Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Stars: Sakda Kaewbuadee, Jenjira Pongpas,Thanapat Saisaymar
The Story: The titular Boonmee is a middle-aged farm dweller ailing from acute kidney failure. The film tells of his final days in the forest surrounded by loved ones, both living and dead, as he reminisces about his current life as well as his past ones.
The Buzz:Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is inspired by a 1983 book called ‘A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives’ by Phra Sripariyattiweti which recounts the tales of an abbot of a Buddhist temple who claims to be able to remember his past lives lucidly while under meditation. While not a direct biographical adaptation of the book, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s ambitious project echoes its motifs of memory, death and transformation.
Uncle Boonmee snagged the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival becoming the first Asian film to win the award since 1997. Apichatpong is also distinguished as the first ever Thai director to win the award.
inSing says: Less of narrative and more like dreamy painting, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a delightful and glacially-paced exploration on life and death. There are many who will be frustrated by its inscrutable randomness and baffling detours but the key to appreciating Apichatpong’s vision is just to settle in and let the bizarre visual lyricism wash over your senses.
The film has a wonderful otherworldly aura but its mystical elements are so matter-of-factly staged and grounded in laugh-out-loud humour that you casually accept the presence of a ghostly apparition as you would accept the presence of a cat or chair. There is a dinner scene early on where Boonmee’s family dinner is crashed by the sudden appearance of his wife’s spirit and the return of his missing son who has been mutated into a giant ape monster with red eyes.
Boonmee and company are surprised but only in the way that you’re surprised by unexpected guests. They’re actually fairly nonchalant about the fact a ghost and a Thai Chewbacca have joined them for a meal. Later on, an aging princess distraught about her fading beauty is comforted by a catfish in a river. “I’m not a ghost, I’m a catfish,” assures the gilled suitor. A surreal, tastefully-filmed scene in which the catfish performs cunninglus on her ensues.
Apichatpong is more concerned with constructing meditative journey and languid lamentation than any sort of coherent structure. Unlce Boonmee swiftly takes you out of your element and though the road is disorienting at first, you wouldn’t want to leave by film’s end. Remarkably avant-garde, this movie isn’t going to easily accessible but those who take the plunge will be richly rewarded.
Hidzir Junaini, aka inSing.com's Movie Lover, is 24-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for Metrowize Asia. Hidzir is the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.
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