Friday, January 30, 2015

Just watched...

..."Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" written and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

This magical, original film won the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival for good reason. It is unlike most anything else that has been put on film; there might be only a handful of creations like this in cinema history but I am hard pressed to name them.

The film follows the story of a man, Uncle Boonmee, who is dying of kidney failure in the wild jungle area of northeast Thailand. Relatives arrive to visit, to comfort, to try to help. But so do a few other non-corporeal and non-human visitors. As usual, I do not want to say too much since I believe in seeing a film for the first time as the director intended: the story and events should come at you fresh. I will say though, that we do get some glimpses of Boonmee's past lives, as well as a glimpse--possibly--of how life is perceived after death.

The pace of the film is meditative and quite deliberate, reminding me of the work of the great Russian filmmaker Tarkovsky (previously here and here). This affords us the time for our minds to wander into the film, to contemplate with the characters and director, and it increases the psychological space around the story. It is an expansive, transcendent film that, while rooted in a physical place that has its own history (culturally, politically, socially), ultimately moves beyond the physical aspects of the story. There are some puzzling events that happen without any explanation; mysterious, otherworldly phenomena exist comfortably alongside our physical world.

"But that's life, no?" said writer and director Weerasethakul. "Sometimes you don't need to understand everything to appreciate a certain beauty. And I think the film operates in the same way. It's like tapping into someone's mind. The thinking pattern is quite random, jumping here and there like a monkey."

Recommend? Yes. It is, as I said, something quite unique. If you are a fan of cinema, (you don't have to be a fan of world cinema to appreciate this), this certainly deserves to be experienced.

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