- READER REVIEWS
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Loong Boonmee raleuk chat)
(No longer in theaters)
The 2010 Cannes Film Festival grand-prize winner was the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a serenely fantastical tone poem in which the title character (Thanapat Saisaymar), slowly dying of kidney failure, is visited by the spirits of his wife, his long-lost son (transformed, for some reason, into a hairy beast), and other creatures from the twilight world—drawn to him, we’re told, because they “sense his sickness.” Underscored by a low, insistent rumble and the eerie calls of exotic birds, Weerasethakul’s shots of dark forest, dense jungle vegetation, and glowing-eyed creatures who gaze into the camera are layered and mysterious. But they can also be affectingly plain, like the long, static take in which the wife’s ghost (looking ordinary and middle-aged, as she did when she died) simply fades in and begins to speak. Savoring the last moments in his body, saying good-bye to the world for now, preparing for the trip to an ancient cave to begin his new journey, Boonmee expresses one regret: that he poisoned his karma by killing too many Communists. The universe is now fluid, all boundaries dissolving, all species interchangeable. (As if to prove this, a woman welcomes a talking catfish between her legs.) Uncle Boonmee is entrancing—and also, if you’re not sufficiently steeped in its rhythms, narcotizing. Truth to tell, I wouldn’t be surprised if a good percentage of its audience, even at the Film Forum, finds it excruciatingly boring. Adjust your biorhythms accordingly.