Bold or boring? Press splits over Thai Cannes winner

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A surreal Thai movie that scooped top prize at this year's Cannes festival divided the European press Monday, hailed by some as the best of a "dull" crop but dismissed by others as boring or "grotesque".

In France, which received three awards Sunday night including best actress for Juliette Binoche, the verdict split down the middle on the surprise win for Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives".

Le Monde newspaper said the Cannes jury, headed by US director Tim Burton, chose to reward "an outsider of the cinematic world" among a "relatively weak" crop of films running this year for the best film Palme d'Or.

The popular Le Parisien newspaper called the choice of the Thai film a "Palme prize for the strange," while Liberation described it as a "magical and unsettling film" that provided the epilogue to a "dull" festival."

For Le Figaro however, "Uncle Boonmee" was "boring, incomprehensible and hallucinatory" and it was "the Palm prize for boredom."

In Britain, the mood was generally positive, despite the disappointment of home-favourite Mike Leigh missing out on the top award.

With "thin pickings" the jury did well to select the Thai film, The Independent said, "in a world dominated by big Hollywood franchises, nobody will begrudge Uncle Boonmee his place in the Cannes sun."

It is "an arresting work that defies categorisation", said the daily, which ran a front-page photograph of Juliette Binoche's protest against the imprisonment of Iranian director Jafar Panahi when she collected her award.

For London's The Times, the surreal drama "was the weirdest film competing for the Palme d'Or... but the experience was fantastic, intersecting landscape and memory."

Switzerland's Le Temps newspaper said the top prize proved Cannes was "one of the last places in the world where different, difficult filmmakers who are marginalised by the market can find hope to find support."

"Cannes 2010 signals the victory of risk taking," the paper said on its website.

But it also warned this was "not necessarily good news for the event."

"Viewers who discovered Apichatpong Weerasethkul at the festival... or (Chadian) Mahamat-Saleh Haroun on his Jury Prize would not return so quickly to see a film crowned on the Croisette."

Some of the harshest criticism for "Uncle Boonmee" came from Spain's leading newspaper El Pais, which called the film an "absurd and soporific tale" in an article headlined "Grotesque Palme d'Or."

But Spain devoted most front-page space to homegrown Cannes triumph Javier Bardem, who won best actor for his part in "Bitiful" by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu - and to his love life with Spanish actress Penelope Cruz.