music friday: 2017 and me
the fifth karen sisco award: sweet/vicious

uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives (apichatpong weerasethakul, 2010)

First, I am informed that Weerasethakul asks English speakers to call him "Joe". I'm going to take him up on that here, because I'd rather type three letters.

The IMDB entry for this film from Thailand offers the following anecdote. "Audience members at the Cannes Film Festival are notorious for their visceral reactions to films. Booing is commonplace as are walkouts. People started walking out of this film after the first 6 minutes."

I know some people react quickly to horrible violence on the screen, but there is virtually no violence in Uncle Boonmee. It is admittedly very slow moving. I can imagine some people starting Uncle Boonmee and realizing halfway through that it isn't their kind of movie and turning it off. But six minutes? That's a pretty extreme reaction. I had no problem making it through the movie, and I'm not always a fan of slow cinema, but if you are completely averse to this kind of movie and wonder if Uncle Boonmee is for you, just remember some people gave up after SIX MINUTES.

It's a much better movie than this suggests, but I just can't resist the anecdote.

Uncle Boonmee is structured using "six reels", each of which uses a different style. Honestly, if you fancy yourself a film scholar, you would probably find Uncle Boonmee endlessly fascinating. I tend towards narrative, and there is little traditional narrative here. Uncle Boonmee is dying, and as he reflects on his life, various people (now dead) from his past come to visit. Everyone treats this as ordinary and matter-of-fact. At times, the film is gently amusing ... in fact, "gentle" describes a lot of what we see. For myself, Uncle Boonmee is like entering into a world I know nothing about, which is a good kind of challenging. I never completely understood what I was seeing, but I wasn't quite lost, if that makes sense.

I'm not ready to run out and watch other Joe movies (although Tropical Malady and Syndromes and a Century are both on my endless list of Movies to Watch). But Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was a gentle introduction to Joe's film world. #410 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time, and #18 on the 21st-century list.  7/10.

Here are the first five minutes. If you want to see the "Cannes Sixth Minute", you'll have to watch the film.

 

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