"Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" to play at DFT this season. Go watch it.

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If you peruse the Detroit Film Theatre’s Winter Schedule, you’ll see slated for a few April-May showings the Thai import Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Yes, that’s a few months away—but that just gives more time to clear your schedule. The film’s maker, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, has provided the greatest leap forward for world celluloid—his work serves as a bullet through the temple of the cinema of the formulaic and dried-up—since Abbas Kiarostami. Nevertheless, only a cabal’s worth of Americans have seen his work.

To the surprise of the masses and the dismay of cinema elites, Uncle Boonmee won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. It very much was a blind-sider. Apichatpong is a mere 40-years-old, and, as far as I’m concerned, had already made two masterpieces before Uncle Boonmee hit Cannes. The surprise comes from the fact that Apichatpong’s films are quiet and meditative as opposed to loud and flashy.

Anyways, onto those masterpieces (both of which are available on DVD): 2004’s Tropical Malady is a love story (between a soldier and country boy) with a perplexing two-part structure all its own. The first half shows the budding of their relationship; the second half, which is based largely on Thai folklore, transforms the country boy into an enigmatic tiger intermittently chasing, and being chased by, the soldier. (Also included is a talking baboon.) 2006’s Syndromes and a Century has also has a two-part structure, but actually tells the same story—of how Apichatpong’s doctor parents met in a hospital setting—twice, with minor variations. At the end of the film, the plot is eschewed entirely to make way for some beautiful and terrifying images and sounds.

“Sublime” is the word to describe these films, as I’ve scarcely come across as “pure” an aesthetic in art. Here is trailer for Uncle Boonmee. See you in April.


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