When the Cannes Film Festival wrapped on Sunday night, a surprising winner had emerged to take home the coveted Palme d’Or. Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul pulled out a stunning win, besting 1996 Palme d’Or winner Mike Leigh, whose film Another Year was expected to net Leigh the top prize again this year. The film that won Weerasethakul the Palme is titled Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and it’s a surreal, moving, and humorous portrait of the last days of its titular character. Through the help of his dead wife and long lost son, who has returned to him in animal form, Uncle Banmee explores his past, his future, and learns the importance of caring. Sukhdev Sandhu of The Telegraph said of Uncle Boonmee, “It’s barely a film; more a floating world. To watch it is to feel many things–balmed, seduced, amused, mystified.” Check out the trailer after the break.
The film’s gorgeous, otherworldly visuals and haunting, composed atmosphere are immediately evident. The pace is methodical, assured. The aura the trailer invokes is spooky, but somehow feels as if it is referencing very true-to-life experiences.
The burgeoning success of Uncle Boonmee is a particular triumph given the current troubled situation in Thailand. Weerasethakul almost didn’t make it to the festival because of political unrest and, speaking to reporters, he commented on the situation, “I think Thailand needs some kind of hope in other ways because we…are very depressed about the confrontation of different ideologies.” While accepting the Palme, Weerasethakul dedicated the achievement to his homeland, saying “I’d like to send a message home: This prize is for you.”
Uncle Boonmee is sure to be eagerly anticipated by cinephiles–Tim Burton, who headed the Cannes jury, referred to it as “a beautiful strange dream”–but how it will fair in the broader marketplace remains to be seen. The film looks promising and, if it can raise awareness about the current violence in Bangkok, I think that many movie lovers will be crossing their fingers for Uncle Boonmee’s upcoming success.