May 24, 2010 / 8:25 AM / 7 years ago

Boring or beautiful? Cannes winner splits critics

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Not enough good movies, too few stars and a choice of winner that had many scratching their heads -- the 2010 Cannes film festival is unlikely to be remembered as a classic.

Thai film “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” one of 19 entries in competition, took the coveted Palme d‘Or for best picture, delighting some critics but angering others.

“‘Uncle Boonmee’, Palm of Boredom” was the headline on Monday in French daily Le Figaro, which called the slow-paced examination of reincarnation by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul “dull, incomprehensible and hallucinatory.”

Italy’s Corriere della Serra said it was “unforgiveable” that the Cannes jury led by Tim Burton had left out pre-awards favorite Mike Leigh and his movie “Another Year,” but Britain’s Guardian called the winner “lyrically beautiful.”

The film, which moves from dinner table conversation with the ghost of Boonmee’s dead wife and the hair-covered, red-eyed spirit of his son to an ecstatic encounter between a talking cat fish and a disfigured princess, is certainly distinctive.

Burton said he chose Weerasethakul, who nearly did not make it to Cannes due to unrest in Thailand, because he was so far from mainstream cinema, underlining how Cannes prides itself on discovering films that otherwise may struggle to find audiences.

“The world is getting smaller and films get more Westernized or Hollywood-ized and this is a film for me that I felt I was watching from another country, from another perspective.”

“Of Gods and Men,” by French filmmaker Xavier Beauvois, won the runner-up prize and would have been a popular winner.

The meditative re-telling of the murder of seven Trappist monks caught up in civil unrest in Algeria during the 1990s had won almost universal praise for its restrained examination of belief, courage and religious tolerance.

QUIET CANNES

The awards brought to an end 12 hectic days of screenings and parties on the French Riviera, where economic uncertainty, a lack of star power and too few movies generating genuine buzz sapped the festival of excitement.

It suffered in comparison to 2009, when Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” prison drama “A Prophet” and Michael Haneke’s Palme d‘Or winner “The White Ribbon” made for a vintage Cannes.

There were no real surprises this year in the actor and actress categories.

France’s Juliette Binoche won for her performance in Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy.” She used her acceptance speech to attack the Iranian government for imprisoning another filmmaker, Jafar Panahi.

“There is a man who is in Iran today. His fault is to be an artist, to be independent and I‘m thinking of him specially this evening,” Binoche told the packed Grand Theater Lumiere, holding a piece of card with Panahi’s name written on it.

Panahi is on hunger strike in a Tehran prison, but comments in Cannes about his treatment drew criticism from an Iranian government official who complained to festival organizers.

The best actor category was shared between Spanish Oscar winner Javier Bardem, for “Biutiful,” and Italy’s Elio Germano for “Our Life.” Both play troubled men struggling to cope with the pressures of fatherhood, one of this year’s main themes. France’s Mathieu Amalric won best director for “On Tour,” while “A Screaming Man,” by Chad’s Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, won the jury (third) prize. Korean entry “Poetry,” directed and written by Lee Chang-dong, was named best screenplay.

Outside the main competition, blockbuster “Robin Hood” rode into town with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, and Oliver Stone presented “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” his topical picture starring Michael Douglas about the financial crisis.

Woody Allen brought “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” but reaction to all three among Cannes’ famously picky audiences was muted.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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