Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Dear Lemon Lima open in the U.S. this week. For the occasion, I'm combining one old review and one new one. I'm hoping it's not too obvious which one I labored over a few months ago for GR68 and which one I whipped up in 30 minutes. (The above portrait is taken from GR48, when I interviewed Apichatpong Weerasthakul on the occasion of his installation at REDCAT.)
In the world of Weerasethakul’s Palme d’Or-winning flick, life on the farm includes friendly visits from ghosts and conjugal visits from spirits to humans. And they’re no big deal. Not only does the Thai filmmaker treat paranormal subject matter with a documentary-like, matter-of-fact tone that strips away any sense of sensationalism or even strangeness, but the characters themselves react as if they’re as normal as can be. “Why did you grow your hair so long?” the doomed protagonist asks his long-lost son who returns looking like a yeti after mating with a monkey ghost. By the time our unassuming hero’s kidney failure runs its course, his humble life touches on hot-button topics that range from killing commies to Thai-Laotian relations to government corruption–all handled as calmly as the weather. The supernatural world turns out to be not only one of the least troublesome aspect of life but one of the more interesting ones. By the time the story shifts to urban Thailand, you are not only unquestioning of odd things that happen but expecting and even hoping for them.
For a teen movie, Suzi Yoonessi's Dear Lemon Lima is rather subdued as well. There are no hit songs, hyper edits, or wacky camera angles. Instead, the look is downright crafty with its hand-drawn chapter openings, cute school art projects, and cursive graffiti. And the actors are even genuinely teenaged. To illustrate the story of a precocious 13-year-old half-Eskimo's quest to get close to her well-off-but-aloof crush, she places the hyper detailed, hyper flawed cast of characters amidst the impossibly gorgeous scenery. The color-infused Fairbanks suburbs and its misty riverbank create an effect that is dreamy yet all-too-familiar to anyone who looks back at his or her childhood through rosy and nerdy glasses. So while the events of the