Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
(Loong Boonmee raleuk chat)
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cornerhouse, 21 November 2010
Weerasethakul’s extraordinary film perplexes and rewards the viewer.
It is an experience well worth having, I’d say, though at film’s end it is likely that you’ll still be perplexed somewhat.
The film is gorgeous to look at and the Thai countryside is ravishing. In this curious world ghosts appear at dinner tables, waiting until dessert is served out of courtesy, and catfish court princesses. Can we call this a panpsychic universe, or perhaps simply a Buddhist one? At any rate it seems quite alien to the modern Western world, which is certainly part of the film’s appeal.
There is one scene towards the end, mind, where a Buddhist monk changes from his orange robe into jeans, t-shirt and trainers, that we can all recognise. An incredibly compelling and well-crafted scene it is too, though it also has its own strangeness. That scene seems to be characteristic of Weerasethakul’s work as a whole: we never know the rules he is playing by, the ontological assumptions he is making. As viewers we always have work to do, stuff we have to figure out.
Now someone tell me this: where can I see Weerasethakul’s A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, the short film that led on to this fine feature?