Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
The winner of the Palme d’Or (that’s cinephile talk for the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival) is definitely not a movie for action junkies. Uncle Boonmee, directed by the Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady, Syndromes and a Century), takes a sweet, long time to work its magic on you. That is if you’re not easily hooked by a talking catfish getting it on with a princess. Apichatpong, helpfully known as Joe, infuses his dreamlike films with references to nature, animals, memory, reincarnation, spiritualism and eroticism.
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The plot, such as it is, involves Uncle Boonmee (former roofer Thanapat Saisaymar in his feature-film acting debut), near death from kidney failure, making contact with his past lives, notably as the ox we see roaming in the prologue and the above-mentioned lustful catfish. Cared for by a nurse (Samud Kugasang) on his remote farm in Thailand, Boonmee accepts visits from his sister-in-law (Jenjira Pongpas) and young nephew (Sakda Kaewbuadee). Most mesmerizing are the ghostly visits from his late wife, Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwonk), and missing son, Boonsong, who takes the form of a red-eyed monkey. As Joe blurs the line between reality and the supernatural, his haunting and hypnotic film exerts a hold you don’t want to break. It’s a beauty.