After the tidy and at-times sterile spaces of 2006's Syndromes and a Century, which has been recognized by many as the best film of the previous decade, Apichatpong Weerasethakul returned to the dark, mysterious depths of the jungles of Thailand for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. It is the latest in a series of works that are part of his Primitive project, which is centered around the town of Nabua in northeast Thailand where government soldiers tortured and killed farmers suspected of being communists between 1965 and the early 1980s. Through an installation piece, the short films Phantoms of Nabua and A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and the feature Uncle Boonmee, Weerasethakul has adressed the topics of memory, community and, in keeping with his ongoing interest in Buddhism, reincarnation.
Uncle Boonmee is inspired by the 1983 book A Man Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Buddhist abbot
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is indeed different and mysterious, and it certainly helps if viewers go into it with some familiarity with Weerasethakul's work and methods. But the experience it provides is surely one to be contemplated and cherished in equal measure, and I can't wait to partake in it once again.
I'll leave you with a slew of Weerasethakul-related goodies:
-the blog Ruthless Culture has some very good pieces on Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady, but most worthwhile is a review on Syndromes and a Century that describes the unique approach to storytelling that the film and its director utilize, the literary tradition of said approach, and how the film goes about charting new ways in which cinema can be used to tell stories (and how critics should approach them).
-John Berra, editor of the Directory of World Cinema: Japan and American Independent volumes and contributor to Electric Sheep, conducted a great interview with Weerasethakul for the latter in December 2009 that explores the Primitive project, the director's clashes with censors over Syndromes and that enticing Utopia film, among many other things. Check that out here!
-Finally, included below is a video featuring excerpts from the previously mentioned appearance Weerasethakul made at the Lightbox: