Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Uncle Boonmee again ...

UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, 2010. It is fascinating reading some of the comments, or howls of protest, on this Thai film, a prize-winner at Cannes, over at IMDb. Some rail about the lack of plot or character development in this Apichatpong Weerasethakul meditation and cannot relate to its slow-paced movements. Personally I love it, and was enthralled seeing it at the cinema on its (limited) release, as per my initial review, Boonmee label. It was on television so despite having the dvd, I had to record it and replay several scenes I really like. 

It is about Uncle Boonmee who is coming to the end of his current life, and he thinks about his previous lives, as both human and animal. The narrative as such focuses on his sister from the city and her son who visit his estate in the country to help him with his kidney disease. Eventually, Boonmee retreats to the forest and to the cave where he was born, and where he dies. The (unnecessary) coda shows his relatives back in the city, in a hotel room, getting on with their lives ...  I find the opening scene of several minutes totally mesmerising as we watch a water buffalo type animal just communing with nature in the moonlight, it then breaks away from its tether and ambles away, and then when the owner comes allows itself to be recaptured. Was this Boonmee in a previous life? 

Even more mesmerising is the long central scene with the Princess and the Catfish, as we watch that waterfall in the moonlight. I could spend hours watching this – then the Princess disrobes and enters the waters, giving her jewellery to the fish, as it pleasures her. No wonder viewers were confused, this could mean whatever you want it to. Equally marvellous is the long scene at the dinner table, when Huay, Boonmee’s wife who has been dead 19 years, slowly materialises and sits among them and they all continue as usual and talk to her. His long-lost son Boonson also arrives, he is now part animal due to having mated with a monkey spirit in the jungle. 

There is also a nice affecting scene between Boonmee and Huay sitting on his bed. He wants to know how to find her in heaven when he has died. She calmly says “Heaven is over-rated. There is nothing there. Spirits are attracted to people, not places”. Some people too used to popcorn movies may and will find all this baffling and boring – but for others it remains a completely blissful mesmerising movie one can return to again and again. 
I don’t know anything about Thai cinema, but I certainly like this. Death is seen with such finality in the West that the idea of how it is percieved in Eastern cultures is certainly fascinating.

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