Where does this mania for endless standing ovations come from?

A bit like we expect to see the earth tremble under Taylor Swift’s feet, we can’t imagine a session at the Palais des Festivals without a standing ovation worthy of the name. These great public demonstrations are part of the folklore of the Cannes Film Festival. Kevin Costner can testify on the subject. The director of the western Horizon: an American saga let a few tears appear in front of the endless ovation which lasted seven minutes at the end of the screening of his film, presented Sunday out of competition.

Should we have seen this as a sign of deep boredom, as an article in the BBC published this Wednesday? Seven minutes of applause is flattering, but it’s long. Especially when we spend them smiling and nodding in thanks.

Faces projected on the big screen

In 2021, Annette by Leos Carax, with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, who opened the Festival, received a five-minute standing ovation, recalls the BBC, so much so that the main actor took the opportunity to smoke a cigarette. This year, The Shrouds by David Cronenberg, who nevertheless did not excite some of the press, was applauded for more than three minutes.

With the (very) alcoholic evenings by the sea, the long queues of sunburned journalists and the parades of great fashion designers on the red carpet, these acclamations at the end of screenings of the films in the selection contribute to the magic of the Croisette. So much so that it is not uncommon to see spectators timing the event.

“In most festivals, there is applause when the film crew is in the room,” notes Caroline Vié, film journalist for 20 minutes. But, in Cannes, it has become a real tradition, especially since, for three or four years, the director and his actors have been invited to comment after the standing ovation.” A folklore that we also find at the Venice Film Festival. “Two years ago, for Les Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh, there were 13 minutes of standing ovation in Venice,” remembers Eric Jolivalt, director of programming at Maison Dulac. According to him, there are two types of standing ovations, the one before the screening to salute a sacred monster of cinema, like Francis Ford Coppola who was applauded twenty minutes before unveiling his latest opus Megalopolisand the one at the end of the session.

The staging of the standing ovation

“The fervor of the ovation shows how much the film was appreciated,” observes Caroline Vié. “That says something about what happened in the room,” confirms Eric Jolivalt. But the Cannes Film Festival has nothing to do with it. He works on staging standing ovations. The end credits are cut, the actors’ faces are filmed in close-up and projected on the giant screen. “There is a real search for the sequence where we see everyone in tears, the team hugging each other,” describes Eric Jolivalt. And it works almost every time.

To date the record is held by Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro in 2006. According to The Independent, the film was acclaimed for 22 long minutes. The time of an episode of Friends.

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