Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives opens for a limited run in Bangkok today. It's showing at SFX the Emporium, with nightly showtimes at 7.20 and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2.30.
Film critic Kong Rithdee urges everyone to go see it. He has a story in today's Bangkok Post, chronicling the fast-track local release. Here's a snip:
As of last week, there was an undercurrent of worry that Uncle Boonmee, which features one scene of a wayward monk, would get into trouble, just like Apichatpong's previous film, Syndromes and a Century, did with the famously narrow-minded censors.
But everything went smoothly. Observers are prone to judge that the glittering aura of the Palme d'Or has helped ease up the hearts of the rating committees, though Apichatpong has publicly said on several occasions that his film must be judged by the same standards as other Thai films. The award, he said, must not be factored in. Favouritism is a vice that won't help the progress of Thai cinema.
Since Uncle Boonmee won the top prize at Cannes Film Festival last month, the enthusiasm in Thailand has been visible, almost over-the-top. Fans of Apichatpong's cinema – a brand of Third World surrealism fused with the gentlest of humour – as well as non-fans and downright detractors, have worked up the eagerness, or just curiosity, to see the film. As with any other film made in the world, there will be those who like Uncle Boonmee and those who don't; those who find a connection with its delicate, oddball wavelengths, and those who don't; those who'd go back and dream about the people and animals in the film, and those who don't. It's natural, and it doesn't mean anybody is right or wrong. The Palme d'Or, like the director said, shouldn't be factored in.
I've seen anxious comments here and there from readers and fellow bloggers who are seemingly begrudging Bangkok's getting to see Uncle Boonmee so soon ahead of the rest of the world. Usually it's the other way around with Apichatpong's films, Thailand being among the last to see his movies.
Folks everywhere just can't wait to see this movie.
But until I hear different, it looks like Uncle Boonmee will follow the usual pattern of hitting the festival circuit for a year or so.
Upcoming appearances include the Munich Film Festival, which starts today and runs until July 3; the Jerusalem Film Festival from July 8 to 17; and Sitges International Film Festival Catalonia from October 7 to 17.
Noticeably absent from festival announcements so far is anything in the U.S. There's no sales deals that I've heard of in the States.
Lucky Canadians are promised a "proper theatrical run" after Toronto-based Filmswelike picked up Boonmee in Cannes.
Contact The Match Factory in Germany. They're handling worldwide sales.
The print that screened in Bangkok last Friday came from the Sydney Film Festival and was headed for Jerusalem when the Kick the Machine crew snagged it out of orbit to show Bangkok audiences.
In Sydney, the Sydney Film Happenings blogger Ian Barr wrote:
Taken on its own terms, Uncle Boonmee is thoroughly hypnotic if – in my eyes – even more perplexing than Joe’s previous three films (all of which are personal all-time faves). But I’ve found the film more and more moving as I look back on it, without taking the spiritual aspects of the film too literally. In particular, the film’s coda and final scene feels absolutely perfect in the culmination of ideas and motifs introduced earlier, clarifying ‘rebirth’ as something that lso occurs moment-to-moment in addition to life-to-life. It can’t be a coincidence that the film ends with three characters watching images on a TV set – continuing a process of regeneration.
Boonmee is actually a funny movie. The crowd in theater 5 at last Friday's screening was laughing a lot. Of course, the same folks also clapped and cheered during the credits, like when the names of the editor (Lee Chatametikool), the production and costume designers (Akekarat Homlaor and Chatchai Chaiyon) and sound designers (Chalermrat Kaweewattana, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Shimizu Koichi and Richard Hocks) came up. It was a rowdy crowd.
Apichatpong himself has urged audiences not to take it so seriously, saying "please don't think too much and let yourself be hypnotized and taken on a journey".
Update: Tickets to Friday night's show sold out, reports Chaisri, and seats were going fast for Saturday's show. You can try calling SF cinemas at (02) 268-2888 to reserve a seat. Contrary to what the cultural watchdog thinks, it seems Thai people DO go to see Apichatpong's movies.