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Clapped out: do film festival standing ovations really mean anything?

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Clapped out: do film festival standing ovations really mean anything?

Art isn’t maths, on that we will all agree: there’s no scientific strategy to quantify its ambitions or its success. But in movie, particularly, we by no means cease discovering methods to organise it by numbers. Folks pore over Rotten Tomatoes scores, field workplace figures and Oscar tallies, citing data and precedents as neat bars of accomplishment. Such concerns is perhaps deemed crass on the august Cannes Movie Competition, an establishment that prides itself on an art-for-art’s-sake stance – whereas, in fact, housing a heaving worldwide market and a celebrity-swarmed purple carpet.

However Cannes attendees can’t resist discovering totally different, festival-specific metrics by which to measure even probably the most esoteric works. Day by day, individuals choose up the each day version of the UK commerce publication Display Worldwide and flip to the again web page, the place the “Display grid” displays how the movies chosen in that yr’s competitors are faring with its panel of movie critics by collating their star scores: at present, the Finnish veteran Aki Kaurismäki’s charmer Fallen Leaves is tops with a 3.2 common, a fraction of some extent forward of latest movies by Todd Haynes and Justine Triet. (It appears unlikely that any title this yr will match the three.8 file set 5 years in the past by Lee Chang-dong’s Burning.)

At different retailers, most notably the trade bible Selection, the timers are out: it has turn out to be pageant customized to time the standing ovation given any main premiere, and report the ultimate determine within the post-screening headline. Newcomers to pageant protection could also be shocked by the numbers, that are usually longer – for much longer – than most individuals would really feel snug clapping on their toes for their very own little one’s college play, not to mention a brand new movie by A-listers who hardly want the additional adulation. The stopwatch champion up to now this yr is Martin Scorsese’s muscular Osage reservation epic Killers of the Flower Moon, which clocked a nine-minute standing O – proportionally appropriate, maybe, for a 206-minute opus – whereas James Mangold’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Future was deemed by such analysts to have underwhelmed with solely 5 minutes of applause for Harrison Ford’s fifth flip within the saddle. (Nonetheless, time your self standing and clapping for 5 minutes and see how interminable that feels.)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harrison Ford at the Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny premiere
Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Harrison Ford on the Indiana Jones and the Dial of Future premiere. {Photograph}: David Fisher/Shutterstock

To take a look at such figures, some may virtually suppose there’s a logic to them: Scorsese’s spectacular movie has been glowingly reviewed, whereas Mangold’s has been broadly deemed a tepid cash-in, so are the Cannes premiere clappers making extra of a crucial assertion than their black-tie apparel may recommend? Nicely, no: clocking in simply behind Scorsese’s movie this yr, with an eight-minute ovation, is the turgid Catherine Parr biopic Firebrand. The movie could also be a letdown from the thrilling Brazilian stylist Karim Aïnouz, however stars like Alicia Vikander and Jude Regulation should get their due in applause. And no movie this yr has matched the 12 minutes given over final yr to Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, a kitsch spectacular usually made to fireside up the Cannes glitterati, even when the critiques have been combined. Some movies merely conjure momentary electrical energy within the room: timing that may be as arbitrary because it sounds.

The reality of the matter is that nearly any main black-tie premiere, with expertise in attendance, in Cannes’s huge Grand Théâtre Lumière – a brief stroll from the marginally much less glamorous Debussy theatre, the place the identical movies display screen, typically concurrently, to a much less well-dressed, extra circumspect crowd of accredited press members – goes to get a standing ovation of some period. Simply as you wouldn’t refuse to toast a pair as a visitor at their wedding ceremony, pageant etiquette merely dictates that you just be upstanding and clap-handing for any film-maker or star on their massive night time. Exceptions are uncommon and devastating: I’ve by no means felt something chillier at Cannes than the well mannered ripple of seated applause that greeted the closing credit of the American indie director David Robert Mitchell’s peculiar, typically confounding 2018 competitors entry Underneath the Silver Lake, lower than a minute earlier than everybody shuffled for the exit.

However long-term applause monitoring at Cannes has its makes use of relating to marking a possible shift in custom: the ovations are getting shorter. The all-time applause file on the pageant is held by Guillermo del Toro’s beloved Spanish civil battle fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth, which clocked a whopping 22 minutes in 2006; in 2012, even Lee Daniels’ critically reviled (however, whisper it, fairly magnificent) southern-fried thriller The Paperboy notched up 15. One can solely think about Scorsese would have topped that quantity a decade in the past.

On the flip aspect, over on the press screenings – the place standing ovations by no means occur, not least since there’s no expertise current to applaud – attendees are getting much less demonstrative with their disapproval too. A former custom of lusty booing for disliked titles hasn’t been upheld this yr: even Jessica Hausner’s divisively disagreeable Membership Zero, with its grim scenes of vomit-eating and different delights, was greeted at its first press screening with silent froideur fairly than catcalls – an altogether extra civil state of affairs. Maybe in a post-Covid Cannes, even with the restrictions of the final two pandemic-era editions lifted, persons are extra content material to maintain their reactions to themselves, or to spend fewer minutes clapping in a room with a thousand different individuals. Maybe, in a couple of years, we will cut back the ritual to a collective thumbs-up on the expertise, and all get to dinner a bit sooner.

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