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September 21, 2010


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I am now even more excited to see this movie than before. Thankfully, it's playing the Chicago International Film Festival next month.


That catfish was pretty neat.

Tom Russell

We'll have to give SYNDROMES another try (it was also highly-recommended by C. Mason Wells), as me and the missus didn't quite click with it. It might be that it loses something on a small television, though.

Scott Nye

One of the many, many reasons I wish I could reasonably attend the New York Film Festival. SYNDROMES alternately gave me cinema ecstasy and nearly put me to sleep, which is reason enough to see anything Weerasethakul will ever do from here on out.

Mark Slutsky

Yes, yes, yes, to all of this, especially the Howell diss; that piece was appalling and totally uncalled-for (and quoted approvingly not a few times by a certain film blogger you love to hate).

Apichatpong gave a great talk at TIFF where he showed his short "Anthem" and clips from all of his features. I hate this word when it's just used to refer to something weird or uncanny, but I'm convinced he's a Surrealist in the original sense of the term.

Keith Uhlich

I hope our souls can go out for karaoke some night, Glenn. Hell, I hope all our souls can go out for karaoke some night.

Lance McCallion

Seeing this Sunday night at NYFF! Excellent write-up Glenn, and points well made. A lot of what you wrote here could just as easily be applied to Tropical Malady as well, which I'd urge people to check out. Especially in prepping for Boonmee, as I think the two will likely prove to share more similarities with each other than Boonmee will to Syndromes.

I'd also suggest checking out Joe's short A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, which is stunning, as a sort of prologue/companion/parallel to the feature.

warren oates

I farking love Joe's films. He's my number one personal world cinema discovery of the last few years. I caught up with all of his previous work last year and was elated with the Cannes victory this spring. Thanks for writing about UNCLE BOONMEE, Glenn. Exactly right to highlight the filmmaker's modesty and gentleness. Unlike many a tortured (and sometimes collaborator torturing) meditative cinema auteur, Joe practices what he preaches. To an unusual extent, the films are calm because he is. A regular meditator, he makes it a practice to sit even longer while he's writing screenplays.

Embarrassed Anon

Interestingly enough Peter Howell went on to write this: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/article/864047--uncle-boonmee-a-ghostly-monkey-a-sexy-fish-and-a-world-of-wonder


Now I can't stop thinking of similar glowing-eyed silhouettes in 'The Fog' and 'The Terminator'.

Glenn Kenny

@ Embarrassed Anon: I hadn't been aware of Howell's sort-of about-face (which, now that I look at its dateline, could very well be because it didn't exist when I posted my own piece!), which doesn't even REFERENCE his prior hissy fit. How very odd! It's like Jack Kroll revising his opinion of "Bonnie and Clyde" without mentioning that he had dissed it in the first place. Unusual.


@ Glenn: The famed NEWSWEEK critical reconsideration on BONNIE AND CLYDE was by Joseph Morgenstern.


I've only seen TROPICAL MALADY, but I loved it. And that image at the top has me ever so curious.

S. Porath

@Griff: Morgenstern didn't deny his earlier pan.


Thanks for the primer. I have recently been trying to fill this gap in my viewing history. I don't mean to compare myself to Jonathan Rosenbaum, but I believe I had a similar experience when watching MYSTERIOUS OBJECT AT NOON in that I lacked "an analytical context in which to place it" and found it difficult to retain a lot of what I was watching and probably watched the whole move 3 times before finishing it once. I know he was educated in Chicago, but it's interesting that so much of the background you suggest is Western (obviously, except for the "Then add Thailand part"). Thanks again!


pardon my ignorance, but what word is 'you-know-what-word-that-starts-with-an-"m" ?

Jason M.

I think it's masterpiece, Darryl. Who knows, though. Maybe it's monkey.


I actually thought it might be "mystical", or some form of it, which Glenn goes on to use very soon thereafter. But I like that "monkey" idea. It's got legs.

Chris O.

Or it just might be "mumblecore" since he talks about "clunky handheld camerawork."

Kevyn Knox

Granted, I was not so enthralled with Syndromes (as pretty much everyone else seemed to be) but Tropical Malady and now Uncle Boonmee, make for a strong idea of Apichatpong's magical/mystical style of storytelling.

Just the fact that suddenly a talking catfish (who does do more than just "talk") enters the story and no one really thinks it out of the ordinary, speaks volumes for Apichatpong's natural sense of the mythical in his filmmaking. Von Trier had a ravenous fox spew forth "chaos reigns" but in his case, it was meant to antagonize (as Von Trier usually means to do), here with Apichat...er, Joe, it is simply a reasonable part of the movie - a reasonable part of the filmmaker's mythmaking. And anyway, the talking catfish isn't even the strangest thing in the film - if you even call it strange (which I suppose I do not really). It just lends to the unnatural natural beauty of his films.

Glenn Kenny

By the way, yes, the word I had in mind was/is "masterpiece."

Kevin's point's well taken. It's part of the mood of the film, that slightly-zonked feel that you get, that makes you say, "Oh, yeah, sure...talking catfish, and why not?"


Um...no. Mumblecore also insinuates being a filmmaker with no taste for the surreal or exaggerated. Mad Men is closer to Mumblecore than Uncle Boonmee is.

Paul Johnson

That Howell piece is pretty bad (are we supposed to be dismayed that it's not a 'typical' Thai film? Whereas I suppose Viridiana was a typical Spanish movie, and Taxi Driver was a typical American movie.), but it doesn't anger me nearly as much as the dismissal by the Corlisses that appeared in Time. The crude insults thrown at Joe's films ('His work has been caviar to high-minded critics but dog food to international audiences.') would've been aggravating in themselves, but what especially irked me was how when tasked to name other films by Apichatpong, the authors cited his three most difficult to see films - Ghosts of Asia, Phantoms of Nubua and The Adventures of Iron Pussy. They thus conveyed the notion that Apichatpong was a hopelessly esoteric choice (why, none of these movies are even available from Netflix), championed only by the condescending cognoscenti. With several Apichatpong films readily available from Netflix, the intentional misdirection just looked like an asshole move, a way to maintain a neat, deceptive division between those who supposedly know what's what and who's who (Time magazine) and those who supposedly don't (Time's readers).

Kurt Walker

Fun fact: Apichatpong has gone on record to say that he does not personally connect with Tarkovsky's Mirror, but really admires it!


I'll have to resist going into some sloppy, gooey paean to Joe's movies here. I'll just say he's one of the very best and most vital working artists in the world today, and I can't wait to see this film.

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