Cannes' endless standing ovations are an embarrassment

Cannes’ endless standing ovations are an embarrassment

canes it, please!

Over at the French film festival on the Cote d’Azur, which wraps up this weekend, it’s long been popular to give comical and undeserved standing ovations to just about anything that could be feasibly called a film. Next year the Claudes and Claudettes will be hopping to their feet for a dancing toad on TikTok (more deserving, honestly, than Lars von Trier.)

The trade publications time these performative participation prizes like they’re Olympic runners. “’Elvis’ Stuns Cannes With 12-Minute Standing Ovation,” wrote Variety of this week’s Baz Luhrmann premiere. “David Cronenberg’s ‘Crimes of the Future’ Nabs Six-Minute Standing Ovation,” blared Deadline of the new film.

It’s funny! After all, we are told that the French are the paragon of superior taste. Their 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’s a $30 upcharge on bottles of sparkling wine with the word Champagne stamped on them.

So Why in 2012 did “The Paperboy” starring Nicole Kidman, which The Post called “an embarrassing waste of celluloid,” get 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,” in which the grand finale of a sex act is filmed in 3D, also got 10 minutes of boisterous approval in 2015. Poor eventual Best Picture winner “Parasite” received a mere eight minutes.

Tom Hanks' performance in "Elvis" was ruthlessly ripped by critics, but the film got a 12-minute standing ovation at Cannes.
Tom Hanks’ performance in “Elvis” was ruthlessly ripped by critics, but the film got a 12-minute standing ovation at Cannes.
AFP via Getty Images
Nicole Kidman "ThePaperboy."
Nicole Kidman’s film “The Paperboy” got a 16-minute standing ovation at Cannes but was excoriated by film critics.

These lemming-like displays have nothing to do with quality and everything to do with the French’s love for meaningless expirations of energy. At the French Open on Friday, the crowd did “the wave” for several minutes as the ready-to-go players waited and mocked them with laughter.

Despite the 720 seconds of clapping “Elvis” got, the reviews were mixed. Many critics say the first half is stronger than the second, and that Tom Hanks’ accent and mannerisms as the King’s eccentric manager are wonky. The Times of London gave Cronenberg’s movie about an organ-harvesting performance artist, starring Kristen Stewart, one star.

There’s no equivalent of this in North America. Not every premiere gets a standing-o at Sundance. Hard to leap to your feet in snow boots and a parka. The Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival and Telluride aren’t praise orgies, either. At Cannes, frequently crummy movies are congratulated by tuxedoed and stilettoed industry types for allowing them the privilege of walking the red carpet alongside Uma Thurman.

Uma Thurman at Cannes in 2017.
Uma Thurman was the President of the Un Certain Regard jury at Cannes in 2017.
Getty Images

In New York, the closest we have to these empty exaltations are Broadway standing ovations, when the worst show you’ve ever seen in your life ends, and 1,500 crazies leap to their feet and rabidly move their arms as if Suzanne Somers is onstage in Spandex giving instructions. Those are equally intolerable, but at least don’t fool anybody.

The dream would be a world where we responded to art based on how good it is—instead of our lungs’ capacity for air. But that’s wishful thinking with Cannes. Those lunatics stood for Lars Von Trier’s “House That Jack Built,” a widely loathed 2018 film in which women and children are mutilated. As the audience banged their baguettes together, Variety editor Ramin Setoodeh overheard an appalled moviegoer say, “They’ll clap for anything.”


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