Exit Ghost Monkey
Until movies can cure acne and anxiety disorders, praising a film as “life-changing” will remain the sneakiest and saddest kind of critical grandstanding—look at me and my fibromyalgic aesthetic sensitivity!—and so, as much as I would love to tell you that Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives changed my life and might possibly change yours, I won’t, because it didn’t, not in the way a truly transformative event like war or circumcision does.
But I have seen Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s magnificent new film a few times since its visit to the Portland International Film Festival in February, and it persists in so disarming and enchanting me that I cannot even try to skirt the shrubbery here: Uncle Boonmee is a nearly perfect movie, and I want you to see it, because watching it and thinking about it has made me happy to be alive, and I want to share this joy with people. It’s just that simple.
Which is not to say it is a simple movie, not really. It is and it isn’t. Like the shape-shifting and time-traveling wraiths and beasts and humans populating the film itself, it is a thing contentedly adrift in the in-between.
In six long, clearly demarcated sequences, the ailing title character humbly goes about the business of coming to terms with the slow dissolution of his being. Kidney failure has made Uncle Boonmee weak and tired, and as he works to persuade his sister-in-law to take over his farm after he departs, emissaries from the spirit world begin to encroach.
They’re not underworld vultures spying carrion, but consolers, benevolent guides to the unknown briefly manifesting as uncanny chimerae.