Thursday, December 23, 2010

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat; Drama, Thailand, 2010; D: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, S: Thanapat Saisaymar, Jenjira Pongpas, Sakda Kaewbuadee

Aging uncle Boonmee, who suffers from kidney failure, drives with his family to a small village near the rainforest. One evening, while he was having dinner with Jen and Thong, the ghost of his deceased wife, Huay, shows up, and then the ghost of his deceased son Boonsong, in the form of a monkey. The latter tells him he made photos of the monkey ghost, but merged himself with it in the end. Boonmee thinks his sickness is karma for killing so many communists when he was young. He goes to a cave where he tells about his dream of the future. He then dies. Tong becomes a Buddhist monk. While he was watching TV with Jen, their doubles went to a karaoke bar.

Winner of the Golden Palm in Cannes, "Uncle Boonmee" is another hermetic and very minimalistic film by director Apichatpong Weerasethakul - calm, smooth and almost without a plot. The opening dreamy sequence with a cow escaping into the rainforest at night, and with the dark figure ghost whose red eyes sparkle in the night, connects with his best film, "Tropical Malady", where he went far into the spheres of subconsciousness and realm of the senses, yet the last two thirds of the films recapture that feeling only to a certain extent, maybe not even 50 % of it. Not so much a story about ghosts visiting the title hero as much as it is a platform for showing people of Thailand coping with the clash between the tradition and modern, cold civilisation, "Uncle Boonmee" is overstretched and without a clear point - Weerasethakul's bizarreness even seems more natural than it would have been in some other director's hands (the weird scene of a princess mating with a catfish in a lake), yet here its delight is smaller, with only small crumbs of poetic moments (minerals illuminated in the walls of the cave). "Uncle Boonmee" is a quality film, yet doesn't have that indestructible enchanting power that adorns only those 1 % of special films in cinema, as it was the case with the magical "Tropical Malady" by the same director.


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