Thursday, June 16, 2011

Loong Boenmee raleuk chat / Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

TH/GB/FR/DE/ES/NL © 2010 Kick the Machine / Anna Sanders Films / Eddie Saeta S.A. / Iluminations Films / The Match Factory [tbc]. P: Simon Field, Keith Griffiths, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. D+SC: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. DP: Yukontorn Mingmongkon, Saymobhu Mukdeeprom - Super 16 - digital intermediate - print format 35 mm. PD: Akekarat Homlaor. Cost: Chatchai Chaiyon. S: Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Koichi Shimizu. ED: Lee Chatametikool. Cast: Thanapat Saisaymar (Boonmee), Jenjira Pongpas (Jen), Sakda Kaewbuadee (Tong), Nathakarn Aphaiwonk (Huay), Geerasak Kulhong (Boonsong), Kanokporn Tongaram (Roong), Matthieu Ly, Vien Pimdee (farmers). 114 min. A 35 mm The Match Factory print with English subtitles viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), 16 June 2011.

In the presence of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, also known as Joe, hosted by Peter von Bagh, Satu Kyösola. AW: The film is based on a book, and it gave me a basis to explore my fascination for memory, but I could not make an actual adaptation of the book. It is about a human being's memories of a different life, of an existence as a different animal. It was filmed in North-East Thailand, on a small crew, in home-made circumstances. Everything is intimate, the film was shot on a Super-16 camera. As usually, I made the film with non-professional performers. The reception of my films in my own country is for a specialist audience, and there are very few prints. In Bangkok, it started in one theatre only, and then made the tour across the country. It made well for such a specialized art film. Designed to be screened in a 35 mm print, the film is divided into six reels of 20 minutes of duration. Each reel has a different tribute to past cinema. Film is like music, but I'm not a musician. I react spontaneously to the temperature of the day, to the mood of the performers. Also the approach changes in each reel. The first reel is documentary, the second reel is a television horror movie, the third reel again documentary, the fourth reel royal costume drama, the fifth reel is an adventure tale. There are also political references. Red used to be a taboo colour. Communists spread in that area first, and everything that had red colour was destroyed.

Uncle Boonmee belongs to the experimental cinema. There is an affinity with the intimate poets of the avantgarde. For a Finnish viewer there is immediately something familiar in the feeling for nature in the first sequence with the water buffalo in the enchanted forest. The sense of nature brings us to a timeless, primordial dimension, which for us is familiar from the Kalevala myths till contemporary authors such as Veikko Huovinen.

The framing story is about uncle Boonmee's dying of kidney failure. His deceased wife Huay appears as a ghost at the dinner table. His lost son Boonsang is incarnated as a monkey ghost in the jungle. In the spirit world, a princess with a skin disease stops by a waterfall in the jungle and sees in the reflection in the water a beautiful version of herself. She gives a sacrifice of her jewels to the water god, and experiences divine extasy with a catfish. The final part of Boonmee's journey, his death, also takes place in the jungle.

Uncle Boonmee seems to be a Buddhist vision about the cycle of life. I saw the film for the first time, and from Joe I have seen only Syndromes and a Century before. The film is so special and original that I need to see it again to really appraise it.

Although shot on film, there is a heavy digital look in the print, because it has gone through the digital intermediate mangle. There is a feeling for nature in the general outline of the image, but the juicy fine detail is missing.

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