The incredibly strange uncle who stopped living but was a lot less entertaining than a dirty baker’s dozen of samurai at AFI

As fate would have it, aside from a double bill of “Eraserhead” and an oddly beat-up print of “Sunset Boulevard” presented by David Lynch, I only saw two complete films at this year’s AFI Film Festival at the Chinese Theater multiplex.

The first was this year’s Cannes Palm D’Or winner, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, aka “Joe.” This is obviously a film and a director with many ardent admirers, including a lot of online cinephile acquaintances I respect, and I can certainly understand why viewers much more patient than I with the “contemplative cinema” aesthetic would love it.

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It’s a sweet-natured and poignant magical realist non-story about a dying man and his family, with many striking individual moments but, by its own design, no narrative tension. Sadly, I seem to have a permanent allergy to the kind of deliberately slow-paced films that focus very intensely on the minutia of daily life with no particular story, even if, as in this case, it features plenty of arresting imagery and involves people who turn into half-monkey creatures and a ghost or two. I only nodded off once, but the gentlemen next to me was pretty much a goner at the 20 minute point. Snoring ensued.

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Cannes winners announced

I have next to no time to write this, but the Cannes Palm d’Or, possibly the single most prestigious film award in the world, including the Oscar, has gone to Thailand’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” directed by the unpronounceable and unspellable Apichatpong Weerasethakul. (He’s often referred to as “Joe,” I understand.) Apparently saving the best for last, the movie was not screened until the end of the festival. It fully wowed Tweeters in the audience, will no surely add hugely to the growing rep for Weerasethakul, who will now be known at least among a much larger group of cinephiles than before and may even break out towards more casual world-cinema fans.

Among the more familiar names receiving other awards this year are actors Javier Bardem and Juliette Binoche, who spoke about imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi. David Hudson has a lot more.

Here’s the trailer for this year’s big winner. It’s beautiful, haunting, and a gently creepy in the way of a fairy tale, but this may not for everyone. Something tells me that Joe won’t be teaming up with Jerry Bruckheimer any time soon.

  

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