t seen SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY (2006, Apichatpong Weerasethakul) yet.

SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION is a unique experience for me. I have been wanting for a long time for movies being censored in Thailand to do something like this—to be upfront about it and tell the audience exactly what parts have been censored or cut off, instead of keeping this fact a secret. Many films which have been censored in Thailand don’t tell the audience that they have been censored. I don’t know why. Maybe the film releasing company thinks that the audience will choose to watch a pirated video instead, if they tell the audience the fact that they have been censored.

By substituting scratched black leader for the censored parts, Apichatpong created a new kind of film experience for me. It’s like the ultimate clash between the fictional world and the real world. Normally when I am watching a fictional film, I forget the real world during that time. The fictional world portrayed in most films makes us forget the harsh realities of our lives. Most mainstream films make me forget the bad governments in Thailand and in many countries, or make me forget the war in Iraq or in Africa, during the time I am watching them.
But while I was watching SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION, the scratched black leader parts kept bringing me back from the heavenly fictional world to the hellish real world. The scratched black leader parts keep reminding me about the reality of the evil Thai censorship board.

The experience of seeing most fictional films for me is like having a good dream or an exciting nightmare. I often feel as if I just wake up to face the real world when I walk out of a theater after a film ends. But while I was watching SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION, it’s like having some tremendously beautiful dreams, but the beautiful dreams are destroyed from time to time when the scratched black leader parts wake us up to face the hellish reality of the Thai censorship board.

In conclusion, the experience of seeing SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION for me is like watching BABETTE’S FEAST (1987, Gabriel Axel) alternating with SALO (1975, Pier Paolo Pasolini). It's the alternating between extreme pleasures and extreme torture, or extreme feel-good experience and extreme feel-bad experience. I feel as if Apichatpong is like Babette Harsant (Stephane Audran). He wanted to give us a great pleasure, or a taste of heavenly nectar, like Babette who wants to prepare the feast of a lifetime for her villagers. But the scratched black leader parts keep reminding us that the authority in Thailand won’t allow us this kind of heavenly experience. The Thai censorship board want to destroy this feast of a lifetime, and keep torturing us and force-feed us the excrement or things we hate to experience. What the Thai censorship board do to us is like what the fascist do to the teenagers in SALO. But the power of SYNDROMES AND CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION is much more than the power of BABETTE’S FEAST and SALO combined, because when I was watching BABETTE’S FEAST and SALO, I didn’t think about myself or Thailand. I didn’t think that I was one of the victims in SALO. The torture in SALO happens to some fictional characters, not me. But when I was watching SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION, I was constantly reminded that I myself was one of the victims in SALO, or the Thai censorship board.


--The deleted scenes can be viewed via Youtube. You can read about them in Wise Kwai’s blog:

http://thaifilmjournal.blogspot.com/2008/04/six-censored-scenes-of-syndromes-and.html


--There is a small exhibition about Thai censorship on the fifth floor of Paragon. I just knew from this exhibition that THE SANDPIT GENERALS (1971, Hall Bartlett) was censored in Thailand. I hadn’t heard of this film before, but the fact of its being censored in Thailand made me immediately put this film in my wish list.

THE SANDPIT GENERALS’ synopsis from
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067705/

“Inspired by the classic novel by Brazilian cultural icon Jorge Amado, this is the story of a gang of homeless children lead by Pedro Bala. Set in Bahia, the film follows the adventures of Bala's gang of under aged outlaws as they steal, rape, find love, "capoeira" (a Brazilian form of martial arts) and African-Brazilian religion.”


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--Apart from SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY: THAILAND’S EDITION, some other films also use black leader, though with different purposes. In the magazine FILM QUARTERLY, Winter 2007-08, there is an article GENTLE ICONOCLAST: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID GATTEN, written by Scott Macdonald. The article is about many things concerning David Gatten, including his use of black leader.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“At the time I went to that show, this simple repetitive process seemed like such a healthy thing to do, and I wondered, “What might that repetitive process be in film?” Well, I was very interested in splicing, and was already working with cement splices, and I realized that splices are comparable to (Agnes) Martin’s lines. Now, if you make a perfect splice between black leader and black leader, you won’t see that splice; there will be no splice line at all; but since my splicer was slightly out of alignment, my splices weren’t invisible; this strip of leader was filled with these very small white lines. If you held the edited strip of leader eighteen inches from you, they looked like very uniform lines, but when I put the filmstrip on an optical printer and started looking at the individual splices, each one was incredibly different. I started filming the individual splices on the optical printer. I really zoomed in on them, and I’d let them last on screen for seven seconds, ten seconds. Each image was a unique object, as opposed to a uniform machine-made thing. I made hundred of these images.”

You can buy Film Quarterly from this website:
http://www.filmquarterly.org/index2.html

6 comments:

WiseKwai said...

Thanks for your perspective on this. You bring some valuable insight. I haven't seen Babette's Feast or Salo, but I think I understand what you mean.

merveillesxx said...

เมื่อคืนวันศุกร์ เพื่อนผมดู แสง จอมืด เสร็จ แล้วโทรมาถามว่า "แกๆ ฉากแรกที่ถูกตัดไป หมอฟันกับพระเอากันเหรอ" (จริงๆ ฉากนั้นคือ พระเล่นกีต้าร์)

ดูสิ การ censor ทำให้หนังยิ่งรุนแรงกว่าเดิมอีก

celinejulie said...

Hi Wise Kwai

One reason that makes me want to compare the authority in SALO (who force the teenagers to eat shit) to the Thai censorship board is because Thai mainstream films are full of scatological jokes or farting jokes. While good or creative Thai films are being censored, what have been left for the Thai audience to watch is scatological/farting films. The latest one is PUEN GUN CHAPOH WAN PRA (I.C.U.: GHOST OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY) (2008, Tharatorn Siriphunvaraporn, A-), which has a farting scene. I don’t mind scatological scenes and I don’t want them to be censored, but I think Thai films which don’t have this kind of scenes or Thai films which don’t bow down to the mainstream audience should not be censored, too.

celinejulie said...

ตอบน้อง merveillesxx

อ่านสิ่งที่น้องเขียนแล้ว ทำให้นึกถึงบทความของ Jean-Claude Carriere ในหนังสือ FILMVIRUS 2 บทความนั้นบอกว่ามีหนังเรื่องนึง (จำชื่อเรื่องไม่ได้แล้ว) ที่มีเนื้อหาเกี่ยวกับชายหนุ่มหญิงสาวหนีตามกันไป แต่ทางกองเซ็นเซอร์ของประเทศอะไรก็ไม่รู้ (จำไม่ได้ว่าเป็นสเปนหรือเม็กซิโก หรืออะไรทำนองนี้) บอกว่าเรื่องแบบนี้ผิดศีลธรรม และบอกให้พากย์เสียงใหม่เพื่อเปลี่ยนเนื้อหาในหนังให้เป็น “พี่ชายน้องสาว” เดินทางรอนแรมไปด้วยกัน ผลของการเซ็นเซอร์ก็เลยทำให้เนื้อหาในหนังยิ่งผิดศีลธรรมหนักกว่าเดิมหลายเท่า ฮ่าๆๆ

Peter Nellhaus said...

Would you be able to buy the DVD of Syndromes through, for example, Amazon.com? Would you need a friend to bring in a copy as a private gift or does this mean all visitors to Thailand will be checked to make sure they do not have contraband DVDs?

celinejulie said...

Hi, Peter. Actually, I can buy a pirated DVD copy of SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY very easily. It's avaiable in many pirated DVD outlets. The real reason why I haven't seen the original version of this film is my laziness, not its unavailability in Bangkok. :-)