Film History, With a Fresher Date Than Usual
Austin Cinematheque opens season with 'Uncle Boonmee'
The Austin Cinematheque showcases great classic films on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Surprisingly, this student collective is one of few groups dedicated these days to such an endeavor at UT, even though not all that long ago, auditoriums across campus flickered nightly with the seductive glow of great films from the past. The advent of videotape and DVD, cutbacks in student-activity allocations, and the failure to regard film history as an essential part of a well-rounded liberal arts education have virtually eliminated public screenings of film classics on the UT campus. However, since 2005, the Austin Cinematheque has brought films to the Texas Union, ranging from foreign classics such as François Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist to homegrown gems such as Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise and Woody Allen's Zelig.
The group kicks off the 2011 fall season with something new – a contemporary film instead of a relic from the past. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul is the group's first film premiere. The 2010 film, which won the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or (the top prize), completely bypassed Austin during its very limited theatrical run. A strange, mystifying, and often oblique movie, Uncle Boonmee easily blends naturalism and surrealism, the physical and spiritual worlds, the corporality of the body and the transmigration of souls. Uncle Boonmee, who is dying of kidney cancer, is visited by his sister-in-law when ghosts from the past begin to appear. His deceased wife takes on a traditionally supernatural appearance, while their long-lost son reappears in the guise of a man-sized monkey with red, glowing eyes. The living and the dead converse freely, and an amorous catfish joins in a story about a princess in what may have been one of Boonmee's past lives. The film is both bizarre and prosaic, an experience to which one much submit rather than pick apart. The programming choice bodes well for a terrific season at the Austin Cinematheque, which has already announced its Nov. 14 film – F.W. Murnau's silent classic The Last Laugh, with live accompaniment by the Weird Weeds.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives screens Monday, Oct. 3, in the Texas Union Theatre. See www.austincinematheque.com for more details on the program.