UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (LUNG BOONMEE RALUEK CHAT) (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
Alice Tully Hall
1941 Broadway at 65th St.
Saturday, September 25, 3:00
Sunday, September 26, 9:00
Winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, Thai writer-director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES is an elegiac meditation on memory, transformation, death, and rebirth, a fascinating integration of the human, animal, and spirit worlds. Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) is dying of kidney failure, being tended to by his Laotian helper, Jaai (Samud Kugasang). Boonmee is joined by his dead wife’s sister, Jen (Jenjira Pongpas), in his house in the middle of the jungle. Boonmee and Jen have nearly impossibly slow conversations that seem to go nowhere, just a couple of very simple people not expecting much excitement out of what’s left of their lives. Even when Boonmee’s long-dead wife, Huay (Natthakarn Aphaiwonk), and his long-missing son, Boonsong (Geerasak Kulhong), now a hairy ghost monkey covered in black fur and with two laserlike red eyes, suddenly show up, Boonmee and Jen pretty much just go with the flow. Weerasethakul maintains the beautifully evocative pace whether Jaai is draining Boonmee’s kidney, the characters discuss Communism, Tong (Sakda Kaewbuadee) questions his monkhood, a princess (Wallapa Mongkolprasert) has sex with a catfish, or they all journey to a cave in search of another of Boonmee’s past lives. The film, which was shot in 16mm and was inspired by a 1983 book called A MAN WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, is part of the Primitive Project, Weerasethakul’s multimedia installation that also includes the short films A LETTER TO UNCLE BOONMEE and PHANTOMS OF NABUA. Weerasethakul, who gained a growing international reputation with such previous works as BLISSFULLY YOURS (2002), TROPICAL MALADY (2004), and SYNDROME AND A CENTURY (2006) and has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Khon Kaen University and an MFA in filmmaking from the Art Institute of Chicago, is a master storyteller who continues to challenge viewers with his unique visual language and subtly effective narrative techniques.