2010 // Thailand // Apichatpong Weerasethakul // November 12, 2010 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
For all the esteem he garners from critics, the admittedly gorgeous films of Thai director Weerasethakul--call him "Joe"--have remained stubbornly inert works in my eye, devoid of passion and so amorphous that they seem impervious to analysis. Which is perhaps the point of the filmmaker's approach, which can only be described as "Cinema as Tone Poem." Nonetheless, Joe's new feature, the Palm d'Or-winning Uncle Boonmee, possesses an affecting allure that goes beyond its hypnotic visions of mosquito-netted sickrooms, twilit rain forests, and eerie "ghost monkeys" with smoldering red eyes. Mortality is foremost on this film's mind, and it's perhaps due to the starkness of this theme (and the glimmers of warm humor) that Uncle Boonmee elicits profound, often discomfiting metaphysical ruminations. In short, it provokes, unlike the largely opaque Syndromes and a Century. As with all of Joe's works, Uncle Boonmee contains a delicate current of the erotic, but what most impresses is its languid, granular magical realism, echoing the second half of the director's Tropical Malady. In Uncle Boonmee, Joe posits a cosmos where the personal and the mythic are indivisible: creating and devouring one another, and bestowing a dose of understanding (far from complete) when we reach our end.