By the Time It Gets Dark (Dir. Anocha Suwichakornpong)
Date: July 18, 2017
Location: Downtown Independent
Address: 251 S. Main St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
The delicately poetic second feature by Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong weaves together multiple stories and characters to create a portrait of a beautiful country haunted by the lingering trauma of the 1976 government-sanctioned massacre of student demonstrators in Bangkok.
A shape-shifting narrative around memory, politics and cinema, the film weaves together the stories of several characters. We meet a young waitress serving breakfast at an idyllic country café, only to later find her employed in the busy dining room of a river cruise ship. And we meet a filmmaker interviewing an older woman whose life was transformed by the political activism of her student years and the Thammasat University massacre of 1976. With her tender, unobtrusive filmmaking style, Suwichakornpong allows us to get to know these characters slowly and deeply. At the same time, we see how their beautiful country and its troubled history inform their actions and identities in ways both overt and subtle. (KimStim)
A swirl of startling, sensuously rendered transitions, identities sliding among characters, fictions cracking open to reveal still more fictions within. This film marks only Suwichakornpong’s second feature, but it already suggests a heady iconoclast snooping out profound points of exchange between the possibilities of narration through images and the politics of memory.
Dan Sullivan, Film Comment
Suwichakornpong subtly uses fragmented images, identity slippage and ellipsis to dig for the core of contemporary Thai experience and ask profound questions about how memory, politics and cinema intersect. You’ll be lucky to find a more ambitious or enthralling work of cinema.
Kieron Corless, Sight & Sound
The extradiegetic digital freak-out at film’s end foregrounds the constructedness of all images, but what’s still more remarkable is Suwichakornpong’s willingness to abdicate a certain kind of logic and directorial control in favor of a strangely intuitive, even random rethinking of narrative and historiography, taking up and discarding concepts and plot threads for which, even for the filmmaker, there may be no clear explanation.
Leo Goldsmith, Artforum
To call what happens in By the Time It Gets Dark a “plot” is to do it a disservice of sorts, such is the beguilingly self-reflexive nature of Anocha Suwichakornpong’s becalmed, trippy, historically conscious fungus of a film. That the film strays from its central conceit is a gambit that Suwichakornpong handles with an elastic but formally cohesive schema of detours, longeurs, and non-sequiturs.
Jay Keuhner, Cinema Scope
The movie gets strange — or at least almost late-Godardian. Suwichakornpong fractures what's already threadbare, crafting a kind of lyrical fugue about Thai modernity and the fraught possibility of evoking it on film... In the end, it literally dissolves and reconstitutes in a cataract of pixels. You could be forgiven for thinking that while all this is going on, nothing at all seems to happen — it's a film, a rather gorgeous one, of glances and ephemera and delicate metaphors.
Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice