Uncle Boonmee (Who Can Recall His Past Lives) – I gave the film an “Excellent” rating, but honestly I need to see it again to be able to explain what it may actually mean. Picture a David Lynch film set in Thailand with more elegance and a bit less obtuse.
Uncle Boonmee is dying from kidney failure and is tended to by friends and relatives on his tamarind farm (notice the close spelling and pronunciation of "tamarind" and "tamarin"... alluded to below). He is visited by his dead wife and his son who disappeared years before. Even odder is the fact that his son is now a monkey-like (tamarin anyone?) being with glowing red eyes. He tells his father that he wasn’t like this until he mated with monkeys(!!!). So the tale begins at a dinner table with these incarnations and his wife’s (very much alive and human) sister who is visiting him. They discuss the passing years, constantly reminding and being reminded of Boonmee’s impending death.
A segue leads us to a princess being transported by her entourage (one of whom we can conjecture is Boonmee in an earlier life) through the forest. She stops at a waterfall and in the pool below she sees the reflection of a younger, more beautiful representation of herself. She subsequently converses and mates with a catfish. (I couldn’t make this up even on my best day.)
I’ll cut to the chase. This film is equal parts awe inspiringly beautiful, bewitching and enigmatic. A strange and often times puzzling look at life, afterlife … and pre-life. Its strengths lie heavily on sound, rarely resorting to standard instrumental backdrops. We are constantly barraged with the sounds of night, sounds of water and sounds of tree limbs underfoot and rustling in the breeze. Each of which is a theme in the same way a musical theme would represent the Hobbits or Mordor in Lord of the Rings.
All said, it is a masterpiece which won the Palm D’or at Cannes last year for a great deal of reasons. But, you must see it to understand how little you understand and to grapple with life the way Boonmee must.
You should definitely see this film if you can manage vagaries and accept the supernatural the way the characters do.
This film gets an "A"