Arthouse Garage Podcast

Podcast Transcript for Episode 31: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Read the Podcast Transcript for Episode 31: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Read the transcript below:

Hello, hello and welcome back to art house garage, the snob free film community where we make art house indie classic and foreign cinema accessible to the masses. I’m your host Andrew Sweetman and you are listening to the season five premiere. If you’ve listened before, you may have noticed I added a new word to the intro. And that word is foreign cinema. So much of arthouse cinema is foreign, but I thought it was time to go ahead and bring foreign cinema in explicitly, especially because of the topic of season five, which is contemporary Asian filmmakers. So for season five, we’re going to look at a few filmmakers from different Asian countries. I always love watching a few movies by a single director when I can and kind of looking for the commonalities between them. So we’re going to get a little taste of that by doing two films each from three directors Six movies total. Here is the full lineup. First up, which starts today is the Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul First up, we are going to look at his film Uncle boonmee, who can recall his past lives. And then next time his film cemetery of splendor. After that we’re going to move to South Korea with Bong Joon Ho, the acclaimed director of parasite looking at a couple of his earlier films, the first being the host, and then snowpiercer. And then after that Japanese director Hirokazu koreeda, who has directed a number of films that we’re going to look at shoplifters, and then his first English language film, which just came out recently, which is called the truth. I’m really excited to get into all these films, and I’m excited for my guest this season. Omaya Jones. Omaya is a big movie fanatic and film podcaster he has helped curate the Arkansas times film series here in Central Arkansas. And he is incredibly insightful when it comes to movies.

So nice to have you on Omaya, how are you and what have you been watching lately? I’m good. I’m good. Thanks for having me. Lately, I’ve been watching films by Michael Mann. So I recently started watching the 1980s Miami Vice TV series. And then as part of that, I also watched the 2006 adaptation, just sort of looking for different things, stylistic things, and trademarks of Michael Mann. And you know, it’s a form that I saw in theaters initially 2006 I don’t think I really cared for it. But I ended up changing my opinion, this time, and art because I started to notice the stylistic touches the way it’s there is at times it’s almost impressionistic, and it’s almost an arthouse film with this sort of cops and robbers story grafted on top of it. Wow. Which I thought was interesting.

Yeah, I actually

have not seen that but now I feel like I need to hear and Michael Mann is someone I need to catch up with several of his actually but yeah, that’s really true. So you’ve been watching like heat and what are some of these other big titles? Mm hmm.

Yeah. So I recently watched heat earlier this year, I watched Manhunter. And then I sought out I’m a big on physical media. So I actually ordered Last of the Mohicans. I have not seen that. Yeah, I’ve not seen any. So I ordered I did an addition that has. It’s got the the addition that I have has both the theatrical cut and a director’s cut. And then yeah, like I said, I’ve been watching the 80s Miami Vice TV show, which he never directed an episode but he did produce it and influential and in the aesthetics of the film of the of the show.

That is fascinating. I did not know that about.

Yeah, well, there’s a story about the creation of that show or supposedly executive so that they wanted MTV cops. And so the pilot was written around that and you Watch it. There are times where does look like a music video. They’re like long stretches where they allow what was popular music at the time to play over the images on the screen. And this was let the story be told visually. And I think that that was sort of unique for TV television at the time. Yeah. So yeah, I’ve been actually it’s been a lot of fun. Sometimes those episodes are surprisingly dark.

I’ve actually not much much of that show ever. I think I’ve seen like one episode. Yeah, that’s, that’s brilliant. I did not know Michael Mann was connected to it at all. So that gives me a reason to watch it. And there’s certainly a lot of time for TV here lately, with the pandemic and everything. So that would be a good thing to dig into. Well, I’ll move on to what I’ve been watching. And actually, this is a I frequently talking about kids movies on here, because I watch movies with my kids. And this one actually is connects in some ways to today’s film, Uncle boonmee. But it’s a Pixar movie. It’s one of the big Pixar movies that I had not yet watched. And it’s Coco. And turned around with my kids and I, it’s like, I need to not check this off my Pixar list because I’ve seen almost every other Pixar movie. And I thought it was great. It really knocked me over. I thought it was so engaging and so vibrant, and just really well told story. And then actually, I watched it the same day that I watched Uncle boonmee and saw some really interesting connections that will kind of get into that but looking at another cultures we use in spirituality and bringing those into the movie and creative way. And reflecting on death. That’s a big thing, I think in Uncle boonmee and also in cocoa, and I’m very family friendly kid, kid friendly way. But you have to have some interesting parallels there. So we might mention cocoa again as we go. But have you seen cocoa before?

I have and I actually really like it. I don’t know why I said Like I was surprised I generally like Pixar films. I actually really like children’s films. Yeah. Or animated films. I just like cartoons in general. But yeah, especially the song remember me, I think is really memorable from really well

done and they would bring it all together in a really emotional way at the end that Yeah, I was really impressed by it. So yeah, that’s what I’ve been watching lately. Another, another family friendly movie with my kids. Well, let’s move on and talk about today’s movie, Uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives?

All right, let’s talk about Uncle boonmee, who can recall his past lives. So this film, as we mentioned in the top of the show is it’s a retired director. And it’s set in Thailand. And it’s, it’s unusual. I think, in some ways. We were talking before the show, but it was originally part of an art installation, and then went on to win the top prize at Cannes film festival that year, the palm d’Or. So I don’t know going into it. I was, it was not what I expected. I don’t know exactly what I expected. But I had and we’re looking at other palm d’Or winners. Most recently parasite. It’s a very different movie, the parasite, it’s much quieter, it’s kind of meditative. It’s got some really incredible images in it. I think that’s probably the thing that’ll stand out the most over time is the images, especially the image of which is on the poster, and everything is the monkey ghost, which is this dark figure with these bright red eyes. That’s just really interesting thing. And it only comes up a few times in the film. But yeah, it’s a really memorable thing. So yeah, let’s, let’s talk about the director a little bit. So I’ll ask you to pronounce his name again, am I?

Yeah, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. And I learned that from watching a YouTube video where he pronounced his name. And I just kind of listened to it over and over and over again. I was doing that because I knew it had to talk about him at some point because we screened one of his films, I think in 2019 as part of the Arkansas times film series, and I mean, we’re gonna be talking about that one next time next time serious wonder but it’s funny. I also So like one of the things that I looked at, I found this interview or a talk that he did from 2004. And the host of that, or the moderator refers to him as Joe. So I guess at some point, he had an American name and its American name was Joe, because maybe he just felt like it was too difficult.

I read Yeah, I read a little bit about that. Like fans came up with that, and he decided to kind of run with it. Yeah.

So I picked up on his. he’s a he’s he was born in Bangkok. And he says that he moved with his parents shortly after he was born to a more rural province of Thailand. And so one thing we see is just the depiction of rural life by the border, which is, I think, sort of representative of the way he grew up or where he grew up. And he studied architecture before going to film school at the University of Chicago where he was introduced to abstract films. And that I think, has been sort sort of define the direction of his filmmaking in his career. But it’s also like to listen to him talk about his influences before going to film school. He references like Steven Spielberg and Raiders of the Lost Ark and other popular films because Thai cinema culture is like mainstream culture. He and you know, there are films being imported from around the world. And so growing up that’s mostly what it was exposed to. So he’s really interested in like sci fi in action, but you wouldn’t necessarily get some of that. Yeah, watching his films.

Yeah, no surprising to me. Yeah.

Apparently also, like cinema came late to Thailand.

So it was introduced by the royal family so someone from the royal family it’s a monarchy so so for the royal family, basically went out, left the country, discover cinema and brought it back and a lot of early Thai films or depictions of like palace life and so Like face, they still have their iPhone still has a large presence in the film industry in Thailand. But I picked up on is probably the most well known Thai director outside of Thailand. And is really is an arthouse guy. But he still has these. What was the word I want to use? These like sort of these mass audience roots, right and interest. Yeah, so apparently like the way the film school works at Chicago is is really focused on things outside of film. So not only is there there’s a focus on like fine arts, and other disciplines, as well as experimental film, which I think is unique for film schools. At least from my experience of other film schools is, you know, not as much production

as it is it’s focused on ideas.

Hmm, yes, that’s interesting. I don’t know ton about Thai cinema.

I actually have been to Thailand I,

I lived in China for a year as an English teacher and spent like three weeks in Thailand, like, um, for meeting and then, like a conference and then vacation basically. And I did go to the movies a few times there. And movie theaters are really nice. But the funny thing I remember about that is when I was going to see like big blockbuster things, but they similar to how we would have like a pledge of allegiance at a sporting event. Before the movie, there’s this video tribute to the king and you have to stand up and put your hand on your heart and wait for this video. Like everyone in the theater, this dark theater it’s just really interesting cultural thing there be so I don’t know

that much about anti cinema but that’s really interesting to hear.

I’ll probably get a little bit more into some other aspects of Thai culture. there’s a there’s a scene of cemetery splendor and there’s also a deleted scene from Uncle boonmee that shows people sort of stopping them a little what they’re doing and doing like the pledge of allegiance, which I think is, yeah. So like that. Yeah, that’s something that comes up in the films. That’s really interesting. I

didn’t know that. Yeah,

it’s also it’s a place of sort of political turmoil. And I know that a pitch up on films have met controversy with the censor board. And some of them have either either have only been shown in Thailand in a butchered form or not shown at all.

Yeah, I read one thing that was like just about depicted doctors like drinking on the job or something, which and that was enough to censor not show in Thailand. Which so interesting, because that would never be an issue to show you. No, no, no Western film, or at least an American film.

Oh, yeah. So he made a film called blissfully yours, which depicts to wall several people in different relationships. That includes some pretty graphic sex. I think that one’s not been shown in Thailand. centers in a century she just mentioned. Yeah, like the doctors depicted smoking on the job holding hands, that kind of thing. You know, they threatened to censor that. And there was no there was there was also like there was a coup in the last 10 years or so, a military coup, but I think the royal family is still in charge. And so there’s a lot of things going on politically in the country. And he’s talking interviews about potentially leaving the country or not making films in Thailand anymore, or not being able to.

So let’s talk about Uncle boonmee. The movie so it, it is about a man, Uncle Bumi and he has a kidney condition. And he is basically on his deathbed. He’s dying. We don’t know that exactly at the beginning, but it becomes clear that he’s nearing the end of his life and that ends up kind of being one of the major themes of the movie. It’s one of those movies that kind of ends up being about all Life like it’s sort of that picture a snapshot of a life. It’s a really meditative, it’s about life and death. But it gets it that and it really kind of minimal, understated kind of way. So you have Uncle boonmee. And then he has some family members around him. But the I guess the first surprising thing that happens is we do see these these dark figures in the woods, these shadowy figures with red eyes a few times, and then he’s having dinner and a ghost suddenly appears in the chair next to them, and it’s his wife who died, like 20 years prior, she’s still her younger self, she’s transparent at first, and then she sort of materializes, and they’re all shocked, but then they just kind of talk to her and have conversations

and then incomes one of these shadowy figures and we find out that it is his son who has he’s basically in a different form, he calls himself a monkey ghost, and that’s what these creatures are from there. They kind of help him pass into another life in a way and that’s, it kind of goes in a lot of different direction. That has some sort of side stories, which I want to talk about one of those in particular, but that’s kind of a top level view of the film. If you think I’m leaving anything big out of that, am I

new? I don’t, I don’t think so the you know, the way the film plays out, everything is very understated. And it doesn’t really spoon feed information, you know, it just sort of depicts. It depicts the scenario and allows the viewer to sort of fill in the gaps on their own. And even to the point where some of the relationships between the characters or the nature of their relationships don’t really make themselves clear until near the end of the film. Yeah, I think that kind of summarizes it. You know, like, to me the film is more about the state that it puts you in. Yeah. I think he used the word meditative, which I think is correct and sort of like the like the way it shot the way that the scenes are allowed to play out. There’s minimal intervention of music, minimal variation of shots and things like that. So it’s to me is more the experience of watching. It allows you to project This sort of slow down and think and ponder Yeah, is more important than any particular plot point.

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s true. And, you know, so in the last season of this podcast we looked at, we called the archives starter pack, we looked at six movies that were kind of gateway into arthouse movies. And we ended up saying about all of them, like, kind of poetic and slow and meditative. And I think this is right in line with that, you’re right. That’s the experience of it. And where it makes your brain go is, is as valid as what you’re seeing, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s about the experience you have with it. I think that’s really true. And, and that’s not always comfortable for American filmmaker or American movie goers, film watchers. That’s not the what we’re kind of we’re used to being spoon fed a little bit more than that. Yeah, I think that’s what you said it’s doesn’t spoon feed you at all. In fact, you kind of like have to really pay attention to grasp what’s going on, as you’re just experiencing it. Yeah, but the big kind of reactions I had to it. Were just kind of looking at it. The culture of it is something I’m just not. I get I’m not that familiar with Thai culture, but I have I know a little bits and pieces. So I was able to kind of pull some of that out. But I think I think that was most interesting to me was the way it sort of intermingles physical and spiritual realms. So we have really natural things happening between people, and then ghosts and spirits, just right alongside them, some supernatural things happening, particularly at the film’s ending, which I think we can, yeah, we can kind of not spoil what happens at the very end, we can maybe talk about it in a spoiler free way, but it brings those kind of supernatural things right alongside the the things that we would expect, for one thing is that towards the end of the film, there’s a cave that they journey to, that seems to symbolize more than just a cave, he actually, I’ll go, boom, he says something like, this cave is a sort of a womb. And so it’s like they’re journeying to a place that’s between worlds or like, I’m not exactly clear, but it’s, it’s It’s a womb it’s maybe a almost like a cemetery, or kind of it’s kind of like there’s a spiritual realm, it seems clear that maybe there’s something in Thai culture that there spiritual realms that we have access to that we don’t always see. So yeah, I don’t know what do you have anything? Any thoughts about kind of the the spiritual science of that, actually. So I was also going to ask you about the monkey ghosts in particular. Do you know anything else about that culturally? Or would you have any thoughts about what those monkey ghosts are?

Yeah, well, so what I, what I know is just that I picked up on this talked about sort of, like, the way in Thai culture, spirits are a large part of it spirits and ghosts, and another cat tons of creatures, and it almost is reminiscent to me of listening or reading about like Icelandic culture. Right, and gnomes or fairies or whatever. Yeah. It’s just it’s just a thing that’s a part of the culture. And I think sort of like the representation of like the Monkey ghosts is sort of like harkens back to like old black and white films that he would watch right going out. So like they’re all these like cinematic references to his to his childhood but yeah and i what’s one of the things that’s notable to me is just that the way everything is presented and the way people react to it is sort of unremarkable. Like it’s a sort of expected Yeah. Right. When like when Bumi his wife appears nobody’s really shocked.

Yeah, there’s one gas, but then they just get really comfortable just really, surprisingly fast.

Yeah. And they talked to her just like she’s supposed to be there and they offer her food and drink. And then when his son comes, he they they offer him a seat at the table. And unlike something where, you know, people would be more shocked the idea of a spirit coming back, they just sort of accept it. It’s also about the cave, you know, like that the cave is supposed to be the place of his first life, his first birth and so he feels the need to go back That cave for, for that reason I was looking at, I think it was an interview. And I saw it might have been material for it was for a different film, it was either blissfully yours or one of his earlier features. And there was a very similar cave. And I think one of the things you’ll see throughout his films is there are certain things, themes, names, characters, actors, that he continues to insert in his films repeatedly, almost to give you the chances for draw these connections, which I think it’s sort of a different way of thinking about, you know, film structures. I don’t think most directors will want you to be thinking like, oh, that that actor played another character in a different film, by me with the same name. Yeah. But here He’s inviting you to make to draw those connections.

Yeah, that’s incredibly unique way to go about filmmaking. I think you’ve seen A unique director, I found the quote I was thinking of about such thinking about spiritual realms. This is from the beginning of Roger Ebert’s review, which you you sent to me or you put me on. And he sort of says, perhaps our conscious identities exist all the time, and occasionally surface into the material world, if we were aware of that it would make living within real time and space distracting. And then here’s the part that I thought was really interesting. Wordsworth thought, we remember Heaven has babies. And so it’s sort of maybe think about how, in a time, we consider time to be linear. But that’s sort of a construct, probably. And so I think that kind of can play in here too. That’s at least the meditation that I had was thinking about time itself and remembering past lives and the way Bhumi does and it actually on the on the subject of past lives. Do you think that some of the little side stories we see are connected in that way so for instance, I want to talk a minute about the The Princess and the fish story. Do you think that was supposed to be boonmee in a past life?

I do. I do on the one hand, just because I’m very literal. And so I guess so I went into it initially thinking that if there’s a film called uncle Bumi, who can recall his past lives with her vignettes, they are probably depictions of his past life. And I think that was the way I approached it the first time I saw it, although I will say the way the film is presented at leaves it up to interpretation as to what creature or character in any particular scenario scenario is meant to be uncle. Right. Yeah, it’s very open ended. But this goes into sort of the background of the film, but like one of the things that I think makes a film like this work is that there’s actually a solid structure underneath of it, right. So like, you have to do a lot of work I think structurally on the narrative, to free you up to make something that fills so loose and ever was watching some of the deleted scenes. And there are actual, there were scenes with narration that were just completely excised from the film. And so, I mean, I will, I will, I won’t say who was originally meant to be uncle Bumi in a previous life in the film, because the film is presented, it’s open to the viewers open for your application. But yeah, but like in that scene, in particular, there’s there’s some narration beforehand. That is essentially boonmee saying, you know, this was me in a past life. Interesting, and I’m kind of glad it’s not there.

Yeah, there’s really anything I had that thought to about the very intro of the movie there’s like a like it’s a water buffalo or an ox or something. And there’s just spend a few minutes with this animal on and I wonder if that’s supposed to be booed me. I don’t know. It doesn’t again, it doesn’t tell us. But that was good. He kind of seems like he longs for freedom. He kind of runs away and then gets caught is what happened. So I was like, I wonder if that’s gonna play into this. Something else and I think it kind of does. But

I also like I love the way that it goes into the different side stories with no explanation. Yeah, you know, they’re just sort of presented like I suddenly realized, oh, we’re in a very different time period. Whenever we see the princess, the princess, he has some sort of undisclosed. I mean, some of the visible scaling on the face. But yeah, yeah, there’s always and these films, there’s always a scene that also always catches me off guard to you. And that is the one in this film.

Yeah, it’s pretty shocking where that goes. So I think yeah, we can leave that unspoiled. Maybe two, because that’s a an interesting surprise for the viewer,

but I think it is presented tastefully.

Yeah, I think so too. Yeah, I did. I told my wife vaguely as like, my wife’s not gonna watch this movie. I was like, there’s an interesting scene in which this happens. And I told her and she’s like, excuse me What? I was like, Yeah, it’s pretty much another interesting thing about this movie i think is Yeah, it’s it’s so tied to its culture and its spirituality to like the spiritual beliefs of its culture. That’s actually where the the CoCo connection comes in. Because I didn’t know anything about dios de los Muertos before I watched Coco really I don’t know a little bit. But it really helped me to understand and appreciate Mexican culture in that way. And I think uncle Bumi actually does a similar thing for Thai culture. And so we’re used to seeing spiritual themes and movies that are very much from Christendom from Western Western religion over the centuries, has largely been Christianity. And so we have even in our horror movies and stuff, it’s like Christian symbols come up again, again, if it’s going to be something religious, or spiritual. But this is entirely different. So it’s like a completely different context. So it feels a little bit like coming into it as a Westerner, like I’m a fish out of water. No pun intended, because we have a fish here. But that there’s like, I feel like I’m grasping a little Bit grasp onto things. But some things really come up. So another thing I know very vaguely, I don’t know any details about this. But when I was in Thailand, there were lots of like little shrines or either to deities or to lost loved ones. And they were frequently putting fruits and vegetables out in front of these. And the idea was that these deities or these lost loved ones can access these foods in the afterlife, or the spiritual realm. I’m not sure. But that was having that little bit of knowledge. It was interesting watching this because there’s so much about that when when his wife whose name was way her ghost appears. She heard their prayers for him. And that’s why she came back. And that was an interesting, and they were just Yeah, that makes total sense. And I think she even said something about after she died, receiving some things from them. Whether that came with that was prayers or If that was physical items like food or something that was really just an interesting thing that Yeah, like no real concept of that in Western culture and then know about the reincarnation aspect of it. So that’s right on the title of the movie is past lives. So there is the story, the princess in the fish, as we’ve mentioned, and then I talked about that water buffalo at the beginning. But then there’s also lots of talk about, I guess, is kind of getting into karma a little bit. But about killing bugs that that come to think a little bit of a theme. At one point, someone speaks ill of someone else because they kill bugs all the time. And then at one point, boonmee says, You know, I deserve this, I’m sick, I’m dying, because I’ve killed too many bugs in my life. And I’ve killed too many communists. It’s like, though, those are like, equal footing. I was like, interesting line to me. And then I think he’s talking to his wife at that point. And she says, Well, you are only killing the communists because you’re trying to help your country. So that gets to know that the political realm a little bit there. But then we have an aunt, we see her killing bugs and different moments in the film. And there’s also a little bit of, she says some things that are maybe like a little racially charged, that are kind of troubling early on and, and so I don’t know if it was like equating like, you know, she’s just not as enlightened in some way. She doesn’t care about killing bugs and she’s kind of racist and like, those things kind of felt like they went together. I don’t know if I read too much into that. But that that was an interesting thing. And again, that’s just not a part of the culture here that I hadn’t really any familiarity with. was very interesting.

Well, I it’s funny, because like, the way I read some of those things where they reminded me a lot of here. So one, Arkansas in particular, you know, we have a reputation for getting things late. Yeah. So hearing a pitcher point talk about his role, upbringing, and the problems that he he grew up in sort of the rate at which technology is adopted. It sort of reminded me about things about Arkansas. When the way that She talks about the character who’s an immigrant did not sound that different to me, like, you know, some of the conversations around immigration in the state. Absolutely. Yeah. So, so yeah, in terms of like the spirituality and the ideas around reincarnation, you know, that is very unique. But then there are these other things that I thought seems sort of universal, familiar translated very readily. Yeah. Especially just like this. There’s this sort of rural urban divide. I was gonna season you know, the whole film takes place in the countryside. But then the very, very end, they go back to a city in an urban environment, and he sees that the differences between the two and how the characters exist in those different spaces. Yeah.

And that comes up to and he talks about a dream. So when they’re there in the cave, or on the way to the cave, he talks about a dream that he’s had. And it’s kind of an unusual sounding dream. And then actually, the film cuts into these film stills, like almost a slideshow of images, which would seem to make sense in the context of a museum exhibit. Right? That go Yeah, this is for part of an art installation. So that kind of makes sense that you would have still images. But it’s it’s really unusual in the middle of a film, it felt unusual to suddenly have like a slideshow. But over that he’s talking about this dream. And he’s talking about the being in the city. And like, he’s a person from the past in some sort of futuristic city. And they’re rooting out people of the past, like they think really ill of these people from the past, which apparently is the thing they’re used to. That was just really interesting. And I thought it kind of pointed maybe to the city divide that you’re talking about, like thinking ill of people from the country because they are less sophisticated, or something like that. And sometimes and over the extra the images that we’re seeing is like soldiers seeming like they’re capturing maybe It’s a monkey ghost. I think it’s one of the monkey ghosts. But it looks a little different. But it’s I don’t know if that had some sort of racial or political message that we have some something some part of the natural world being tied up and tried to be subjugated in some ways. I don’t know, that’s, there’s a lot going on there. And I think it’s another one of those moments. It’s like, you need to experience this yourself, and kind of come to your own conclusion with it. But yeah, what did you think about all that

yet? Well, the future the future dream sequence is very interesting. One, I’m just a sucker for still images and film. I think I don’t I don’t know why. But to have that, also in conjunction with earlier, which you mentioned, when Bhumi says that in his his fate as karma, for the killing of communism, the way that that sort of, yeah, it’s not even really commented upon, you know, is this sort of this this thing that is just sort of stated apparently in the city 60s, there was a communist or attempted communists insurrection in the army basically went in to the northern provinces and they kill many people in order to put them down. And so like that’s there’s sort of grappling with this militaristic aspect of the history, but it doesn’t dwell on it. You know, it’s sort of just very quickly commented and then goes away. But then yeah, it’s like seeing the soldiers in that future dream sequence. You know, there’s there’s always this sort of dark foreboding about the future.


absolutely. I think it does have to do with the political situation. And the fact that when this film was made, he’d already dealt with a censorship board and you can fill you can fill things getting to the point where like, you don’t even know if it’s safe for you to stay there. I believe in an interview he’s talked about friends who have spoken out politically who have just been disappeared, not disappeared, but like lockdown put in jail. Yeah. It’s one person, you know, was arrested because they liked an article on Facebook that was critical of the royal family. And so all of these sort of depictions of like the military are potentially ominous. And I think it’s just a reflection of what is going on domestically in Thailand. I would say like there’s to me there’s this connection between dreams and sleep that I think is kind of worth dwelling on. Maybe more with cemetery of splendor.

Yeah, I read a little bit about that, but in connection with epi chipmunk, but

yeah, going, Well, just the idea of an artist. He doesn’t care if you fall asleep during those movies. And as long as you know, he hopes that if you do fall asleep, it influences your dreams. And the concern with like memory, and time I’m going to sound like a broken record because this is also going to come up with cemetery splendor, but the idea that area like locations Physical places have like a history that people are often unconnected to. So like in this film, you have Uncle boonmee and his past lives, and potentially they, they’re all taking place in the same place. They’re all in Thailand, everything that’s depicted, right? You just see like these different areas of time in the same place and how history is always marching forward. But that that comes up in a big way and cemeteries splendor. So I might hold off on some of that,

well, this is only kind of maybe sort of related, but there’s a quote from this movie that I really liked. So we he just coexisting with a couple of ghosts, basically. And that’s just part of the story. But at one point, I think it’s the ghost of way says to him, ghosts are not attached to places, but to people to the living. And I thought, you know, that’s a little bit of an inversion of the Western expectation tears and we have haunted houses that we have. Yeah, places are haunted more than people but, and again, hunting is probably not the right word to use here because In this thing, the spiritual the ghosts are his family members. And he’s glad they’re there. And they’re with him and kind of towards the end of his life, and it’s kind of just a beautiful thing. So, yeah, I really liked that quote, hit several quotes. And this just kind of made me pause and think and I was writing them down in my notes as I was going

there is there’s one thing I would highlight is I just think it’s really sweet. The scene where we see ways ghost watching over her sister as she sleeps. And then as she wakes up in the sun comes up, she disappears. Oh my gosh, yeah,

I did have that sense of that.

I think that’s just a wonderful image.

So there’s the sleeping there, and there’s actually sleeping later on in the cave. And then it’s, I think the night and day isn’t a little bit interesting too, because they just go into this cave and you can’t really see and actually on the way to the cave, there’s some kind of harrowing shots are trying to go through the forest in the dark and I was wondering if he’s going to be attacked or something. But then we get to the cave and the next morning your as the cave is actually beautiful and there’s like it’s there’s like a, the the the geology word but like there’s a roof opening in the cave and there’s a big tree and yeah just kind of along the lines of sleep and and then asleep as it may be as parallel with death to you I think because death is sort of a theme of this intersection I wondered if you know the the march to the cave was kind of representative of some Yeah, history keeps going forward as you were saying. But then we also have just human life. What is a life and maybe what is mini lives as he’s recalling his past lives but it almost felt like he’s going towards the end like this cave is maybe representing the end. And so that the journey there represents life itself and so he’s got people he loves alongside him, and they’re sometimes there and sometimes they’re not and I’m just kind of made me Look at all of life and it’s sort of a journey to an end, you know? Well, let’s talk about the ending of the whole movie I can I think we can kind of talk about without spoiling it. But people who have seen it might get some, some benefit out of it. And basically, I don’t exactly know what to make up the very ending, there’s a kind of a surprising thing that happens. We see, Tong is the character who, he’s the immigrant character and he’s become a monk. It’s not clear whether he was a monk the whole time, or what we saw wasn’t clear to me. Actually, there’s a funny line when he’s talking to the two women one of them says, You’re a monk, not a man. So I thought that was an interesting, like dichotomy of looking at again, this kind of the spiritual world and him taking taking things really seriously and there being like a difference there. But yeah, what do you what do you have any thoughts about the very end of the movie and what it might mean

that that in scene, I feel it always kind of perplexes Me. Yeah. And I, I don’t I don’t know what can we talk? spoilery

Yeah, okay, let’s let’s give a little spoiler warning and let’s jump into spoilers just for the end of the movie, because we’re going to be wrapping up soon. So yeah, spoiler alert if you have not watched Uncle boonmee go watch it before you listen to the end of this episode.

Yeah. And it also I think so like tongue, you know, tongue and Jen deciding about for food, but we see this thing where their spirits are sort of separated from their bodies, and they sort of watch themselves watching TV. Yeah, before they go out to a restaurant to eat. I’m trying to remember in that scene, if it’s clear that Jen is aware, what is happening, but Tom, I believe is certainly aware that he sort of sees himself.

I think she seemed like she is aware he kind of points and she’s like, it seems like she’s aware but she’s like, used to the idea. Like, okay, let’s just go like, don’t worry about it.

And then and then you know, we get the scene of them in the diner eating As the soundtrack comes up, and I think for the first time, perhaps in the whole movie, this is non diegetic. Well, I don’t know if it’s part of the scene or not, but this music starts playing, which is, he ends a couple other films the same way. Where there’s just it’s almost like an extended music video. Yeah, I’m sorry. But I think like maybe there’s some, I don’t know if it’s supposed to be like this level of enlightenment or awareness that they’ve reached art or acceptance. Or what? I think more striking to me in that scene is this idea that we’ve now seen this whole movie, where a gin and tonic have been with Uncle boonmee. And Jenna’s saying to her daughter, she’s trying to think of what she should do. And perhaps she’ll make like a funeral button. But then she says she doesn’t really know what she’d write in it because you didn’t know him that well. Yeah. So that to me like first of the question, what what it what was the nature of the relationship with a In laws after her sister die, they didn’t really speak or see each other anymore. Or, or what?

Yeah, that’s interesting. I had that line stuck out to me too. And I wondered if it was more sort of a comment on. He, she knew boonmee but she didn’t really know him, like his internal spirit or something that, you know, he’s he’s lived all these different lives and he can recall his past lives. And that she’s like, well, I only know like, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of who he was. And so I’m not qualified to write a book about and that was, that was kind of the thought I had in that kind of went along with with the doubling of tongue. And I didn’t know if that yeah, if it was a spirit leaving his body or if it was just some comment on it kind of the same along the lines of you know, you’re a monk, not a man, just that he has these dual, this dual nature that we all have different parts of ourselves that this sort of liberalizing, and there’s two literal tongues in the room at this point. Yeah, I wondered if that was just kind of a comment on identity. But again, that’s, I think, all readings I assume are valid. And that was just kind of where my mind went with it.

Yeah, also, that that that actor plays a character named Tong and another film by apichatpong called tropical malady. And he’s also in syndromes in a century. And in some material splendor playing a character named Tang T and G interesting, as opposed to to mg, delusions. This question is, what is there supposed to be a relationship between these characters and we can see that it’s very

interesting and I can’t wait and makes you watch all of his other things. Well, I think that can wrap up our discussion of Uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives. We are again next going to talk about his I think it’s his next film in his filmography, which is cemetery of splendor and I’m excited. I haven’t watched it yet. I got the DVD from the library today. So I’m gonna be watching that really soon. And I’m excited to dig into that. Thank you for being here and I can’t wait to talk to you again next time. Thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely. Well that will do it for this episode. If you want to support the show, you can leave us a rating and review on iTunes or whatever podcast platform you’re using. You can keep up with art house garage on social media. We are at art house garage on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and letterbox.

You can also find video reviews on YouTube and some event coverage

and movie reviews on the blog at art house garage comm you could subscribe to the email monthly email newsletter or house garage comm slash subscribe and you can hit me up on email at Andrew at our house That will do it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep it snob free

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Picture of Andrew Sweatman

Andrew Sweatman

Andrew is a writer, podcaster, and film lover who wants to help people think critically about movies. He lives in central Arkansas with his wife Allison and two children, Rosie & Beau. Andrew is the Senior Editor at Arthouse Garage and a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA). Find him at and on Twitter and Instagram: @ArthouseGarage.

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