Thai title: ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ
English title: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
As usual, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s movies are not easy to understand. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” is no exception. On top of this, most of this movie is narrated in Lao language so it makes it more difficult to understand. A family, aunt Jane and her son Tom, arrive from Bangkok into a Isan village. The car is passing by Isan villages through long sequences without any dialogs. They are visiting Uncle Boonmee. The uncle is seriously sick and needs to receive caring and medication. At evening time during a diner, a spirit is visiting them. It is Uncle Boonmee’s former wife. She is happy to receive good deeds from donations made to Buddhist temple. Then another spirit comes also. It is a half man half monkey with red eyes (ผีลิง). It is Uncle Boonmee’s son. His son, photographer, had been trying to shoot a weird spirit in the forest since a long time. They are looking at old pictures together. Many following sequences in the movie are about Uncle Boonmee recalling his previous incarnations. It is a film about recollection and death, about death and rebirth. Many sequences are beautifully shot especially night photography scenes but the sequences meaning is not easy to understand. Various sequences include 1) a buffalo is tied to a tree. He succeeds to break the rope and flees away. His owner is looking for it and finally finds it 2) weird spirit with red eyes seen in the jungle 3) A mysterious old woman is carried in a palanquin by a whole troupe. She is then talking to the waterfalls spirit. There is a love sequence with a fish. There are many spirit beliefs around Isan countryside. Discussion between uncle Boonmee and his wife about after life happen. The aunt and his son are going inside the jungle and a cave looking for the spirit with red eyes. Uncle Boonmee is finally found in the cave. He has finished to recall his past lives and dies. A Buddhist ceremony for his funeral is organised. The nephew Tom is a monk. He decides to disrobe not able to withstand quiet life in the Buddhist temple. It seems that everybody is back to a normal life. This movie won Cannes 2010 festival palme d'or. Apichatpong Weerasethakul became the first Thai director to receive such award. The movie was shot in 16mm format. It seems to also be an homage to the dying film cinema replaced by digital cinema. People often hate or like Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s movies but they are worth seeing as offering a refreshing breath outside the modern Thai cinema stream.
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