Film review requires context

Re: “Firing metaphorical blanks” by Bryn Evans Film March 27-April 2 2008.

The Calgary Cinematheque is a non-profit society whose aim is to bring to the city a variety of films that due to the vagaries of film distribution in a small market like Calgary will never be screened here. Some of the works we champion might be challenging even difficult for some movie-goers. To a degree it’s a cinematheque’s function to screen more challenging non-mainstream films. Our recent screening of Syndromes and a Century by the celebrated Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul is a case in point.

The film was on numerous Top 10 lists for 2007 including that of the Village Voice in New York and the British Film Institute in London. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott describes Weerasethakul’s works as “resistant to summary at times even to understanding…. Unabashed art films that demand patience and close quizzical attention they are also generous unpretentious and funny posing thorny formal questions in a relaxed democratic spirit.” The way your reviewer dismisses this experimental film misses the point. A reviewer has some responsibility to put the film into context for your readers rather than be disappointed it doesn’t fit some pre-existing model. The fact that your reviewer was looking for some literal narrative closure in an experimental work seems to take our work at the Calgary Cinematheque completely out of context. If you can’t give the one-time screening of an admittedly challenging Thai film an appropriate review skip it and focus on another Hollywood film that needs slagging.

Gary Burns

board member

Calgary Cinematheque.