The impossible fixing of memory
As part of the competition, the Thai film shown in the main theatre (almost packed full) of the Katorza Cinema could probably divide the crowd, choosing to develop its radicalism in its form rather than in its content. Which is, it is true, not completely the cinematographic option that your servant and author of these lines favours.
We could not reproach the Festival for offering reels of films showing works whose form can completely change. But occasionally the originality of the form could harm the substance, or when the “auteurising” aspect gets the upper hand on the story the picture wants to tell. And despite loving a travelling technique or a radicalism in the linking of shots, it is not disgraceful to express also our expectations which we could describe as relating to a basic plot.
An audacious mise en abyme
An on-site visit, an encounter, click-clack sounds of the digital era. A hailstorm of photos to the rhythm of static shots which makes up the whole movie. 36, just like these good old films. Except that here, the stereotypes are multiplied, they do not escape from computer failure. Stocking memories shows its limits when it is about running after the past. Sai, this young female student who came to do some location hunting for a shooting, generously snaps away. She is persuaded to extend the existence of every single moment she caught and to go back over an encounter which she will think of as striking after the event. She is looking for Oom, a young man whose face we do not see, like a ghostly memory.
At all times, we have tried to keep our memories. Photography was, in a way, the first immortality potion. 36 comes to remind us of this perpetual look back, whose origin is more an idealisation of the past than a real fear of the present. Our wish to record – literally – stands out all the more: we witness a film focusing around a series of clichés shot in order to… make a movie. It also questions our accumulation of pictures and the material transposition of memory. We do not live for the present any longer, we prepare the memory. But the metaphor which could apply to every type of medium, and the look being much more tender than moralising, the picture avoids the simplistic pitfall of a criticism of our “digital era”.
A lack of consistency
The problem is, for its subject to settle down, the feature film links together almost empty shots, it stretches on. Time often seems long, even though the movie clocks a modest sixty-eight minutes. Discussions on daily life follow one after the other, silences too, without making us become really attached to the plot. If the last third part of the picture goes back over one of the principles of cinema, namely to tell a story, it is a little bit too late for the audience. The latter, dampened by the experimental form, lost the stakes of the story, looking at the shots which follow one after the other just like when we check a photo folder in a rush. But including stereotypes which do not concern us.
Putting much more forward the structure than the story, just like its title, 36 risks to lose the spectators because of it, whereas the purpose was exactly to bring them. However, the feature film is not devoid of good ideas: the second part brings us to places of memory, or yet again the choice of asking question at the end of a scene, to which everyone can bring their own answer. But too locked up in its outline, the movie is likely to remain hermetic for the vast majority of the audience.
Marie Colin – Translation
Film & Réalisateur: 36, de Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Pays : Thaïlande
Année : 2012
Durée : 1h08
Première diffusion : Dimanche 24 Novembre à 13h30 au Katorza