Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

!!!!! AVOID !!!!!

This Palme d’Or-winning, completely baffling film from Thailand is about a dying man visited by specters of dead relatives or past lives or jesus hell fuck if I know.

Painfully slow and dull, this risible film is coated with blank philosophical nonsense and, thanks to its spiritual undercurrent, is so blasé about the elements of the supernatural it introduces that it’s actually difficult to believe anyone brought it to fruition without feeling rather ridiculous. And even for one who doesn’t have much of a problem with “slow” films (I love Somewhere!), this one reaches new heights of ponderous aimlessness. It isn’t a sensory experience at all. It’s like a telefilm, or a ludicrously straightforward play. The subject matter doesn’t cohere with the approach.

But in case you wondered, there very definitely is catfish-human sex in this movie. And lines about “mating” with “monkey ghosts.” Am I just culturally unable to connect to this? Maybe — it seemed about as intelligent and telling about human nature (given the blatantly wooden, unfelt performances) as the average big studio fantasy film, which is to say: not at all. And I frankly believe that one reason a film like this receives praise is the common sickness we all feel at the total dunderheadedness of today’s Hollywood product — we mistake anything “different” for something “great.” A foolish maneuver, and we should know better. Even this movie’s defenders load it down with context and interpretive verbal dancing. Good movies don’t require that; what they need to say would be inherent.

Not much else to say about this awful shit except to grudgingly admit that I may be missing something, that I’m an unwilling partner for its ideas, that something’s lost in translation and it’s simply “not” for “me.” But I’ve read the various raves and sincere interpretations and I “get” what the film is trying to do — and frankly I still have no respect for it. I thought The Tree of Life was horrendous greeting card pap, but I have so much more regard for its outrageous failure to connect than I do for this lazy, empty anti-cinema. I honestly cannot imagine how people find anything redeeming in this, though I accept if they do; for me, it was next to impossible to sit through.

[Please note: this review dates from before I started using Letterboxd for shorter reviews and for films I ultimately felt I wasn’t really qualified to review; this falls under both categories and I’m sorry.]

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