UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (LUNG BOONMEE RALUEK CHAT) (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
BAMfilm, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Saturday, August 31, 6:00
Series runs through September 5
The BAM series “Programmers’ Notebook: On Memory,” consisting of works involving creative, cinematic ways of the mind’s relationship with the past, continues August 31 with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s exquisite 2010 Palme d’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, an elegiac, personal 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, framing each section in the context of a different cinematic genre, a lament for the ways movies used to be made and viewed.
The film, which was shot in 16mm (but is being shown in a digital projection at BAM) and was inspired by a 1983 book called A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives (as well as some of Weerasethakul’s own family experiences), 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 and which was displayed at the New Museum in 2011. Weerasethakul, who gained a growing international reputation with such previous works as Blissfully Yours (2002), Tropical Malady (2004), and Syndromes 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. “Programmers’ Notebook: On Memory” runs through September 5 and includes such other films as Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie, and Gregory Nava’s Mi Familia.