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September 6, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

What the fuck was the jury at Cannes thinking this year? Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is one of the few films awarded the Palm D’or that should never have been considered for it. The film is a sprawling mess, stretching what little narrative it has across disconnected events in different time periods, resulting in a bloated film. Uncle Boonmee is one of those films that begs academics and critics to ascribe meaning to it. The film’s desperation to be more than the sum of its sequences is ultimately its undoing. The result is a long, boring movie.

The story (at least what I understood it to be) is about Uncle Boonmee, an old man who is dying of cancer, and it consists of tedious scenes of him talking to his family about death. These scenes are intercut with a variety of some of the most random sequences ever assembled on film; a yeti creature that lives in a forest with red LEDs for eyes; a princess getting raped by a fish; the yeti creature being captured by a group of freedom fighters; and a coda in which a secondary character has become a monk.

The film also fails technically. The cinematography has a lot of compositions that are framed oddly, cutting off characters heads. The long takes favoured by the director highlight the oddness of these compositions. It would be nice to believe this style of cinematography had an intended effect other than highlighting the filmmaker’s lack of ability, but no self-respecting director would allow images like this to permeate their work.

The only thing the film can be commended on is the strange, foreboding atmosphere created by the yeti in the forest /fish rape sequence. These sequences worked on an instinctual level, and I found myself responding to them strongly. But they were mere moments that worked in a monumental mess of a movie. It still amazes me that this film even managed get into Cannes, let alone win the coveted Palm D’or.

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