The incredibly strange uncle who stopped living but was a lot less entertaining than a dirty baker’s dozen of samurai at AFI

As fate would have it, aside from a double bill of “Eraserhead” and an oddly beat-up print of “Sunset Boulevard” presented by David Lynch, I only saw two complete films at this year’s AFI Film Festival at the Chinese Theater multiplex.

The first was this year’s Cannes Palm D’Or winner, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, aka “Joe.” This is obviously a film and a director with many ardent admirers, including a lot of online cinephile acquaintances I respect, and I can certainly understand why viewers much more patient than I with the “contemplative cinema” aesthetic would love it.

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It’s a sweet-natured and poignant magical realist non-story about a dying man and his family, with many striking individual moments but, by its own design, no narrative tension. Sadly, I seem to have a permanent allergy to the kind of deliberately slow-paced films that focus very intensely on the minutia of daily life with no particular story, even if, as in this case, it features plenty of arresting imagery and involves people who turn into half-monkey creatures and a ghost or two. I only nodded off once, but the gentlemen next to me was pretty much a goner at the 20 minute point. Snoring ensued.

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“13 Assassins” walk into a film festival

And they get pretty good reviews. The newest international fave from Japan’s insanely prolific Takashi Miike looks plenty bloody but still a lot less extreme and a lot more classical than the ultra-gorefests that made his reputation as an action and horror director. In fact, it’s more in the vein of a traditional samurai flick and is actually a remake of a 1963 film. It already screened at Venice and will be playing next week in Toronto, which has introduced more than a few great Asian action fests to North America.

This trailer isn’t subtitled, but trust me, it’s worth watching.

Regular readers won’t be surprised to see that I’ve assiduously avoided Miike’s notorious “Audition” and “Ichii the Killer” but did see, and very much enjoyed his insane but actually rather restrained musical horror-comedy, “The Happiness of the Katakuris.” I think this might be my second Miike.

  

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