- - Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thai champ

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s ‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,’ an arresting and imaginative cinematic oddity touching on themes of animism and reincarnation, won the Palme d’Or from the jury of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival on Sunday night. It marks the first time a Thai-directed entry has received the fest’s top honor.

“Easily the most idiosyncratic film in competition, ‘Uncle Boonmee‘ was also one of the few roundly admired films in what was generally conceded to be the weakest Cannes lineup in years. Weerasethakul is now three for three at Cannes, having previously won the jury prize for 2005’s ‘Tropical Malady’ and the Un Certain Regard prize for 2002’s ‘Blissfully Yours.’”

Justin Chang, writing on “‘Uncle Boonmee‘ wins Palme d’Or,” on May 23 at Variety

Exile doc

“‘Let me tell you a little bit about what it was like,’ said the slight, leathery, oddly familiar Englishman on the stage of the Palais Stephanie. ‘It was 1971. Nixon was in the White House. The war in Vietnam was raging on. Eddy Merckx had won the Tour de France. But you won’t see anything about any of that in the film. We didn’t know anything about it. We were in the basement of a house in Villefranche, making a record.’

“I was up in the balcony, but the man onstage was unmistakably Mick Jagger, perhaps the only senior citizen in the world who can manage to look cool while wearing a gray suit with sneakers. … Then the mob scene settled enough for us to take in the Directors’ Fortnight premiere of ‘Stones in Exile,’ Stephen Kijak’s fascinating documentary about the creation of a legendary rock ‘n’ roll record whose basic tracks were laid down 38 years ago just a few miles from here.

“That record, of course, is the Rolling Stones’ ‘Exile on Main Street,’ recorded in piecemeal fashion between France and California after the band had fled England to avoid paying back taxes. Out of their chaotic personal and professional lives, and the hothouse party atmosphere of Nellcote, Keith Richards’ seafront villa outside the town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, the Stones somehow created a murky, layered, two-disc masterpiece that embraced Delta blues, hillbilly-style country music, R&B, soul music, ‘50s-style rock ‘n’ roll and any number of other elements. It sounded like a record that had been left under a couch in Memphis, not one made by a bunch of rich English guys at their Cote d’Azur hideaway.”

Andrew O’Hehir, writing on “Mick Jagger rocks Cannes,” on May 19 at the Salon.com blog Film Salon

‘Something and a half’

“More than anything else, what I want from the Cannes Film Festival … is to experience something that feels singular, unprecedented, visionary. That doesnt necessarily have to mean ‘great,’ either (though itd be nice). … [W]hat goes down in history are those rare, cherishable films that make everybody, no matter their personal opinion, exit the theater looking dazed and uncertain — capable of no more trenchant analysis, at least for the moment, than ‘Well, that was something.’

“‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives ‘is something and a half. If youre familiar with Thailands Apichatpong Weerasethakul (affectionately known as ‘Joe’) … then youll surely raise an eyebrow when I say that Uncle Boonmee may be his strangest and most mysterious picture yet, juxtaposing the earthly with the fantastic in a way that induces a nearly continuous trance state. … I believe we see [Uncle Boonmee] as a water buffalo and as a facially disfigured princess who gets drilled by a talking catfish (theres no time, just move ahead) — but the film as a whole is devoted to limning the porous border separating this world from the next, to mesmerizing effect. This is a film in which a mundane conversation is interrupted by the sudden materialization of Uncle Boonmees long-dead wife (an effect handled so subtly that I didnt notice her until someone onscreen leapt startled from his chair), and just moments later this ongoing ghostly visitation gets almost completely forgotten, as youre far too busy being freaked out by the appearance of Boonmees long-missing son, who is now a deeply unnerving cross between Chewbacca and a Jawa, all shaggy fur and pinpoint red eyes.”

Mike D’Angelo, writing on “Cannes ‘10: Day Nine,” on May 21 at the Onion AV Club