May 01, 2011

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

If "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul would not have received the world's most prestigous film prize - the Palme D'Or in Cannes - its chances for a theatrical release would have been pretty dim. But as it happened, Tim Burton was jury president in Cannes last year and hence it was no surprise that he gave the award to a film with weird looking, red-eyed black monkeys. These monkeys are now used to market the film to the global audience but most of them - including the distributors - have probably no clue what they're up to. For "Uncle Boonmee" is certainly not a fantasy film but also not really a drama and definitely not a comedy (as listed on imdb)...

So what is it? First and foremost, it's the work of one of he most visionary artists working in the world right now. The man with the difficult name - the correct pronounciation is a-pee-chat-pong weer-rah-set-a-kool - is as highly regarded among serious film circles as he is virtually unknown among mainstream audiences. And his most popular film to date is probably not going to change that. Even I have to admit that I had high expectations that the film didn't really fulfill. But the reason is less that the film was not good but more that I couldn't find any access to its themes. It is the kind of film that for me is quite difficult to review: it is not my cup of tea at all but it is still way too accomplished to be dismissed. What is sure is that the film is unique in the way it blends a rather realistic family drama set in rural Thailand with supernatural elements and themes like reincarnation. Occasionally, if not throughout the whole film, the director creates a haunting atmosphere that somehow drags you in. On the other hand, I'm sceptical whether it's the masterpiece some critics made it out to be - but I might have missed something so make sure to make up your own mind.

"Uncle Boonmee" is not my kind of film but that doesn't matter because even the claim that "Uncle Boonmee" is not a film for everyone would be an understatement. It is a film for quite a few - but for these few it may come close to a miracle.


Never judge a film by its poster: "Planet of the Apes" this ain't

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