AKA Uncle Boonmee
“Facing the jungle, the hills and vales, my past lives as an animal and other beings rise up before me.”—Title card at the beginning of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
DIRECTED BY: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
FEATURING: Thanapat Saisaymar, , Sakda Kaewbuadee, Kanokporn Tongaram
PLOT: On his plantation in rural Thailand, the dying Boonmee is visited by living relatives and the ghosts of his past. As they ease him into death, the story is interrupted through vignettes that may represent his memories of past lives.
- Apichatpong Weerasethakul considerately refers to himself as “Joe” when speaking to Western audiences.
- Uncle Boonmee is loosely based on a 1983 book by Phra Sripariyattiweti, a monk from Apichatpong’s hometown of Khon Kaen, Thailand.
- The film is a feature-length component of Primitive, Apichatpong’s ongoing multimedia project, which also encompasses a number of video installations and the short films A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and Phantoms of Nabua.
- Received the Palme d’Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Jury president Tim Burton described it as “a beautiful, strange dream.”
- Sakda, who plays Boonmee’s nephew Tong, and Kanokporn, who plays his nurse Roong, played characters of the same names in Apichatpong’s earlier films Tropical Malady and Blissfully Yours, respectively. In both cases, it’s unclear if they’re meant to be the same characters.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Though it’s chock-full of beguiling, whimsical imagery, the single most memorable sight in Uncle Boonmee is that of a princess in a lagoon, undulating with pleasure as she receives oral sex from a catfish. (Unsurprisingly, the words “catfish sex” became synonymous with Uncle Boonmee‘s brand of weirdness immediately following its Cannes premiere.)
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Critics sometimes identify Apichatpong’s style as a mix of
Apichatpong Weerasethakul on Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
surrealism and neorealism, and this is a handy skeleton key for getting at Uncle Boonmee‘s weird nature. The film contains plenty of enigmatic images and seeming non sequiturs, but they’re framed as natural, even welcome steps in the cycle of life and death. The characters accept them nonchalantly, going along with the film’s dream logic and implicitly entreating viewers to do the same. No clear border separates the mystical from the mundane. And two hours in, when it feels like you should be totally inured to Uncle Boonmee‘s disorienting twists, along comes a denouement that renders everything else normal by comparison.
COMMENTS: An ox, having escaped its tether, strolls through the forest at twilight. Eventually, Continue reading 100. UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES [LOONG BOONMEE RALEUK CHAT] (2011)