Forgive the tardiness (which I’m blaming on Sicilian distractions), but Peter Howell‘s 5.27 Toronto Star piece on the decision by Tim Burton‘s Cannes jury to hand the Palme d’Or to Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is delicious stuff.

“In the same week that Burton’s box-office champ Alice In Wonderland hit the $1 billion mark globally, one of just six movies ever to do so, he presided over golden laurels for a film so resolutely uncommercial, even Thais can’t figure it out. The gesture struck me as one of the most political and cynical moves ever from a Cannes jury. Burton and his crew, acting on his cue, wanted to show how cool and cutting-edge they were.

“Many critics at Cannes, who are used to seeing challenging material, found Uncle Boonmee to be a shapeless mass of wacky images masquerading as a spiritual journey. I predict that a lot of people will be saying, ‘This won the Palme d’Or?’ when Uncle Boonmeescreens at TIFF this September, as it most likely will.

“I don’t completely disparage Uncle Boonmee [in my review]. I was impressed by the vivid cinematography and by Weerasethakul’s inventive use of special effects, which he achieved with a tiny budget. But did it deserve the Palme, a prize second only to Oscar’s Best Picture for prestige and previously awarded to such classics as La Dolce Vita, Apocalypse Now and Kagemusha? No way.

“As a cinema experience, Uncle Boonmee is about as gripping as watching a variety store security video. There is no acting to speak of, only rote line readings of mystical babble.

“Burton said he was simply enraptured by Uncle Boonmee, precisely because it was so unlike the Hollywood fare that Burton personally chooses to make. He’s delighted to see other people taking chances that he’s afraid to take himself.

“If Burton is so thrilled by such avant-garde experiences as Uncle Boonmee, why doesn’t he try making one himself instead of always swinging for the multiplex with movies starring Johnny Depp, his favorite A-lister, and proven stories like Alice in Wonderland?

“Even better, why doesn’t he use some of his Alice loot to help promote, distribute and champion independent films like Uncle Boonmee, instead of just handing out golden goodies before jetting back to Hollywood for his next Johnny Depp power breakfast?”