Friday, July 22, 2011

Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives

"The Thais That Bind"
"Personally, I Think it's Something in the Tea..."

Maybe it was me.

What I know about Thai culture, cinema and such can fit onto a plate that holds a decent portion of Phad Thai.  Very little.  But wait a minute.  Is that required?  It shouldn't be.

It is the responsibility of the film maker to use the language of film to communicate their ideas to the audience.  That's their job.  If they're too obscure or hiding their point behind a wall of technique (or lack of it), that's their fault, not mine.  Film should be universal.  That doesn't mean it should aspire to the lowest common denominator in its means of expression.  But, it would be nice if it met us half-way, so we don't have to make a field-trip into the director's head, or depend on some (God help us) Entertainment section interview with the director to explain it all to us cretins.

So, if the 2010 Palme D'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives leaves me cold, that's why.  It's not that I mind the long takes of shots (I like that, actually), the glacial pace (ditto), the banal dialog (it's the visuals that really matter), or the odd subject matter (sex with a catfish?...uh...okay, I'll buy that, read any fairy tales lately?)*  It's just that the film is episodic, the segments unrelated, and never really comes to its point.

Boonme is a farmer in a Thai forest, and he's dying of kidney failureHe is visited by his sister-in-law and her son, who are there to spend time with the dying man in his last days.  But, other guests arrive, as if, with his demise approaching, tying up some of the loose threads of his life.  His wife shows upHis dead wife, looking considerably younger than at her death.  Then, his son who went missing many years ago, shows up, transmorgrified as one of the Ghost Monkeys who inhabit the forest (this occurred by taking a Ghost-Monkey wife).  They talk, tell their stories.  Then we go to the story of the Princess who is given the gift of a young, beautiful reflection of herself at the base of a waterfall.  The catfish spirit of the water offers her that beauty if she joins him in the water.  And, if I interpreted this correctly, she turns into a catfish (Well, if the son can turn into a Ghost-Monkey...).  Then, Boonme and his two corporeal relatives go spelunking, where they find a cavern of bright iridescent rock that resembles the stars in the night-sky...and a pool of water that contains blind colorless fish.  Presumably, in this segment Boonme dies, as he stops moving.  We see his memorial service.  Then, after the sister-in-law and her son, in monk's robes, sit and watch television in their hotel room, with her other child, a daughter.  At some point, Mom and son decide to go to a restaurant that has karaoke, but the daughter doesn't want to go.  So, the spirits of the mother and son go off to eat, leaving the bodies watching TV ( THAT part I "get.").

It's about the mystery of the Spirit.  It's about how we change in a lifetime.  It's about how the closer we get to death, we become more of the spirit than the corporeal.

It just doesn't say it very well.  I found it a drag.

Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a Rental, I guess.

* Yeah, I can't let that go unexplained, and lest you be alarmed, Boonme in Not Rated, but has no nudity, and things are merely implied.  But the segment reminded me of the variation of "The Frog Prince" that was put out by the Aurora Model Company when I was a kid:  The Frog holds a sign that says "Kiss Me And You'll Live Forever.  You'll Be A FROG, But You'll Live Forever!"

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