Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jenjira Pongpas Widner, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram, Petcharat Chaiburi
Written by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Thai, with English subtitles
Running Time: 122
Date: 03/04/2016

Cemetery of Splendor (2016)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Grave Concerns

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This one is only for the most adventurous moviegoers and die-hard cineastes, the ones who regularly dip into the works of Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky, Bela Tarr, Alain Resnais, and Robert Bresson. It comes from Thai-born, and Chicago-educated filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (you can call him "Joe"). Weerasethakul's poetic, dreamy films are frequently set in beautiful, realistic settings, with surreal things happening; people sometimes changing into other things, or seeing ghosts, or other phenomena. Cemetery of Splendor (2016) takes place in a rural hospital (actually converted schoolhouse), where soldiers suffer from some kind of mysterious sleeping sickness. As part of some kind of experimental technique, their beds are surrounded by glowing rods that slowly change color, casting moody glows on everything.

With its lack of a basic, traditional narrative, the movie mainly focuses on volunteer Jenjira (Jenjira Pongpas Widner), who — with one leg shorter than the other — walks on crutches. She bonds with one soldier, Itt (Banlop Lomnoi), who is momentarily roused when she bathes him. A medium, Keng (Jarinpattra Rueangram), is able to translate the soldiers' thoughts, and she becomes the vehicle for a bizarre, touching conversation between Jenjira and Itt, as they wander around the cemetery that surrounds the hospital (complete with strange statues that sometimes come to life). The movie constantly tickles the brain, but is also a respite for the senses. Danny Glover is credited as a co-producer.

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