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|23-05-2010, 07:36 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Best of Cannes:
"Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives"
Saturday, May 22, 2010 16:45 ET
Ghost-monkeys, catfish sex, runaway water buffalo and other delights in Thai director's latest puzzler
Thanapat Saisaymar and Natthakam Aphaiwonk in "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives."
CANNES, France -- Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (out of pity, he lets Western journalists call him Joe) is definitely an acquired taste, but quite a few film critics seem to have acquired it. Apichatpong doesn't exactly tell stories, although he isn't a purely non-narrative filmmaker either. He takes fragments of stories and sets them adrift on his own stream of luscious images, and like a kid releasing boats made of leaves and twigs, he's not overly concerned about where they end up. His previous works, including "Syndromes and a Century" and "Tropical Malady," blend a bunch of seemingly incompatible ingredients: European-style love stories, Thai ghost stories and folktales, Theravada Buddhism, art-school experimentalism (he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago), the flat and artless affect of 1970s Asian TV.
Apichatpong's new film, "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" -- now there's a marketable title! -- has become both a sensation and a point of contention at Cannes this year. It was the top-ranked narrative feature in indieWIRE's poll of Cannes critics, and ranked second overall behind Charles Ferguson's financial-crisis documentary "Inside Job." (That's just about the most mismatched double bill I can imagine.) I've heard one prominent American critic call Apichatpong "clearly the greatest filmmaker in the world," while a more acerbic critic imagined a dinner-table conversation back home: "'Honey, what's playing tonight?' 'A two-hour Buddhist tone poem about death, with lots of kidney-rinsing.' 'Call a sitter!'"
"Uncle Boonmee" -- immediately dubbed "Uncle Bonghit" by press-room wags -- offers a somewhat more comprehensible narrative than Apichatpong's previous films, but that's not saying a whole lot. It does indeed concern a man named Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar) who is dying of kidney disease on his farm in the remote jungles of northern Thailand, a favorite Apichatpong location. But it's not like we get to know him that well. Possibly the introductory episode involving a runaway water buffalo -- Apichatpong's films always have a fair bit of action before the opening credits, although "action" may not be the right word -- and the interpolated fairy tale about a princess who mates with a talking catfish in a forest pond are aspects of Boonmee's previous lives. I can't be sure about that, but I am fairly sure that's the first human-catfish sex scene in cinema history.
Boonmee's wife and son return to him in his final days, although his wife is long dead and his son mated with a ghost-monkey in the forest and then transmuted into one himself. (I hate when that happens.) Like a lot of Apichatpong's special effects, the red-eyed, jungle-dwelling, Sasquatch-esque ghost monkeys are both genuinely spooky and borderline ridiculous. It's as if he's using the cheap techniques of grade-B Asian cinema to indicate real magic, terror and wonder. In the film's most haunting sequence, Boonmee's dead wife lead him and his sister on a night journey into a spectacular cave. Again, this might be a metaphor for the womb in which Boonmee will be reborn as he continues on the wheel of Samsara, or it might, I guess, just be a dying man's last outing with those he loves most.
I need to see "Uncle Boonmee" again before I try to review it for real -- the last days of Cannes are an awful backdrop for this kind of leisurely, allusive, poetic experience -- but I have no problem with Apichatpong or his dreamlike movies. If you're feeling adventurous, and willing to detach from normal narrative expectations, you might find "Uncle Boonmee" richly rewarding. I do wonder whether there's something odd about the way Western critics have embraced him. Maybe it reflects an ultra-sophisticated form of Orientalism, or maybe it's just "Mekons syndrome," meaning the critic's tendency to overvalue obscure material beloved primarily by other critics.
This is a director with a highly specialized, even unique personal aesthetic, which is likely to appeal to almost no one in his home country (his movies have barely been seen in Thailand) and only to a tiny intellectual elite in the West. Apichatpong is clearly making the films he wants to make, and more power to him. It isn't his fault that 99.9 percent of moviegoers have never heard of him, and wouldn't be interested if they had. But cinema is a public art if it's anything at all, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul is dangerously close to becoming a great artist -- or one celebrated as such -- without a public audience.
"Keeping quiet while monks and other peaceful protesters are murdered and jailed is not evidence of constructive engagement." - Arvind Ganesan, Human Rights Watch.
"I think...I think it's in my basement. Let me go upstairs and check" - M.C. Escher
|24-05-2010, 04:00 AM||#2 (permalink)|
Tonguin for a beer
Uncle Boonmee, Cannes film festival shock
Thai film pulls off Cannes shock
The Cannes Film Festival has given its top prize, the Palme d'Or, to Thai film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
It beat British director Mike Leigh's Another Year, which was seen as the favourite by many at the French event.
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the winning film is about a dying man who is visited by his late wife and his missing son, who has become an ape.
US director Tim Burton led the jury that picked the victor from 19 entries.
French actress Juliette Binoche won best actress for her role as a gallery owner in Tuscany in the romantic drama Copie Conforme (Certified Copy), directed by Iran's Abbas Kiarostami.
Kiarostami earned the Palme d'Or in 1997 with Taste of Cherry.
Spain's Javier Bardem was joint winner of the best actor accolade for playing a corrupt policeman who is diagnosed with terminal cancer.
He appears in Biutiful by Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, best known for Babel and 21 Grams.
Bardem shared the prize with Italian actor Elio Germano for La Nostra Vita.
The prize for best director went to actor-turned-filmmaker Mathieu Amalric for his story of the struggling manager of a burlesque dance troupe, Tournee (On Tour).
South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong's Poetry took the best screenplay prize.
This year's line-up has left many critics underwhelmed, but Mike Leigh's Another Year, starring Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville, stood out for many.
The portrait of a happily married couple nearing retirement was described as "beautiful, mordant and curiously riveting" by The Guardian, while The Times said it was "a treasure" that showed "Leigh at his confident best".
PALME D'OR - RECENT WINNERS
<li class="bull"> 2009 - The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke <li class="bull"> 2008 - The Class by Laurent Cantet <li class="bull"> 2007 - 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days by Cristian Mungiu <li class="bull"> 2006 - The Wind That Shakes The Barley by Ken Loach <li class="bull"> 2005 - L'Enfant by Jean-Pierre Dardenne <li class="bull"> 2004 - Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
But Leigh, who also made Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky and won the Palme d'Or for Secrets and Lies in 1996, went home empty-handed this time.
Ken Loach, another British arthouse heavyweight, was also back in competition four years after winning the festival's top accolade for The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
His new movie, Route Irish, is a revenge drama based around the deployment of private security contractors in Iraq.
Joining Tim Burton on the nine-member jury were actors Kate Beckinsale and Benicio Del Toro and director Shekhar Kapur.
Story from BBC NEWS:
BBC News - Thai film pulls off Cannes shock
Published: 2010/05/23 18:25:09 GMT
© BBC MMX
|24-05-2010, 11:34 AM||#7 (permalink)|
Noone here gets out alive
Last Online: 20-03-2013 04:14 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: The back of beyond..on the bloody PC by the looks of it!!
^ Is that a joke or what...Because a Palm d'or is gonna make things all better eh???
I do like the idea that this film describes. I noticed that it also had subtitles..wonder if we'll get them on the DVD here?????
eddie scissor mitts, beetlejuice, alice in LSD land...i mean come on him leading a sensible debate......You avin' a giraffe Guv'..
There are no strangers here, just friends you haven't met yet.
|24-05-2010, 12:29 PM||#10 (permalink)|
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|24-05-2010, 07:09 PM||#12 (permalink)|
Last Online: 01-12-2013 06:58 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: The land of milking honeys
This is humour on a high level.
No doubt the Cannes award means this will be distributed nationwide and seen by lots of Thais, and with the exception of a handful of art students, they will all be bored out of their heads and feel they wasted their money.
Freedom does not chew bubblegum
|25-05-2010, 12:06 PM||#14 (permalink)|
|06-08-2010, 07:14 PM||#16 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
A darling at Cannes, a field hand in Thailand
August 6, 2010
Leading actor of a lauded film finds that a prestigious award changes little to nothing back home.
Thanapat Saisaymar, a Thai day laborer and occasional actor, on the set of the Cannes Palme d'Or winner "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives." As the film won the festival's top prize, Thanapat was working as a plantation hand in Thailand. He now tends a fruit farm for less than $250 a month.
(Courtesy of Kick the Machine Films)
BANGKOK, Thailand — In late May, Thanapat Saisaymar was toiling in Thai-Burma hill country. By day, he hacked sugarcane to pay off family debts to a local godfather. By night, he bunked with up to 40 other workers in a small village.
Thanapat, 42, seemed to be just another machete swinger eking by. But on May 24, word raced across the plantation, via TV morning news, that he’d starred in a film that just won some illustrious contest in France.
The award was Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d’Or. The film was “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” Thanapat hadn’t mentioned to the other cane harvesters that he played the title role in a movie competing for cinema’s highest accolade. They didn't even know he had ever acted.
“I didn’t see any good reason to bring it up,” Thanapat said. “I’m not much of a braggart.”
Before “Uncle Boonmee,” Thanapat was unknown. He appeared in local bank commercials, a few soap operas and one forgotten horror flick. He got into acting only several years back on a whim after hearing about a need for extras in a war movie.
The Cannes victory, however, was not the moment that propelled him into a life of fame and fortune. For Thanapat, in fact, the critics’ fawning has changed almost nothing.
Thanapat is the son of rice farmers. His jobs over the last 12 months include roof welder, actor and plantation hand — in that order. He now lives outside Bangkok with his wife and small child on a fruit farm, which he tends for less than $250 a month.
His $5,300 take-home pay for “Uncle Boonmee” was enough to buy a home in his native Sri Sa Ket, a farming province in Thailand’s poor northeast. It was instead spent on partying friends, an ailing mother’s medical bills and a second-hand European car, which has since broken down.
“I basically spent it all during Songkran,” he said, referring to a boisterous week-long Thai new year’s festival in April. So little was left from that splurge that Thanapat was back in the fields by the time “Uncle Boonmee” screened the next month at Cannes.
“Even now, I’m back on a fruit farm because there’s no acting work,” he said. “At least my boss is nice. He’ll let me leave if I land a part.”
Thanapat Saisaymar, a Thai day laborer and occasional actor, on the set of "Uncle Boonmee."
(Courtesy of Kick the Machine Films)
That Thanapat is unknown, and so devoid of movie star pretense, is the reason Apichatpong Weerasethakul, an experimental Thai filmmaker, chose him for “Uncle Boonmee.”
In the film, a man stricken with kidney failure beholds his possible previous incarnations — buffalo, princess, ex-soldier — as he slips towards death. He is visited by a long-lost son, transformed into a “monkey ghost” with glowing red eyes, who warns that the end is nigh. His dead wife returns to comfort him along the way.
The film anchors this other-worldly voyage with Thanapat’s character, Uncle Boonmee, a kind-eyed, commonsensical farmer.
Thanapat’s acting agency typically promotes him as a smiling hayseed. “I could tell this guy is used to playing the bumpkin,” Apichatpong said. “I liked him. I needed a real person, not a caricature.”
Thanapat also strongly resembled the real Uncle Boonmee, a non-fictional man reputed to have seen past lives while meditating in rural Thai temples.
In trading experience for rawness of character, Apichatpong knew his lead actor would stumble. The director’s dislike of polished actors is legend. He often fills lead roles with strangers he approaches in nightclubs, restaurants or Bangkok’s Victory Monument, a hectic bus depot and teen shopping mecca. Though seldom commercially successful, his work is devoured by experimental cinema fans. Two previous films, "Blissfully Yours" and "Tropical Maladay," have won smaller prizes at Cannes.
“I was hard on him, I confess,” Apichatpong said. “He had this set idea of acting that was very soap opera.”
Thanapat struggled to mimic a dying man’s movements: the weak gait, the hunched back, the whispery dialogue. One night, when filming was 30 percent complete, he prepared to flee the set without telling the crew.
“I thought I would just run away,” Thanapat said. “I was so ashamed.”
Instead, Thanapat took a chance on the supernatural. The wife of a crew member claimed she’d seen the real Uncle Boonmee’s spirit hovering around the set. While filming at night, technicians claimed they felt the dead man was near.
“I was desperate. I prayed to his spirit, saying ‘Please stay with me. Make me become you.’”
It worked. The next morning, the actor limped onto set as if transformed. “I wasn’t acting anymore. I actually was Uncle Boonmee. Every action pleased the director greatly.”
Thanapat is not the only “Uncle Boonmee” actor who has returned to a mundane life after the Cannes win.
An actor portraying Boonmee’s younger relative, recruited at a night club, has been working at a 7-Eleven. The actress who played Boonmee’s wife is back to singing at a Bangkok restaurant. Many actors before them have failed to find commercial success after attention at Cannes, which honors the experimental and avant-garde.
“My regular actors all struggle,” Apichatpong said. “They have to understand I’m not offering any path to stardom.”
But Thanapat understood that from the start, he said. He appears largely unmoved by the prestigious award and has only minor regrets about the fast-blown money. He appears either too humble, or self-deprecating, to have expected a longer glimpse at grandeur.
“You know, cutting sugar cane, that’s exerting a lot of energy,” Thanapat said. “Really, acting is nothing.”
|25-09-2010, 01:12 PM||#17 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Uncle Boonmee goes beyond talking animals
Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010
This might not look too weird, but that’s just because he hasn’t turned into a hairy creature with glowing red eyes yet
Three things you should know if you happen to meet Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. It’s OK to call him Joe; he understands that his given name is a tongue-twister to many Westerners. It’s also OK to shorten the title of his latest film, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, to Uncle Boonmee. Again, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a bit of a mouthful.
And it’s OK if you saw the film and didn’t like it. Director Tim Burton and the rest of the Cannes jury may have loved it, but the polarity of audience response is on par with Earth’s magnetic field.
“There’s hardly any middle ground, which I’m really happy about,” says the 40-year-old filmmaker, in Toronto last week for the film’s Canadian debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It shows that the film has a strong personality. It shows that I’m not making films that please everyone. It’s impossible to do that.”
Weerasethakul’s movie tells the story of Uncle Boonmee, who is dying of kidney failure and moves to the Thai countryside to live out his final days. As death nears, he is visited by ghostly relatives: first his wife; then his son, who has transformed into a hairy creature with glowing red eyes.
This furry apparition is a reference to monsters in the Thai movies Weerasethakul watched as a child, he explains. “We have our own stream of cinema history.” And the eyebrow-raising sex scene between a woman and a catfish? “I have my own tribute to what we call royal costume drama, where there’s a story of a prince and princess with talking animals.” He merely had his animals move beyond talking.
There was an actual Boonmee, now deceased, the subject of a 1983 book called A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Weerasethakul started his film with the idea of dramatizing Boonmee’s life, but his research and interviews with the man’s sons didn’t provide enough detail. Instead, he drew on his own experiences (his father died of kidney failure) and Buddhist notions about the reincarnation of the soul and the mutability of time.
He also credits his pre-filmmaking education as an architect. “It really helped,” he says. “If I didn’t study architecture I might make different kinds of films.” In his opinion, buildings and movies both rely on a complex relationship between space, time and the viewer.
Uncle Boonmee represents the final work in a series of films and installations called the Primitive project. “Thank God,” Weerasethakul says with a sigh. “I feel like moving on.”
His next film will be a more overtly political look at life in the northeastern part of Thailand, which was also the setting for Uncle Boonmee. The country has been lurching from crisis to crisis for several years now, and Weerasethakul feels he has to address it. “With the political situation going crazy now, it’s impossible to ignore.”
Film Review: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2.5 stars)
This divisive film by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year, possibly for sheer weirdness. (The jury president was Tim Burton, after all.)
It tells the story of Uncle Boonmee, a man dying of kidney failure, who as his life draws to a close receives casual visits from the ghosts of his dead wife and long-lost son. The latter has the eyes of a Jawa and the body hair of a Wookiee, though this is apparently a reference to monsters in old Thai movies and not Star Wars. (Memo to George Lucas’s lawyers: Stand down!)
The film also contains the best woman/catfish sex scene in recent memory; and a bilocating monk — possibly one of Boonmee’s past lives, but maybe not. Described by the Toronto International Film Festival program guide as “a wondrous cinematic labyrinth,” its entertainment value will depend on how happy you are feeling lost.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is screening daily at the TIFF Bell Lightbox until Sept. 29. For show times, visit tiff.net.
|11-02-2011, 08:00 PM||#18 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Vulture Premieres the Poster for Cannes Hit Uncle Boonmee,
Designed by Chris Ware
When cartoonist hero Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth) was asked to create the poster for Palme d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, he knew it would be a challenge — and not just because Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Thai ghost story famously features a scene of princess-on-catfish coitus.
"I wanted to get at both the transcendent solemnity of the film while keeping some sense of its loose, very unpretentious accessibility," says Ware.
"This being a poster, however — and even worse, me not really being a designer — I realized it also had to be somewhat punchy and strange, so as to draw viewers in and pique their curiosity without, hopefully, insulting their intelligence."
Vulture is proud to premiere Ware's creation; the film itself is out March 2 in New York.
|16-02-2011, 01:29 PM||#20 (permalink)|
Last Online: 01-10-2013 09:32 PM
Join Date: May 2010
It's an okay flick, a bit slow at times, but its okay, especially if you understand the culture (which I'm sure most of us do) of Thailand.
I tried watching Tropical Malaise, which is another one of his films, but it moves a bit too slow for me, I actually fell asleep watching it, I'll give it a try one day when I'm not so tired.
|04-03-2011, 06:22 PM||#22 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES Jungle fever. In Thai, with English subtitles. Running time: 113 minutes. Not rated (mature themes). At Film Forum, Houston Street, west of Sixth Avenue.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - NYPOST.com
|04-03-2011, 07:12 PM||#24 (permalink)|
Last Online: Today 06:06 AM
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Watched it last week with the mrs. Very slow at times, but, not a bad film overall. Im sure a lot of it will go straight over heads of most people who have little or no knowledge of Thailand and Buddhism/animism.
|07-03-2011, 06:45 PM||#25 (permalink)|
Last Online: 01-12-2013 06:58 PM
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Location: The land of milking honeys
From what I understand it is not so much about that, as it is about creating a mood. I've seen many comments that a surround sound system is crucial to the experience. Not that I would know as I still haven't seen it myself.
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