Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Apichatpong-a-rama: Boonmee Blu-ray, Irish exhibition, out of Venice, monkey ghost sighting

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cannes prize-winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives made its highly anticipated debut on Blu-ray in the U.S. last month, after a bit of an apparent delay.

The redoubtable DVD Beaver gives it a look, and includes a set of stunning screenshots. Reviewer Gary Tooze says the film "doesn't appear visually overwhelming ... but knowing the director's other features – I'd be more inclined to feel this is authentic rather than a fault of the respectable dual-layered transfer from Strand Releasing."

The only real technical nitpick seems to be a lossy soundtrack, which is a shame, because great care was taken with the sound design of Uncle Boonmee, and with Blu-ray, there's really no reason to have a compressed soundtrack.

Tooze goes on to praise the film as one of the best he's seen this year. "The director effortlessly produces a harmony within his films that becomes ... addictive. It floats with gentle grace and lands innocently in your cinematic lap."

There is also a review at, which is full of technical information, saying the transfer "is practically identical to the one used by British distributors New Wave Films for their local Blu-ray release."

Both reviews note that the Strand Releasing disc is region-free. According to the forum, the British release is locked to Region B.

Also, the subtitles are imposed – they can't be turned off – but the text size seems to not be as intrusive as the hard-burned subs on the Strand DVD release of Syndromes and a Century.

Extras on the Boonmee Blu-ray include "Interview with Apichatpong Weerasethakul", which he discusses the message of his film, its success and Thai culture, deleted scenes, the trailer, trailers for other Apichatpong films and the 17-minute short A Letter to Uncle Boonmee.

If you have a Blu-ray player, it sounds like the Blu-ray is the way to go for Uncle Boonmee – maybe even a good reason to get a Blu-ray player. It's also on DVD, but that doesn't have the Letter short.

Meanwhile, Apichatpong has been in Ireland with a season at the Irish Film Institute, in which he screened his short films, engaged in a conversation and showed his features, Uncle Boonmee, The Adventure of Iron Pussy, Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady.

There's coverage of these activities at the Focuspullr blog. Here's a snip:

The director filled us in on his background in Thailand, and spoke of his time in Chicago studying experimental film. He was an amiable, intelligent and humourous interviewee; when asked if his films contained “a message”, he laughed saying this lack of any overt meaning was one of the problems he himself has with his films, and which also caused problems when he went looking for funding. He spoke about his belief in the “shared authorship” of his films – seeing the process of filmmaking as collaborative and open, though admitting that he is something of a “dictator” when it comes to putting the final film together.

The films were presented in collaboration with Dublin's Irish Museum of Modern Art on the occasion of Apichatpong's new multimedia exhibition For Tomorrow For Tonight, which opened on July 27 and is running until October 31.

It's a new work that explores the theme of night through video, photographs and installation. "Night and darkness are recurring motifs in Weerasethakul’s films ... and the themes are examined even further here," says the IMMA. It was created following the Primitive project and Uncle Boonmee.

Activities at the IMMA continue into next month. On September 7, film expert Tony Rayns will present a keynote lecture, Touching the Voidness in which he'll present an illustrated introduction to the art of Apichatpong.

Apichatpong continues to travel around the globe and is much in demand. But one place he won't be will be at the Venice Film Festival, where he was previously named as the head of the jury for the Orizzonti section. That program is set to premiere the debut documentary feature by another Thai artist, Rirkrit Tiravanija, about another Thai uncle, Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours. Apichatpong has since bowed out of the jury – Variety cited a festival rep saying it was because of "personal reasons" – and has been replaced by Chinese director Jia Zhangke.

Apichatpong did make a stop at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya recently, giving a masterclass that was the first in a planned series of academic and technical workshops and seminars. He also dropped off some props from Uncle Boonmee: The veiled palanquin of the princess, a pair of mechanical catfish and a band of monkey ghosts, one of which is perched on ledge in the Thai Film Museum. They're good reasons to visit the place and see actual pieces of Thai cinema history.

(Thanks Logboy!)

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