Set in Thailand’s rural northeast, UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES finds Apitchatpong still chasing the moving targets of memory and desire, but here the shifts between realities are more frequent and more subtle. In interviews the director has described BOONMEE as a movie about movies, noting his references to Thai television melodrama and historical romance films in specific segments.
Once again, Apitchatpong consciously violates the moviegoing experience by betraying the artifice of a character’s costume. This time, though, it’s not a sly aside but a developed aesthetic technique: a way of portraying a future in a movie otherwise concerned with the past.
This film is probably the easiest to see on home video of all the titles in this series, and perhaps the one that suffers the most from it. Sound design is, by the director’s own admission, central to the experience: “You have to feel the presence of life, the abundance of life, you have to know there’s a bird, there’s an insect that you can’t see, but you know are there. I don’t think my movies work on DVD . . .”