Look who turned up at the Cannes Film Festival.
After worried speculation earlier in the week that he wouldn't be able to travel to France because his passport was trapped in a closed British Embassy and surrounded by red-shirt political protesters, Apichatpong Weerasethakul made it to Cannes to promote his film in the Palme d'Or competition, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Remember His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึก ชาติ, Lung Boonmee Raleuk Chat)
He appears relaxed and happy in an afternoon photocall. Joining him were actress Wallapa Mongkolprasert, producers Michael Weber, Keith Griffith, Simon Field, Charles de Meaux and Luis Minarro.
There was a press screening on Friday morning and the official premiere is on Friday night at the Lumière Cinema.
Reviews are starting to trickle in. Here's one from Screen Daily chief film critic Mark Adams, who writes:
The film is a beautifully assembled affair, with certain scenes staged with painterly composure, and also increasingly moving as the subtle story develops. Apichatpong Weerasethakul is not afraid of adding in moments of surreal humour – often laugh-out-loud moments for that – which helps the pacing of the film.
On Facebook and in the media, Uncle Boonmee is gaining buzz as a strong contender for the top Palme d’Or prize when the awards are announced on Sunday.
France 24 has an English-language video report from Eve Jackson, who say: "Only in Cannes could a director whose name is completely unpronouncable be the director with most of the buzz."
It's not that hard: Aphicha-tpong Wi-ra-setha-kun.
I will probably update this entry throughout the evening and into the early hours as I find more material.
Update 1: Sight & Sound tweets: Uncle Boonmee a gorgeous, funny and mysterious meditation on how death is received by a shaman in a jungle —NJ."
Update 2: Artforum has Apichatpong's thoughts on Phantoms of Nabua (at BFI Southbank London until July 3) and the political unrest in Thailand. There will be "Apichatpong Weerasethakul in Conversation" on Tuesday, May 25, at the BFI Southbank. So he gets to go to the UK too!
Update 3: Matthew Noller writes on Slant: "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is not just the best film of the festival; it makes everything else in competition—even the good stuff—look slapdash, lazy, hollow." Earlier he tweeted: "The more I think about it, the more convinced I am UNCLE BOONMEE is a masterpiece. Really hoping to see it again tomorrow." And earlier it was: "Uncle Boonmee (Weerasethakul A): Holy. Fucking. Shit. Will need another viewing (or several) to fully grasp, but: Holy. Fucking. Shit."
Update 4: IndieWire's Eric Kohn:
Weerasethakul’s titular character is a middle-aged man living in the forest and dying from an illness. One evening, during a visit from his nephew, Boonmee also gets met by the ghost of his long-dead wife and missing son, that aforementioned monkey man. They discuss the sense of displacement that death brings them, marrying the strange tone to seriously lyrical observations of mortality. But Weerasethakul doesn’t take the scene any more seriously than we do: Another living person joins the table and takes in the eclectic group, concluding, "I feel like I’m the strange one here."
The magic of Uncle Boonmee is that it makes all viewers feel like the strange ones.
Update 5: PictureHouse tweets: "Uncle Boonmee is exquisite, odd, fairytale on death/life with man-monkies, ghosts and was that catfish sex?"
Update 6: Explosive stuff in the Cannes press conference with Apichatpong:
I almost couldn’t come here because my passport was in the city centre and it was too dangerous to go to get it, so I had a special passport issued. Before leaving I could see the smoke coming up the streets. I had the impression of being in a film; it’s very sad. It is the most extreme and violent situation we have had in our history. I think that it had to happen; there is such a gap between the rich and the poor. I hope that these events will end up by bringing the country together. But the worst thing is, you cannot make a film about it because it would be forbidden by the censorship. They block any film that “threatens national security” but they can put just about anything under this heading.Update 7: A video interview at Cannes (12:17).
Update 8: Wildgrounds rounds up more reviews, including one from the Onion AV Club.
Update 9: Mubi (formerly The Auteurs) has another roundup. It links to AV Club critic Mike D'Angelo, who as Gemko tweets: "Guys, I'm gonna need some time (and a 2nd viewing) to decide whether UNCLE BOONMEE is just sort of awesome or totally mindblowingly awesome." And then: "This solidifies [Joe] as the greatest director in the world right now" -- Robert Koehler (who thankfully doesn't know what I look like)."
Update 10: Kong Rithdee, posting on Facebook through a friend because the Bangkok Post's blogs are apparently down, says in part: "Round the last corner of Cannes Film Festival, or in other words, after nine days of crap, we saw the film of the festival: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. My friends, finally something that opens our eyes and makes us believe in cinema (again)."
(Reuters photo via Yahoo! News)