Stop Counting the Minutes of Film Festival Ovations

Stop Counting the Minutes of Film Festival Ovations ...

Brendan Frasers heeeres at the six-minute-plus TAR ovation that greeted Cate Blanchett But wait! With a stunning 10-minute explosion, Timothee Chalamets cannibal romance Bones and All, Banshees of Inisherin gets 12 minutes! It's a photo finish! The cast milk the moment for awkward viral potential, andwas that spit?

Any cultural fragment may be reduced to a bite-sized chunk, and now it is the standing ovation. With a temporal rigor of Kentucky Derby proportions, the formal act of appreciation that dates back to Ancient Rome now dominates the news cycle at major festivals.

Enough. Don't think about film festival ovations as if they're a meaningful measure. They aren't box-office dollars or minutes streamed. Sometimes it's an act of hospitality, other times its desperation. Ovations can mean anything or nothing at all.

I attended the Telluride Film Festival just days before several Venice-ovation films made their way to the Rockies, including TAR, a film that was widely accepted, even though the screenings ended with Colorado attendees leaping to their feet and staying there. Is this ritualistic act unique to the formal atmosphere of high-profile European festivals?

Ovations follow screenings in large auditoriums hosting formal, upscale premieres, with audiences that include a mix of industry and the press. From there, it may vary depending on how the subjects milk the moment.

The camera beamed a livestream of the movies cast onto the screen during the standing ovation for Elvis at this years Cannes Film Festival. Hanks looked out at the crowd with a wry smile and gradually thrust his thumb towards Austin Butler, who was applauded on cue. A few seats away, newly anointed Warner Bros. Discovery executive David Zazlav saw the spectacle in amazement, and boasted about the film to shareholders.

After ELVIS pic.twitter.com/jocQRYgdt9, Austin Butlers big #Cannes movie moment

erickohn (@erickohn) on May 25, 2022

Standing ovations can be breathtaking experiences in the moment, as an immediate and profound reaction to the otherwise inexplicable pleasure of an aesthetic encounter. They may also be total bullshit. For the festivals, this is simply the nature of the show.

When I asked him about the recent spate of ovation reports out of Venice, I mentioned how long I should keep the room in the dark, whether or not to cut the credits, the best moment to turn on the light, etc. Every screening is a celebration, and the participation of the audience makes it much better.

Fremaux said that if the level of participation has increased in recent years, it may have something to do with the last few years. Since COVID, being in a movie theater with a great film in the presence of artists is a wonderful pleasure, he said. That explains the recent generosity.

The rise of ovation reports has a practical explanation: They reflect how media and European film festivals are adapting to meet the demands of a 21st-century news cycle. For years, Cannes, Venice, and Berlin started each day with large press screenings ahead of the evening gala premieres. This allowed journalists to get the important document of the day out of the way so they had time to file.

Andy Lauwers/REX/Shutterstock

The internet changed everything, as is your custom. Trade critics would scramble to publish reviews online minutes later, and rapidly assembled tweet roundups could deliver more media impact than the sustained criticism.

The Search, the director Michel Hazanavicius' 2014 follow-up to The Artist, was demolished well before its premiere; Hazanavicus later compared his red-carpet experience to facing a firing squad. I feel like I was born in Cannes for The Artist, he said earlier this year, but I died in Cannes for The Search.

The industry was apprehensive about lavish festival premieres, and festivals responded with a pragmatic approach. For Berlin, the embargo remains in place until the film begins. The result is a news cycle that is more centralized around the collective response than any individual response.

To fully understand festival enthusiasm, filmmaker Andre Bazin described film festivals as a religious event, with the cinema as a temple that united enthusiasts in ritualistic fervor. Nearly 70 years later, this still holds true. Festivals are designed as rigid systems based on beliefs that may or may not be connected to genuine truths.

Occupations are as ephemeral as the sound waves they produce. They should not be treated as anything other than standing ovations at a film festival. We need a litmus test that can assess duration against overall appreciation for the filmmaker, the actors, and audiences' desire to be seen appreciating a significant film.

The fact that these minute-by-minute dispatches are so unreliable that they fall short of the festival's objective: To reinforce the impression of an isolated event that has no real bearing on the future prospects of a film. I wouldnt blame anyone for jumping to your feet, even if the film doesnt really deserve it. The mere act of being there can feel like a minor miracle.