Saw my final film at the festival, Syndrome and a Century. A lyrical, dream like film, set in two hospitals, one rural, one modern. The same charaters appear in both settings, and some of the scenes are similar, but taken from diffeent perspectives. It's a surreal film, not in the Dali/Bunuel sense of outlandish, but more like a lucid dream, half conscious. The scenes are composed of daily life in the hospital, of casual friendships and romantic confessions. A sense of good-natured serenity underscores all the relationships in the film, giving these seemingly banal encounters added weight, like the act of rememberance itself. I like the way director Apichatpong doesn't try to force closure towards the end of the film. (The easiest thing would have been to end the film with scenes regurgitated from the beginning.) Instead, the films extends outwards, we see almost random images of everyday life, of people exercising in the park, then a strange shot of smoke being drawn into a large metal pipe. Amorphic and nebulous, life simply continues.
My friend V thinks that the festival is going downhill by pandering to the masses. But I happen to agree with David Bordwell that the HKIFF is many festivals in one, and that there can be as many different kinds of festival experiences as there are festival goers. People like V are nostalgic for the days when the festival was about high-brow art films from Europe and America. But I think that the festival is heading in the right direction by nurturing Asian auteurs and Asian stars. Of course there are still many kinks to be worked out in the Asian film awards, as the Golden Rock blog rightly points out, but any show that gives Jia Zhangke and Apichatpong Weerasethakul exposure on TVB has to be a good thing.