The Cannes Film Festival is on, which means stopwatches are out.
Nowhere are the length of standing ovations at high-wattage premieres more carefully recorded and parsed than in Cannes. Did a movie garner a triumphant eight-minute standing ovation? Or did the audience stand for a mere four or five minutes?
How has such an unlikely metric come to reverberate around the world within minutes of a premiere? And why is everyone standing for so long?
Such effusive displays of enthusiasm have come to be a hallmark of Cannes and, sometimes, a bit of a marketing gimmick for films looking to resonate far from the Croisette. If Cannes, the world’s largest and glitziest film festival, stands for cinematic excess, its thunderous standing ovations can seem like its greatest overindulgence. No one needs a bathroom break?
Less widely understood, though, is how the pageantry of Cannes shapes and distorts standing ovations. When audiences rise after the credits roll in the Grand Theatre Lumière, Cannes’ biggest screen, they aren’t just standing and applauding the movie they just watched.
Immediately after a film wraps, a cameraman swoops in and begins shooting the filmmaker and cast members, who are sitting in the middle of the theater. That video plays live on the screen for everyone inside while the camera — often very patiently — puts each prominent actor in close-up. Applause is only partly for the movie; it’s also for each star.
The longest Cannes ovation on record belongs to Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” which scored a 22-minute feting, enough time to watch an episode of “Seinfeld” without the ads.
A stopwatch-breaking ovation doesn’t always translate to quality.