Gasps of surprise and enthusiastic applause resounded through the biggest auditorium of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes on Sunday night, as Tim Burton announced the surprise winner of the coveted Palme d'Or prize: Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
But Uncle Boonmee, with its gently poetic, supernaturally charged world of floating ghosts and mystical beasts, seemed a fitting choice for a jury president known for his quirky imagination (read film review
that one of the things he loved about the festival was “seeing things you don’t usually see,” adding that “Uncle Boonmee is a beautiful, strange dream.”
So far, so Burton…
Critics' crystal balls
This year’s crop of films was generally considered to be weak. No single film emerged as a clear, unanimously-declared home run or frontrunner.
But, some predictions did come true.
Before the awards were announced, one critic - who wished to remain anonymous – accurately predicted a prize for Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men.
Accurate predictions too for best actor going to rising Italian star Elio Germano for his role as a young man struggling to raise his kids after his wife’s death in Italian Daniele Luchetti’s mediocre La Nostra Vita (Our Life).
Best actor double prize
Most critics had also anticipated that Javier Bardem (joint best actor prize) would be rewarded for his powerful star performance in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s otherwise excruciatingly overwrought Biutiful. Juliette Binoche (best actress in Certified Copy) had also been tipped to beat out other favourites.
But it was late competition entry, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which dazzled half the press but bored the other half silly – that no one was going to bet their life savings on coming up trumps.
Director Apichatpong Weerasakethul appeared humbled but unfazed as he accepted his award and called the experience “surreal.”
Citing Thailand’s recent social and political unrest, he said: "Thailand needs some kind of hope, because we are very depressed about the confrontation of different ideologies right now. I hope the news that Thailand has won the prize here for art and culture will be like cool water to calm down the situation."