Thursday, December 02, 2010

UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ, 2010): An Evening Class Question for Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, I had the great pleasure of viewing Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, which was screened in conjunction with a Mavericks on-stage conversation between Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Dennis Lim from The Village Voice. That experience afforded the opportunity to ask "Joe" a question. [Not for the spoiler-wary!]

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Michael Guillén: I was enchanted with the story of the Princess and the catfish embedded in Uncle Boonmee. It's a beautiful sequence. Is this a regional myth that you used for your film or a myth you've created to suit the region? I'm also curious about its particular placement within the narrative of the film?

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: That scene pops up in the movie without explanation. It comes halfway through the film like an odd chapter. We switched the reel. My concept was that each reel of film was a tribute and that this reel was a a tribute to the royal costume dramas that always have a prince, a princess and a talking animal; but, usually not to the point of intercourse. [Laughter.] That was my extra bonus!

Uncle Boonmee as a film talks about reincarnation and transformation and the human relationship with nature. For example, the monkey ghost doesn't feel like he belongs so that's why he transforms himself to escape. It's the same with the Princess. She doesn't feel content with her own body, with her appearance, so she decides that one of the ways to overcome her discontent is to sacrifice herself to water and the catfish so that she can transform.

In fact, we cut the scene where she's about to deliver a baby and is very worried whether her baby will be a hybrid form of animal, a fish-human. That will be part two of Uncle Boonmee.

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Bay Area audiences will have their opportunity to view the West Coast Premiere of this award-winning fabulist tale Saturday, December 4, 7:30PM at the Rafael Film Center, where it is being screened as part of the International Buddhist Film Festival Showcase 2010. Uncle Boonmee will be introduced by Wes "Scoop" Nisker, a San Franciscan author, radio commentator (KFOG), comedian, and Buddhist meditation instructor well-known for the catchphrase, "If you don't like the news ... go out and make some of your own," which he used as the title for his 1994 book.

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