Loong Boonme Raleuk Chat(Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives)(2010)
Directed By Apichatpong Weerasethakul
This years Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, "Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives" is the story of a man who is dying, and as result recalls his past lives and is visited by ghosts and spirits.
There are ape spirit creatures who lives in the forest attracted by his sickness, he remembers being an ox and a princess, we watch a nurse drain some device the ailing Boonme wears fixed to his abdomen.
This was the first film I watched at 2010's AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles, and it was a start that was not followed easily. The film is strange but the words which feel most appropriate to the film are "gentle" and "mysterious".Boonme's final days are spent with his sister and a nurse and their various supernatural guests. They eat dinner, watch films, look at photo albums, life unfolds but with an awareness of a mysterious shift coming. As death approaches, past lives and those human, animal, or other appear ever-shifting and inter connected, foreign but also familiar, like relatives returned after a long absence."Uncle Boonme" is the final part of a multi-platform project featuring art installations and short films called "The Primitive Installation", about Nabua, Thailand a region heavily occupied by the Thai army from the 60's to the 80's. "Uncle Boonme" believes his karma is the result of the part he played in the violence of the past.Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul ("Joe" for short) has created a landscape of shadowy jungles, intimate bedroom lighting, a haunting, funny, dreamy, and wise, rhythmic lamentation about modern life, it's "primitive" counter points, death, change, spirit-monkeys and all that good stuff. Uncle Boonme is a fantasy as epic as Souleymane Cisse's "Yeelen", one luminous to look at and visually wander through, with several of "Tropical Malady's"' most hallucinatory moments, appearing strong early in it's opening movements and closing out on notes as elliptical as those of "Syndromes And A Century", and then there's the final scene compressed into a wonderful kind of epilogue involving a monk, that's the most audacious, fascinating, and best of it's sort since Wes Anderson's "Hotel Chevalier"."
Transformations and contrasts between the ancient and the modern flow into one another from electronic bug zappers to sex with talking cat-fish, primordial caves to karaoke bars. Dual and multiple-roles and states within a single whole, are a recurring theme in the film, so multiple meanings and readings being generated is little surprise. But though these thoughts rise up haunting us after viewing, the images of movement through Nabua's phantom jungles and Boonme's warm goodbyes are what we are left feeling and reeling with.
All modern worlds are built on ancient ones, all new things have within them older forms. "Uncle Boonme" is more informed by Buddhist notions of reincarnation, the idiosyncratic personality of it's creator and the psycho-geography of it's location, more than normal concerns about dramatic and character arc. In simpler words...an old man who is dying can recall his past lives. The film is a matter of perception as complex and post-modernist/globalized as any experimental narrative in avant-garde-dom or as mystical and "primitive" as any ancient Sutra, based on the cultural inclinations and presuppositions you bring to the film. In any event, is to Joe's continued success and cinemas continued fortune that he so playfully and beautifully can challenge and delight these hybrid perceptions of ours as he does.