I didn't enjoy "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives". I embraced it with open arms and an open mind. I wanted to like it; and I did. The film it designed as something very, very interesting. It is an experimental film with ambitions that go way, way beyond that of standard Hollywood-fare, but then again, I watch movies similar to this one so that I can escape all that is main-stream and simply be an admirer. "Uncle Boonmee" is not a great film. But it is a very good one.
The film depicts a solid approximation of a life and a death; that being of the elderly, sickly Uncle Boonmee. Not only is this man aging, but he is also dying from kidney-failure. He lives alongside his loved ones and intends to do this until the end. He often has philosophical discussions with both his family and anyone else who surrounds him. One night, he is visited by the ghost of his dead wife as well as a sprite-like creature that is his son; who takes on the form of a Chewbacca-esque being. The two characters literally bring something else to the table.
Boonmee recalls his past lives. At one moment he's an ox evading his captors and another a horny catfish. He has nonetheless lived multiple lives; and must return and die in the place of his first life where he was initially given the grand gift of life. The place is a cave; a place so surreal and magical that you can almost touch it, and it carries the qualities of a dream perfectly. In the cave, to complete the genius, there are blind, white little fish that may be more than they seem to be; much like everything else in the film.
The film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. It deserves the award. It's a wonderful, intelligent film that goes where few modern filmmakers have gone before. It is passionately made and arrives at perhaps the wrong time; where people are no longer appreciative of art such as this. However, I do believe that the serious movie-goers will admire it, because it exists not as entertainment, but as a pretty picture with more than enough symbolic messages.
The film is based on a book that the abbot of a Buddhist temple wrote about a man that once visited him. The man's name was indeed Boonmee, and he could indeed recall his past lives. This left an impression on the abbot, and ultimately, that is why the book was written and this is why the film came to be. Watching it was like partaking in such rich, healing meditation; and it was a pleasant, slow-moving experience.
I do believe that it might improve on multiple viewings. Some people might not even want to see it once. It's such a slow film that one would describe it as dragging "on-and-on for what seemed like hours". These thoughts did indeed cross my mind at one point, but then I stopped and took a moment to breathe in the fumes of this film; and the more I thought, the more I felt; and finally, the more I got out of watching it. I recommend this film to thinkers, appreciators, and anyone who likes how film used to be. This is a different film with a quirky sense of humor and an oddly thoughtful philosophical outlook on its topics. People will be left scratching their heads over what it's trying to say or what it all "means", but I'll let them know: this is not necessary. The film is about how one man chooses to spend his last days, recalling his past lives. I've come to the conclusion that "Uncle Boonmee" is art; high art. And it deserves to be seen. But that does not mean that you will like it; some will hate it. But we live in a world where nearly every movie is crude in its exploitation of noise, profanity, violence, sex, nudity, drugs, or whatnot. And now we get a film like this to save us the trouble of looking through the muck. It's not worth searching. And if you share my feelings about today's cinema, then you will share that of the film's director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. He is a deep meditator and thinker. He's made a really good movie out of his material. I like him for that. And it makes me want to see more out of him. Here we go.
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