movie film review | chris tookey

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives

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  Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives Review
Tookey's Rating
3 /10
Average Rating
7.89 /10
Jenjira Pongpas, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Thanapat Saisaymar
Full Cast >

Directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Written by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Released: 2010
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: Thailand
Colour: C
Length: 113

Weird and not all that wonderful.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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This moving picture Ė which is, in fact, virtually inert - was the surprise winner of the Palme díOr at last yearís Cannes Film Festival, especially as many at its first screening either walked out or fell asleep.

It has divided audiences ever since, between admirers who find it beautiful, magical and dreamlike, and sceptics who regard it as boring, pretentious and a muddle.

Thatís not surprising, because in reality itís both.

Much of it is gorgeous to behold, and almost every shot is immaculately framed. The Thai writer-director Apichatpong Weerasethakul has created an elegiac picture, steeped in Zen Buddhism, of a Thai farmer coming to terms with his imminent mortality.

Thereís something endearingly comical about the matter-of-fact way he greets the ghost of his long dead wife and his son, transformed into a hairy spirit resembling Chewbacca from Star Wars.

However, there is a lot thatís frustrating about the narrativeís lack of clarity. The most beautiful section is about a princess seeing a reflection of her younger and prettier self in a lake, toying with the notion of an affair with a servant but deciding instead to be pleasured by a talking catfish.

Thatís right. Weíre not taking naturalism here. The trouble is that itís hard to discern the precise point of the story, its thematic relevance to the rest of the film, or even whether the princess is a previous incarnation of Uncle Boonmee. For all we know, the servant might be his incarnation Ė or, indeed, the catfish.

Little of the film is fully comprehensible, least of all a redundant scene that takes place after Uncle Boonmeís death. The narrative is devoid of any conventional structure, and the pace is punishingly slow.

If youíre in the mood for something poetic, you may find this rewarding. And itís the kind of film that people who want to be thought more intelligent than they are pretend to like, because they donít want to be seen as stupid, philistine or unsympathetic to foreign cultures.

But donít blame me if you emerge shaking your head in disbelief and complaining that itís a load of long-winded, mystical codswallop - or perhaps that should be catfisheswallop.

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