Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Apichatpong-a-rama: The episodic nature of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Well here it is more than a week since Apichatpong Weerasethakul went down in history as the first Thai to win the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the world press, there continues to be much amazement about the winning film with the cumbersome title, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. And any folks in the media simply can't get over Apichatpong's name and the fact that he tells people to just call him Joe.

It wasn't such a big surprise that the film won. I was pretty sure it would go to the main competition in Cannes, even if Apichatpong himself wouldn't believe it or expect that it would actually win. And based on the love affair Cannes has had with Apichatpong – Un Certain Regard prize in 2002 for Blissfully Yours, jury prize in 2004 for Tropical Malady, named to the jury in 2008 – a win for Uncle Boonmee seemed like safe bet if I were a gambling man. But I'm not.

And I didn't want to jinx it.

So where do we go from here? Anywhere and everywhere it seems, except maybe Thailand for now. Film Business Asia has the lowdown on some two dozen sales deals made for Uncle Boonmee, including New Wave Films in the UK and Filmswelike in Canada.

It's playing at the upcoming Sydney Film Festival – the first of many, many post-Cannes festival appearances.

Another good place to start is with Kong Rithdee's article in last Friday's Bangkok Post, "Of Monkey Ghosts and Men". Kong was there in Cannes, so offers a first-hand, intimate look at the film and its maker. Here's a bit:

Uncle Boonmee swirls in my head because it touches on many levels at once; you can approach it philosophically, politically, even scientifically, or you can just watch it as a child's fantasy, a rural tale about strange creatures and sentimental ghosts. In its genome, the movie is a meta-thesis on cinema and its power to create illusion; and how the idea of reincarnation doesn't apply only to humans, but also to the art form that thrives on deja vu and paralleled dimensions of past and present. Apichatpong understands that after more than a century and so much technological advance, cinema has arrived at a critical moment: it has to reflect upon itself and go inward in order to go outward and find its own rebirth after a long, unquantifiable death.

"When you watch a film, it's something that's already happened. It already has a past life," he said. "Uncle Boonmee is really about cinema to me. [I was inspired] by old television shows that were shot on 16mm camera, as well as by one-baht Thai graphic novels that show a different landscape of ghosts. I'm fascinated by that and try to put it in the movie.

"Uncle Boonmee has six reels [that are combined to become a 115-minute movie]. Each reel has a different acting style, lighting and reference on cinema. When you make a film about recollection and death, you realise that cinema is also facing death. Uncle Boonmee is one of the last pictures shot on film _ now everybody shoots digital. It's my own little lamentation, this thing about dividing the six reels into six styles. In the first reel, it's my kind of film when you see long takes of animals and people driving. The second reel is like old cinema with stiff acting and classical staging, then it's a documentary style in the third reel. The fourth reel is a costume drama... [and so on]."

More about the episodic nature of Uncle Boonmee is touched on in a Guardian podcast.

There's also a BBC's The Film Programme and BBC's On the Strand.

Apichatpong has also been promoting Phantoms of Nabua, the short film that is also part of the same Primitive multi-platform art project as Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. The flaming soccer-ball action short is at BFI Southbank in London until July 4.

Update: And don't forget the short, A Letter to Uncle Boonmee. It'll cost you $1 to watch at Mubi.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please, no questions or comments about where to download movies or subtitle files.

Please read the FAQ about Thai films on DVD before asking about where to find a Thai movie on DVD with English subtitles.

Make your comments pertinent to the post you are commenting on. For off-topic comments, general observations or news tips, consider sending an e-mail to me at wisekwai [ a t ] g m a i l [d o t ] c o m.

All comments are moderated. Spam comments will be deleted.