Friday, January 9, 2015

ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) (2010)

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Writers:  Phra Sripariyattiweti, Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cast:       Thanapat Saisaymar, Jenjira Pongpas, Sakda Kaewbuadee
Language: Thai

On his deathbed, Uncle Boonmee recalls his many past lives.

When you are watching a film from a place like Thailand you don't expected to be treated with an extremely surreal kind of work. That said, Nicolas Windning Refn's 'Only God Forgives' was a surreal film set in Thailand but that is essentially a Western film. This one solidly exist in the Lynchian Universe but with an Eastern twist dealing with concepts like reincarnation and Karma. Another difference is that characters in it are very down to Earth kind whereas Lynch gives them a very cinematic flourish and stylization. Film very much look like featuring Ozu characters directed by David Lynch. 

Uncle Boonmee is suffering from kidney issues as he lives as a farmer in north east part of Thailand which borders Laos. He blames himself for his suffering and attributes it to Karma due to his past as an army officer who hunted communists and for the bugs he killed in his farm. 'An Act of Killing' was another film which tackled the issue of persecution of Chinese/Communists in Indonesia. I didn't know that it happened also in Thailand, but I guess it is not that surprising since those were the cold war days during which USA supported many un-democratic governments to do the same resulting in the latter using it to crush any opposition. Even though title of the film states that he is is recalling past lives, it is more a case of ghosts of his dead family members visiting him and him reminiscing about things he did in the past. Then again there is one sequence of a princess from distant past getting fucked by a catfish which must be from one of his earlier incarnations. I suppose what the director is trying to do is provide a connection to Thailand's history and the present through the film. The last sequence of the film is set in the urban part of Thailand where an amateur monk is caught between his earlier life and newly found monk life. I don't presume I understand exactly what the director is trying to convey in its entirety but when you watch these kind of films-it is almost always a case of enjoying the unique atmosphere and gleam whatever meaning you can. I like these kind of films where you watch it through the halfway mark in a sleepy fashion and in the latter part you don't want it to end since you have kind of begun to get the point.

The film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes and was the first Asian film to do so since 1997 (Abbas Kiarostami's 'Taste of Cherry') and the first Thai film to do so in the festival's history. It is definitely something that one need to rewatch and I will definitely be checking out other works from the director. It is a very pleasant take on death and the director saw it as a metaphor for the death of use of films for film-making. 

Rating: 4/5