Directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Countries & Regions: France, Thailand, United Kingdom
Length: 114 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 28 March 2011
Cat No: NW023
Screen ratio 1:1.78
Dolby Digital 2.0
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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Also available on Blu-ray
Apichatpong Weerasethakul directs this Thai fantasy. The film portrays the final days in the life of Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), a... Read More
The wondrous work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul has long delighted and perplexed arthouse audiences, and if there is any justice the Palme d’Or triumph of Uncle Boonmee at Cannes will win the Thai filmmaker a greater audience. No other director produces such sensory and immersive cinema. The opening shot alone, of a buffalo liberating itself from its rope and lolloping across the twilit countryside into the jungle is more mesmerising than anything else produced in the last year.
The film revolves around the dying Uncle Boonmee and two of his visiting relatives. One night they are visited by two spiritual apparitions - Boonmee’s dead wife and his long-lost son, the latter having transformed into a hairy simian entity with glowing red eyes. Both characters appear and disappear throughout the film, as Boonmee remembers his existence in a number of bizarre incarnations.
Weerasethakul’s work often has a trippy quality to it, as anyone who has seen the extraordinary ending to Tropical Malady will testify. Uncle Boonmee, dubbed “Uncle Bong Hit” by roguish Cannes critics, certainly has moments of beauty which feel like hallucinations, including a cave illuminated by glow worms. Some sequences are uniquely weird - the film’s most shocking scene, in which a disfigured princess enjoys passionate bliss with an admiring catfish, is like nothing else in cinema. It is never made explicit which figure represents one of Boonmee’s past existences, with the director allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions.
This may make Uncle Boonmee sound pretentious - or at least, wilfully obscure - yet Weerasethakul manages to make the mysterious events accessible. Unlike his previous work, Uncle Boonmee follows a linear narrative, and is laced with his customary dry wit; the startling visitation of the monkey-esque son is undercut by his aunt’s immediate response - “why did you grow your hair so long?” His lingering shots are so beautifully composed that they are immensely beguiling rather than wearying. Most of all, as with his past work, he manages to make a life-affirming feature which, owing to his inimitable style, never condescends or simplifies. Uncle Boonmee proves that this filmmaker is truly a master of cinema.