Monday, January 17, 2011

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

The 2010 Palme d'Or finally arrived in Oxford. It was at the Ultimate Picture Palace, I was sitting on the very first row, and I had the time of my life. It's a sublime jewel of supernatural enchantments, simple and sophisticated altogether, traditional and avant-garde. Well done Apichatpong Weerasethakul!

I just want to talk about one single shot, not because it is the most representative of the movie, but because it struck my imagination. It's a static shot of a room, facing a wall against which there is a bench on which two persons are sitting. They are watching a tv on a table against the left wall of the room. So they are not facing the tv but rather have a very oblique perspective on it. So much so that I wondered if they were actually able to see the screen. It seems completely unrealistic. A more conventional way to edit such a scene would have been to show the people frontally and then cut on a shot of the tv that they're watching (btw the last scene of the movie is of that type:(. Then I realized that it did not matter after all, since the scene makes perfect narrative sense as it is. It's clear that they're watching the tv, even though both their faces and the tv are visible simultaneously. This stylistic effect is somehow reminiscent of certain cubist paintings which show a face both in profile and frontally. But it goes even further: whereas the cubist portrait presents different perspectives on one object, Apichatpong's shot encompasses both the observers and what they observe at once. Some sort of primordial unity regained!

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