Int. tit.: Mysterious Objetct at Noon. F.: Prasong Klinborrom, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. M.: Mingmongkol Sonakul, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Int.: Somsri Pinyopol, Kannikar Narong, Chakree Duangklao, To Hanudomlap, Duangjai Hiransri. Prod.: Gridthiya Gaweewong, Mingmongkol Sonakul. 35mm. D.: 89′. Bn
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, winner of the 2010 Golden Palm for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers and visual artists today. When cobbling together his first feature during the late 1990s, he may not have foreseen the incredible arc his career would take, but the sweetness, intelligence and extravagance that we now associate with his oeuvre was already in full bloom. Mysterious Object at Noon was produced on a shoestring, shot on 16mm black and white stock, and its ‘low fi’ visuals betray the influence of cinéma vérité. The whirlwind narrative, however, is a mix between Road movie, Fantasy and corps exquis – a game played by the French surrealists. Starting in Bangkok, the filmmaker journeys south; along the way, he hears a story which he later repeats to a group of Thai villagers so they may flesh it out. With each further meeting, the story expands and mutates, until it becomes a collective object – a kind of docu-fiction fairytale (appropriately, the film opens with the words, “Once upon a time…”). The original title, Dokfah Nai Meu Maan, roughly translates as “Heavenly Flower in Devil’s Hand”. ‘Dokfah’ is also the name of the woman who appears in the story-within-the-film as a teacher to a young paraplegic boy. The title is reminiscent of the overwrought melodramas that populated Thai cinema screens during the filmmaker’s youth. In Weerasethakul’s hands, however, it gains a new meaning, inaugurating a new kind of epic – and of meta-narrative: “It’s a film unlike any other, complete with a title that sounds like a remark that would result from a U.F.O. sighting. By the end, when a group of giggling schoolchildren start a new anecdote about a witch who becomes a tiger, you’re likely to be utterly enchanted by this unique dish of entertainment that may be the beginning of a new art form: Village Surrealism. Mr. Weerasethakul’s film is like a piece of chamber music slowly, deftly expanding into a full symphonic movement”
Elvis Mitchell, “The New York Times”
The film’s modest production circumstances accelerated the need for its restoration. The original 16mm camera reversal element is lost, so the next best element was used as a source: the 35mm “blow up” internegative containing burned-in English subtitles. It was scanned and digitally restored, with dust, scratches and other visible marks removed while keeping the specific look (and defects) of the source material intact. Digital colour grading took place at the LISTO laboratory in Vienna. The 35mm optical soundtrack negative was transferred at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna and digitally restored at Technicolor Ltd in Bangkok. The entire process was conducted in close collaboration with Apichatpong Weerasethakul and completed in June 2013. The results are a new 35mm internegative and optical soundtrack negative for preservation, a DCP for digital cinema screenings, and a new 35mm projection print.
Oliver Hanley, Alexander Horwath
Restored in 2013 by Österreichisches Filmmuseum and The Film Foundation World Cinema Project from the 35mm internegative on deposit from Apichatpong Weerasethakul at Österreichisches Filmmuseum