Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: Get 6 Issues For £15
Get Empire magazine today and save money!
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Uncle Boonmee: An Explanation

Posted on Tuesday May 25, 2010, 23:14 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Uncle Boonmee: An Explanation

Although it hasn't exactly gone viral, I was amused to see that my (honest) Twitter reaction to Apichatpong Weerasethakul winning the Palme D'Or is being discussed on the net and that Facebook eyebrows have been raised. In retrospect, maybe it wasn't the smartest, most Wildean thing I could have said (um, “It is shit”; oops...), but it was a genuine, spontaneous reaction to a film that is, to my mind, being carried aloft by people with an agenda that can only take arthouse cinema into a cul de sac. I've read many reviews of Uncle Boonmee; all were kind in the extreme and none enlightened me one whit as to a) what actually happens in it and b) what any of it means. Those reviews were of the film I wanted to see before I went in and do not at all reflect the experience I had; I didn't think it was magical or mysterious, and neither did the 20 or so people I counted leaving – sorry, abandoning – the cinema. Their body language suggested a very reluctant defeat; I can assure you that few were pondering the mysteries of Thai culture and its rich mythologies, perhaps because it was a public screening and they didn't have the inclination (ie, weren't being paid) to do so.

Before Cannes I was aware that  Weerasethakul was an emerging talent: I didn't much like Tropical Malady or Mysterious Object At Noon but I figured there might be something there, which is why I made an effort to see Uncle Boonmee in the first place. I'm also aware of Weerasethakul's background as a fine artist, and I think fine art is the bracket into which his films belong. A director or technical prize wouldn't have bothered me, but what I can't fall in line with is the haughty Palme D'Or lobbyists, who mostly like this film for what it isn't rather than what it is.

We've seen from previous winners that this once prestigious award is perilously close to meaninglessness: from this world-renowned platform, The White Ribbon, the most exalted art movie of last year (and which I liked very much), fared dismally at the international box office, as did the excellent 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days. Compared to those films, the wilfully unintelligible Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (and hence must have seen you coming) is, to me, something of a PR disaster for the festival, a film that confirms the snobbish tastes of only an element of this year's Cannes attendees and bodes ill for an industry that has been riven into blockbusters and zero-budgeters by the recession, with little in between. I've noticed already that I've been painted as a Hollywood cheerleader, which will be somewhat ironic to people who know me, but the simple fact is this: I didn't like it, and I don't see why I have to.

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 bojangles1971
Posted on Wednesday May 26, 2010, 13:34
Who ARE you?

2 smcrutt
Posted on Thursday June 3, 2010, 16:49
Nice to see people standing by their own opinions for once instead of liking what they have been told (or paid) to like!

Even if i disagree with them, i love that i can always count on Empire's honesty when it comes to films whether they be huge blockbusters or arthouse movies like this one!

3 Deviation
Posted on Monday June 21, 2010, 19:02
Damon, how can a film that made some 10 million worldwide and cost some 600,000 Euro be seen as a failure? Also, The White Ribbon to my knowledge brought its money back in its international release, which considering the nature of the film should be more than enough (and it will make more money on dvd for sure). I hardly see those as dismal numbers.

Also you can dislike Uncle Boonmee all you want, and I champion your honesty but calling a Festival snobbish for awarding a film you dislike is quite weird.

4 Damon_Wise
Posted on Thursday June 24, 2010, 16:28
Profitability and success are very different things! My concern is that, for all the praise that was heaped on it, very few people ever saw The White Ribbon. Compared to the acres of press I saw praising the film and interviewing Haneke, the returns were alarmingly disproportionate.

Also, i didn't say the festival itself was snobbish, I said that the award played into the hands of a snobbish element of the festival's attendees. The festival does stack the cards somewhat when it chooses the movies, and "Thai Joe" has been on their tip sheet for some years now. The point of this piece is really that the Palme D'Or doesn't mean a whole lot these days. Both the US and UK used to have a great appetite for foreign movies, but both those markets have seriously dwindled. In the meantime, factions within the arthouse world are busy championing films that don't have the slightest crossover potential and seem bent on taking alternative film culture into a cul de sac where art films really are as pretentious and vacuous as a 70s Monty Python sketch would have it. I'm just seriously concerned that while blockbusters are getting bigger and stupider, the arthouse alternatives are getting smaller and ever more impenetrable.


5 Deviation
Posted on Monday July 12, 2010, 00:59
Thanks for the answer.

Still, I am not sure, even with that article that The White Ribbon can be said as failing dismally, and I don't think the article said that. And for the coverage it had (or that I witnessed), 18 million worldwide (if Box Office Mojo can be trusted) still seems like it did good money (I am more shocked on A Prophet, which was hardly impenetrable). Plus I think it is certain that the film will keep selling on DVD for a long time to come.

And I misread your Cannes comment then, sorry, but it did seem to suggest that the Festival awarded the film out of snobbery. Again, I apologize for the misreading The Uncle Bonmee review is great btw, even if I am not sure why it is pretentious (but the meaning of that word and how it is used is most of the time lost on me, unless of course, it is not describing Revolver).

6 ghost monkey
Posted on Friday November 26, 2010, 00:24
smug shit

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Night Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Fresh Meat, The Colony, Sawney
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Sunday and Monday
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Thursday and Friday
By Owen Williams

Bloody Cuts In Conversation
By Owen Williams

European Film Awards 2012
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Silje Reinamo and Thale
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Juan Martinez Moreno and Attack of the Werewolves
By Owen Williams


RECENT COMMENTS

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
"Or don't..."  Owen Williams
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your early reviews from the festivals, and of course, I'm not alway"  pythonlove
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Sundance Part Six: In The Loop
13 comments

Basterds Blog
9 comments

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009
9 comments

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview
9 comments

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!
8 comments

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!
7 comments

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!
7 comments

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
7 comments

The Wrestler
6 comments

Where to see Moon...
6 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Future Of Film: Cinema Will Cross The Uncanny Valley
The future of VFX, from believable digital humans to underwater mocap

The Future Of Film: There Will Be Another Indie Golden Age
Independent producers are growing from micro-budgets to something a lot bigger

Empire's Epic Interstellar Subscribers' Cover
The countdown begins to Christopher Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece

The Future Of Film: Your Favourite Movie WIll Be Crowdfunded
Click here to donate

The Empire Podcast #128: Interviews With Sir Roger Moore And George MacKay
Plus we say goodbye to Richard Kiel and the British Expendables are assembled...

Shut Up, World! Gary Busey Is Talking!
Strap yourselves in and meet a true Hollywood original.

Classic Feature: Gods Among Us - Paul Newman
A cat so cool he makes Steve McQueen look geeky.

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)