A little love for ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’


I was composing my list of top 20 films of 2010 for the annual “Film Comment” reader’s poll and Criterion DVD contest, a tradition I have participated in since 2005, when I decided to look into why Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives has yet to see release in the US. I had read great things about the movie since its screening for Western audiences at Cannes last year (the director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul is Thai). Plus, I loved the poetry of his 2008 film Syndromes and a Century, which I first read about in a lengthy article on the director in “Film Comment.” I seem to be the first person to “like” the fact that Amazon has created a page for the blu-ray version of this film, so it seems to be far from finding distribution in the US.

During my search for this film on-line, I happened upon the official trailer with English subs. In only two-and-half minutes, this little teaser for the film seems to capture the poetry of Weerasethakul’s craft. View it here:

I am tempted to include the trailer alone in my top 20. What is this film about? Well, on the surface, it seems to explore that burning existential theme of mortality. The subject heads to the Thai countryside to die after learning he has acute kidney failure. While there, he explores his primordial surroundings only to encounter his past lives. But as with the films of Weerasethakul, there are so many more layers. His films seem to activate multiple levels of consciousness in the viewer. They unfold in a place somewhere beyond straight narrative. By not trying to mimic the “real world” as most mainstream films do, Weerasethakul’s cinema works on a more vibrant level of existence. In effect, I have never felt more alive and aware while watching one of his movies, which draws repeated viewings like a well-crafted music album invites repeated listens. I hope to finally see this movie in some form in the US. I will keep you up-dated.

(Copyright 2011 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


    • Excellent news. Nice to hear Strand Releasing grabbed it. Hopefully us film buffs in Miami will get a chance to see it in one of our many new art cinemas now on active duty.


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