cannes it, s’il vous plaît!
With France’s Cote d’Azur film festival drawing to a close this weekend, it’s long been popular to give comical and undeserved standing ovations for just about anything that could be called a film. Next year, the Claudes and Claudettes will be jumping up on TikTok for a dancing toad (more deservedly than Lars von Trier, honestly).
The trade journals time these performative participation prizes like Olympic runners. “‘Elvis’ stuns Cannes with a 12-minute standing ovation,” Variety wrote of this week’s Baz Luhrmann premiere. “David Cronenberg’s ‘Crimes of the Future’ receives a six-minute standing ovation,” the new film’s Deadline belted out.
C’est amusing! After all, we are told that the French are the epitome of refined taste. Your Michelin guide tells us where to spend $400 on sous vide celery. Parisian fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent and Dior are world leaders in their field. There is an additional charge of $30 for sparkling wine bottles marked “Champagne”.
So pour quoi In 2012, “The Paperboy,” starring Nicole Kidman, whom the Post described as an “embarrassing waste of celluloid,” received a 16-minute standing ovation from France’s cinema elite? “The Beaver” with Mel Gibson and a 62% score on Rotten Tomatoes, a 10-minute love fest a year earlier? Gaspar Noe’s Love, which films the grand finale of a sex act in 3D, also received 10 minutes of rapturous applause in 2015. Poor eventual Best Picture winner, Parasite, only got eight minutes.
These lemming-like displays have nothing to do with quality, everything to do with the French love of mindless energy flows. At Friday’s French Open, the crowd “made the wave” for several minutes while the ready players waited, taunting them with laughter.
Despite the 720 seconds of clapping “Elvis” received, reviews were mixed. Many critics say the first half is stronger than the second, and that Tom Hanks’ accent and manners as the King’s eccentric manager are shaky. The Times of London gave a star to Cronenberg’s film about an organ harvesting performance artist starring Kristen Stewart.
There is no equivalent of this in North America. Not every premiere gets a standing O at Sundance. It’s hard to get up in snow boots and a parka. The Toronto International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and Telluride are no hymns of praise either. At Cannes, bad films are often congratulated by the tuxedo and stiletto types in the industry who gave them the privilege of walking the red carpet alongside Uma Thurman.
In New York, the closest we get to these empty enthusiasms is a standing ovation on Broadway when the worst show you’ve ever seen ends and 1,500 lunatics jump up and wave their arms wildly, as if Suzanne Somers was on stage in spandex giving instructions. They’re just as unbearable, but at least they don’t fool anyone.
Le reve would be a world in which we react to art based on how good it is – and not on the air capacity of our lungs. But that’s wishful thinking at Cannes. These maniacs represented Lars Von Trier’s House That Jack Built, a widely loathed 2018 film about the mutilation of women and children. As the audience slammed their baguettes, Variety editor Ramin Setoodeh overheard a horrified moviegoer say, “They will clap for everything.”