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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

This Thai elegy is stunning, culture-specific, vaguely political and profound bordering on recondite.

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The Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul spends a lot of time contemplating things in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a tranquil elegy to the myths and traditions of his native culture. The word "recall" in the title means to bring back as well as to remember. So at dinner one night, old Uncle Boonmee -- who owns a farm, and who's ill and dying from the "bad karma" of having killed too many Laotian communists -- conjures up his dead wife, who chats with the family, and then his missing son, who returns as a Monkey Ghost (red eyes, black hairy body). Reflection (double meaning again) is an illusion, and so is what we know about the living, another spirit says when she sees her face in a rippling pond beneath a waterfall. She then talks to the pond's sagacious catfish, who makes love to her when she floats on the water. Uncle Boonmee is visually stunning, culture-specific, vaguely political and profound bordering on recondite as it explores conflicts between country and city, the ancient and the modern. Although it demands a measure of patience and curiosity, I doubt you'll see anything quite like it again. In Thai, with subtitles. Starts Fri., May 27. Harris

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