I have no idea how to talk about Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. It’s six reels each have a totally distinct visual and narrative style, but the experience mounts to a final, weirdly pop-infused sadness and loss. Uncle Boonmee shows a fully new way of storytelling: it is so unconventionally strange, yet so matter-of-fact in its exploration of its own weirdness. The setting, Northeast Thailand, is simultaneously quiet, simple, mystical, and gorgeous. Critics have described the film as a ‘ghost story’ and many press photos show the red-eyed ape figures (seen above), but the film is not frightening, in fact, the appearance of the first and only conventional ghost got a hearty laugh at the screening I attended. Though, I do not mean to give the impression Uncle Boonmee is a difficult film to watch; it is slow and uses unconventional narrative techniques, but Weerasethakul’s film was fascinating to watch and continually enticing to explore afterwards.
Bottom Line: It is both surprising and perfect that Uncle Boonmee won Cannes. The film is so rich and gorgeous and fresh in its approach to film, a sort of film that can be poured over many times.
9/10 (I need to see this again before I can confidently give it a 10)
Alex P’s Take:
We. Are. Spirits. In the Material World. Perhaps it’s crass to compare Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest surreal opus to a Police song, but the thematic similarities are striking enough that I’ve had Sting singing in my head for the last couple days. The equally haunting Uncle Boonmee essentially plays out like a series of Thai folk tales, each of which threatens to be more casually bizarre than the one before it. While one could easily watch Uncle Boonmee by simply surrending oneself to AW’s gorgeous photography and dreamlike rhythms, there is just enough of a consistent narrative thread to placate those hoping to derive some kind of logical thesis from this meditative affair. While I found Boonmee baffling and occasionally frustrating, it is the rare film that made me want to watch it again almost immediately.