Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (12A)

Film

Science fiction

UNCLEBOONMEErev

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Nov 16 2010

The elemental and spiritually consoling films of Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul demolish the boundaries between life and death, man and beast and pain and happiness. They’re experimental films, not made to be fully understood or to deliver soft sentiments in a language we instantly comprehend. Two of his previous features – ‘Tropical Malady’ (2004) and ‘Syndromes and a Century’ (2006) – adopted a Yin and Yang structure, with two distinct chapters that offered similar stories told in contrasting, albeit complementary registers. This new film is more of an anthology of spry, interlocking episodes which all ruminate on the theme of reincarnation and trace the meandering journey of one man’s spirit through various times and bodies.

To Western audiences, the feelings and ideas Apichatpong chooses to ponder can seem abstruse and maybe a little eccentric. But to sample one of his films is to dive in to the cosmic pool of his imagination and join him in reliving his own idiosyncratic and highly personal memories through playfully inquisitive eyes. He deservedly won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for this, his sixth feature, and it makes for a perfect jumping-off point for the uninitiated.

In its most basic terms, the film joins a dumpy, softly-spoken tamarind farmer (Boonmee, gently played by Thanapat Saisaymar) as he takes metaphysical stock of his time on earth while he slowly, gracefully succumbs to kidney disease. As the film rummages through his subconscious, we meet friendly apparitions of his late wife and his son, the latter of whom has been cross-bred with a monkey. We even get a glimpse of a past life when he inhabited the body of a horny catfish.

The scene in which Boonmee descends into a sparkling cave and finally expires is the film’s most moving, not because of the stoicism with which he accepts his fate, but the simple way that Apichatpong depicts death as a fluid draining from the body and sinking back into the earth.

Despite the fact that the film is loosely derived from the tenets of Zen Buddhism, Apichatpong is not out to make religious statements. And even though the film casually alludes to atrocities committed in the 1980s by the Thai government against suspected Maoist sympathisers (Boonmee admits to having shot some himself), it’s also not a political film. These aspects are only included as elements that shape our memories and our consciousness.

Apichatpong doesn’t use his camera to stress what we should be looking at, thinking or hearing. He uses long takes and subtle edits to generate moods, atmospheres and feelings. It’s perhaps not as complete and rigorously focused as his previous works, but as a film which sees death as just a single, tiny link in an infinite chain of life, it’s incredibly uplifting.
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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Nov 19, 2010

Duration:

113 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.6 / 5

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LiveReviews|18
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Louisa

I don't usually bother writing film reviews but this was so slow and dull I felt compelled to tell you all to avoid this like the plague. Very weak storyline - it's supposed to be about someone's last days but it didn't move me at all. Several minutes of the camera focusing on an animal standing still in the twilight is not interesting.

Louisa

I don't usually bother writing film reviews but this was so slow and dull I felt compelled to tell you all to avoid this like the plague. Very weak storyline - it's supposed to be about someone's last days but it didn't move me at all. Several minutes of the camera focusing on an animal standing still in the twilight is not interesting.

Andrew Gray

For most cinema goers, I think it is best to think of this film as sort of meditation aid or visual poetry rather than a conventional feature film. You need to be willing to remove yourself from temporal constraints (like notions of "boredom") to appreciate it.

Andrew Gray

For most cinema goers, I think it is best to think of this film as sort of meditation aid or visual poetry rather than a conventional feature film. You need to be willing to remove yourself from temporal constraints (like notions of "boredom") to appreciate it.

hfgfjf

I did not find this film mystical or enthralling...I thought it was poorly shot with soft focus for the most part...the cinematography I expected did not exist...the actors were excellent but the camera work very poor...I expected to be captivated but it was poor poor quality production...I do not think any of the issues explored were complicated or difficult for a 'western' audience...I expected to enjoy its simplicity and spirituality but the camera work failed completely to deliver such a film

hfgfjf

I did not find this film mystical or enthralling...I thought it was poorly shot with soft focus for the most part...the cinematography I expected did not exist...the actors were excellent but the camera work very poor...I expected to be captivated but it was poor poor quality production...I do not think any of the issues explored were complicated or difficult for a 'western' audience...I expected to enjoy its simplicity and spirituality but the camera work failed completely to deliver such a film

Vinz

Critics who see things that normal people can't see will love this movie. For everyone else it is one of the most boring experiences ever.

Vinz

Critics who see things that normal people can't see will love this movie. For everyone else it is one of the most boring experiences ever.

Amina

If Thai people don't like his work then I'm very glad he has an apreciative audience in the West..

Amina

If Thai people don't like his work then I'm very glad he has an apreciative audience in the West..

Dave Dangerous

The author of this review reveals his complete ignorance of the Thai political situation if he fails to spot Apichatpong's allegories. Too bad Time Out can only afford oafs to do its reviews.

Dave Dangerous

The author of this review reveals his complete ignorance of the Thai political situation if he fails to spot Apichatpong's allegories. Too bad Time Out can only afford oafs to do its reviews.

godfrey hamilton

Geoff Andrew: "My failing, perhaps, and also, some will surely say, my loss" Your failing, I'm sad to agree, and your loss.

godfrey hamilton

Geoff Andrew: "My failing, perhaps, and also, some will surely say, my loss" Your failing, I'm sad to agree, and your loss.

Ripsnorter

I saw this film with two friends at the evening, red carpet screening in Cannes. Lucky us, right? Well, no. The walk-outs began about six minutes in and continued unabated. My two companions both fell asleep! I managed to stay awake, although I tried otherwise, and when A and B both woke some 45 minutes later, we also joined the line for the exit. I realise a film is always a personal experience, but there is absolutely no story on show here, no character establishment or development. The camera lingers and busks to the point that you are mentally screaming "CUT!! CUT!!"! Whole interminable scenes do nothing to drive a non-exitent narrative forwards. Visually, it often looks like it was shot on mini-DV and mastered through an unwashed milk bottle. As for the characters, especially Uncle Boonmee, do we get to know him? What do you think? Do we even care? What do you think again? The best thing about this film is, I kid you not, an electric fly swatter! Now that's something I want!

Ripsnorter

I saw this film with two friends at the evening, red carpet screening in Cannes. Lucky us, right? Well, no. The walk-outs began about six minutes in and continued unabated. My two companions both fell asleep! I managed to stay awake, although I tried otherwise, and when A and B both woke some 45 minutes later, we also joined the line for the exit. I realise a film is always a personal experience, but there is absolutely no story on show here, no character establishment or development. The camera lingers and busks to the point that you are mentally screaming "CUT!! CUT!!"! Whole interminable scenes do nothing to drive a non-exitent narrative forwards. Visually, it often looks like it was shot on mini-DV and mastered through an unwashed milk bottle. As for the characters, especially Uncle Boonmee, do we get to know him? What do you think? Do we even care? What do you think again? The best thing about this film is, I kid you not, an electric fly swatter! Now that's something I want!