Palme d’Or winner ‘Uncle Boonmee’ heads to the U.S.


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Palme d’Or winners don’t have a huge track record here in the States -- the occasional Michael Moore entry aside, they usually earn in the vicinity of $4 million (“The Class”), or $1 million (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”).

But then, $4 million would hardly be a bad result for “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s quirky Palme d’Or winner from this year, about a country man who has visions as he lies on his deathbed (putting it reductively). Strand Releasing has just acquired domestic rights to the film and will bring to the U.S. next spring, and a few million dollars in box office would mean several hundred thousand people will have come to see the film, which is a lot more than we would have expected when the film played Cannes in May.


Strand released several of Weerasethakul’s previous movies, including “Syndromes and a Century,” to very minimal commercial effect. And although this film is more accessible than some of his earlier work, it has a less marketable conceit than some of the previous Palme winners. Strand, God bless it, may nonetheless be in a tough spot to push it; one could have imagined another distributor coming in and spending (marginally) more money.

Of course, the way things go these days, foreign auteurs get exposure in the U.S. in a different way, getting snapped up by studios looking to bring a touch of class to their otherwise generic projects. One can only imagine what a set that had studio executives hashing out their desires with Weerasethakul might look like. If nothing else, that would be an award-winning drama in its own right.

-- Steven Zeitchik


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