Thursday, September 20, 2012

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2010)

Although technical issues continue to arise or persist, I still wanted to check out this up-and-coming 2012 Sight & Sound poll inductee - oh, and Palme d'Or winner!

I'm borderline certain this was my first Thai movie...

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
(Loong Boonmee raleuk chat, ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ)
dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul. 2010, Thailand, etc...
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #202 / Directors' #132
Roger Ebert's movie review
DVD from Amazon [Blu-Ray]
Watch via Hulu-Plus / Amazon Prime only / iTunes / YouTube

Uncle Boonmee trailer (2010)

By my count, if you want to win the Palme d'Or these days, sprinkle your family drama with some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.

"Jen: How can you expect me to stay here, with all the ghosts and migrant workers?"

Okay, seriously? This is a wonderful movie. It has family, ghosts, rural Thai farm life, forest spirits, spelunking, beekeeping, renal failure, an electric hand-held bug-zapper, and karaoke. Not as many past lives as I expected, though... I'm not sure which side the film focused more on, because the mundane and supernatural seemed to mesh so easily. The characters all accept the arrival of long-gone wives, sisters and children, with a surprisingly easy-going manner. Wait, are these returning ghosts some of Uncle Boonmee's "past lives" - like in the non-karmic sense of the term - that he has "recalled" - in the non-remembering sense?

The film handles the supernatural stuff well, including the iconic Boonsong the Monkey Ghost. Although not reliant on high-tech SFX, whatever effects are attempted work - resulting in a more dreamy, ethereal mood than anything scary or creepy. One flashback to a past life (?), apparently during the reign of Princess Monkeyface, shows the Wisdom of the Catfish.

I don't believe I fully grasped the last part(s) of the movie. I got the significance of the Primordial Cave, but missed out on the future dream and stylistic switch to slo-mo slide-show. Though I don't like the sound of totalitarian F°451-style military destruction of images. Then there's the monastic coda, TV hypnotism in a hotel room, with a Möbius time-dilation (?), and then some dinner in a loud, garish, colorful restaurant. About the only thing I really 'understood' was that all these final locations all somehow stood in opposition to the past, the forest, the rural, family home places earlier in the movie.

After writing up my posts, I usually review a plot synopsis to make sure I didn't miss anything in my notes. Don't think I've ever added anything significant, but I wanted to include this from Wikipedia: "The film consists of six reels each shot in a different cinematic style. The styles include, by the words of the director, 'old cinema with stiff acting and classical staging', 'documentary style', 'costume drama' and 'my kind of film when you see long takes of animals and people driving'." I most certainly overlooked that!

Highly recommended.

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