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Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Blu Ray

  • Score
    from 2 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • Unique, mesmerizing 'Uncle Boonmee' Blu-ray shines despite audio flaw; recommended for avant-garde fans.

    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
  • Uncle Boonmee's Blu-ray release delivers strong colors and detail, marred by occasional video noise and artifacting, revealing its 16mm origins and transfer limitations.

  • Audio
  • The Blu-ray features Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks with hardcoded English subtitles, offering a subtle, immersive soundscape despite not testing audio limits. It lacks the depth of a lossless track but ensures clear dialogue and effective ambient sounds.

  • Extra
  • Strand's compilation features in-depth director insights, experimental shorts, and thematic trailers in 1080p. A blend of artistic exploration and cultural examination, with English subtitles.

  • Movie
  • Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 'Uncle Boonmee' on Blu-ray, a Palme d'Or winning exploration of life, death, and transition, rich in extras and narrative depth.

    Video: 65

    The Blu-ray presentation of "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" delivers a mixed bag in terms of video quality, rendered in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with an MPEG-2 codec at 1080p resolution. On the one hand, it admirably carries over the unique visual tone director Apichatpong Weerasethakul established, aided by a filmic grain inherent to its 16mm shooting format. This results in lush jungle scenes and a vibrant color palette, particularly noticeable in the deeper greens and more saturated hues. However, the transfer exhibits a softness that occasionally detracts from fine detail, accompanied by a flatness in more nuanced textures, likely stemming from the original film stock rather than the transfer process itself.

    Despite striving for authenticity in its presentation, the Blu-ray faces technical drawbacks, including video noise and sporadic instances of artifacting, such as macro blocking and posterization, which emerge intermittently. Although these artifacts do not compromise the viewing experience significantly, they hint at a digital transfer that may not have fully capitalized on the potential clarity and sharpness available. Contrast levels and black depths are commendable, providing a solid foundation for the film's visual contrasts, yet there's an overriding sense of missed opportunity to truly showcase the film's cinematographic beauty at its highest fidelity.

    Present across multiple releases, with minimal variation in quality between them, the Blu-ray's handling of color and light fluctuates with the usage of natural lighting, contributing to occasional inconsistencies in clarity. Notably, this release does skirt around more egregious issues such as edge enhancement and macroblocking patterns, ensuring that, despite its shortcomings, "Uncle Boonmee's" haunting visual narrative is preserved. This video presentation evidently aims for an authentic reproduction of Weerasethakul's visionary work but is somewhat hampered by limitations inherent to its source material and transfer methodology.

    Audio: 67

    The Blu-ray disc of "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" offers two audio tracks: a Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 and a simpler Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 option, accompanied by hardcoded English subtitles that cannot be deactivated. While not designed as a rigorous test for state-of-the-art audio systems, the movie’s soundscape, particularly its ambient sounds, is handled with care. The Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 track, despite being lossy, delivers a surprisingly appropriate experience for the film's requirements. The dialog throughout is consistently crisp and easy to understand, reflecting a meticulous attention to audio clarity and stability.

    Exploring further, while the film's sound design might not be characterized by explosive dynamics or a wide range of bass frequencies, it excels in delivering a subtle auditory experience. Ambient sounds such as chirping birds and the murmuring of a waterfall are effectively utilized to envelop the listener, contributing significantly to the film’s atmospheric mood. Yet, it's worth noting, particularly in sequences requiring a robust audio delivery like the waterfall scene, that the lossy nature of the Thai 5.1 track falls slightly short of what a lossless track could offer in terms of immersion and depth.

    Although the soundstage isn't replete with aggressive directionality, it maintains an engaging presence with well-balanced mixing where ambient jungle sounds coexist harmoniously with dialogue, ensuring that neither element overshadows the other. Despite its limitations—most notably, the absence of a lossless audio option and fixed subtitles—the presentation achieves a commendable level of professionalism in enhancing the artistic intent of "Uncle Boonmee," showcasing how adept handling of sound design can elevate the cinematic experience even within the constraints of less-than-ideal audio formats.

    Extra: 57

    The Blu-ray extras for "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" offer a rich tapestry of content that complements the enigmatic and meditative qualities of the film itself. With everything presented in 1080p and Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (except for one English interview), alongside hardcoded English subtitles, this collection dives deep into the mind of director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Viewers are treated to an intimate 17-minute interview where Weerasethakul unpacks the film's elusive themes and his cinematic techniques, aiming to bridge the gap between the audience's reality and the artificiality of cinema. The inclusion of seven deleted scenes offers a glimpse into the cutting room floor decisions, with standout sequences that further illuminate the film's mystique. Moreover, "A Letter to Uncle Boonmee," an experimental short film, challenges viewers' patience with its meditative pace and thematic depth, serving as a perfect complement to the feature film. Trailers for Weerasethakul’s other works, along with additional Strand Releasing previews, round out a comprehensive package that is as thought-provoking as it is visually stunning, ensuring fans and newcomers alike gain further insight into Weerasethakul’s creative process and the broader context of Thai cinema.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • Interview with Apichatpong Weerasethakul: The Thai director discusses the message of his film, its success, and Thai culture. In English, not subtitled.
    • Deleted Scenes: A collection of deleted scenes in Thai, with imposed English subtitles.
    • A Letter to Uncle Boonmee: A moody short film about the director's desire discussing the message of his film, its success, and Thai culture. In Thai, with imposed English subtitles.
    • Trailer: The original theatrical trailer for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives in Thai, with imposed English subtitles.
    • Other Weerasethakul Trailers: Trailers for Tropical Malady, Syndromes and a Century, and Blissfully Yours in Thai, with imposed English subtitles.
    • Other Strand Trailers: Trailers for The Headless Woman, To Die Like A Man, The Arbor, and Cameraman: The Life & Work of Jack Cardiff.

    Movie: 70

    In the realm of contemporary cinema, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" (2010) stands out as a masterpiece of visual poetry and reflective storytelling. Garnering the prestigious Palme d'Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, this film embarks on a metaphysical journey through life, death, and reincarnation, woven into the tapestry of Thailand's lush landscapes and rural life. The narrative unfolds around Uncle Boonmee (Thanapat Saisaymar), who, in his dying days, is joined by apparitions of his past; his late wife Huay and a son who returns in a non-human form. These supernatural visitations set the stage for a narrative that delicately explores the intersections of memory, mortality, and the spiritual continuum.

    This film challenges conventional storytelling, opting instead for a rich tapestry of imagery and emotion that prioritizes experience over explanation. Scenes range from the touching—Boonmee's tender encounters with his deceased wife—to the surreal, including an obscure yet poignant story of a princess and a fish. Such segments, while seemingly disjointed, compound into a cohesive exploration of the human condition. Weerasethakul employs a minimalist yet evocative visual style, characterized by long takes and a naturalistic sound design that immerses viewers into the heart of rural Thailand and its phantasmagorical narrative. This stylistic choice encourages viewers to inhabit moments of quiet reflection, allowing the film’s metaphysical questions to resonate more profoundly.

    Despite its esoteric elements, "Uncle Boonmee" maintains accessibility through moments of humor and beauty, ensuring it does not succumb to pretension. The director's integration of folklore with contemporary concerns crafts a multifaceted narrative that speaks both to personal and collective memories and experiences. As much as it is about Boonmee's personal journey, the film is also an allegory for Thailand’s sociopolitical history and cultural identity, bridging personal narrative with broader socio-political commentary. Ultimately, "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" is not merely watched but experienced, offering a unique cinematic journey that lingers with the viewer long after the final credits roll.

    Total: 62

    Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" offers a unique cinematic journey that stands out in the realm of film. This Blu-ray release by Strand Releasing captures much of the film's ethereal essence, albeit with some technical limitations. The video quality presents the movie's mesmerizing visuals with clarity, though it encounters minor technical drawbacks that slightly dim its luster. On the audio front, the choice to include a lossy audio track over a lossless option represents a missed opportunity to fully envelop viewers in Weerasethakul's dreamy soundscape. Despite this, the audio quality remains solid, ensuring that the film's auditory experience is preserved.

    The supplemental materials provided add value to this release, offering intriguing insights into the film's creation and reception. These additions will satisfy fans and newcomers alike, making the Blu-ray a comprehensive package for those looking to delve deeper into the thematic richness of "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives." However, the absence of the stronger lossless audio track present in the UK Blu-ray version is a notable shortcoming that detracts from what could have been an impeccable home viewing experience.

    In conclusion, while this Blu-ray release of "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" does justice to the film's visual and thematic depth, it falls short of excellence due to its audio limitations. The inclusion of substantial supplemental materials partially compensates for this shortfall, rendering it a recommended purchase for enthusiasts of avant-garde cinema. Yet, it is imperative for future releases to prioritize lossless audio to ensure the complete accuracy and immersion that aficionados expect and deserve from high-definition home media.