The sex scandals, walkouts and boos of Cannes Film Festival

The sex scandals, walkouts and boos of Cannes Film Festival

What cinephiles have missed most this spring are the cries of “hon hon hon!” — the bitchy sound of French laughter — bellowing from the Côte d’Azur.

The Cannes Film Festival was originally set to take place May 12-23, but was postponed indefinitely in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every film fest has its own unique vibe: At Sundance, it’s “come for the parties, stay for the indies!” In Venice, they’d give a 10-minute standing ovation to a Q-tip. But at Cannes, the lineup is all about provocation and vicious judgement.

Le festival features some classy fare, too, like last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner “Parasite,” or Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.”

However, the press-hungry French love to set themselves apart, occasionally, by being totally depraved and disgusting — but only in black tie, please! When they feature A-list, big-budget fare, the Claudes and Claudettes like to mock and boo it.

Here are some of the most infamous titles to get slammed at Cannes:

Ron Howard’s 2006 film “The Da Vinci Code,” based on Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, stars the beloved Tom Hanks and made more than $758 million worldwide. Cannes don’t care!

When Robert Langdon (Hanks) revealed Sophie’s (Audrey Tautou) big secret during its opening-night premiere there, “laughter rippled through the theater,” the AP reported, adding that the “reaction ranged from halfhearted admiration to boredom to derision.” Some loudly booed and hissed.

THE DA VINCI CODE, Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, 2006, (c)Columbia/courtesy Everett Collection
Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in the 2006 adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel “The Da Vinci Code.”Columbia Pictures

Another Cannes classic answers the age-old question: Is there porn on Netflix? Yes, and that’s OK because it’s art. Controversial French director Gaspar Noé, who occasionally churns out a good movie such as the surprisingly less explicit “Climax,” caused a stir with his not-good “Love” at Cannes in 2015.

F65WCC Love Year : 2015 France / Belgium Director : Gaspar Noe Karl Glusman. Image shot 2015. Exact date unknown.
Karl Glusman takes a bath in Gaspar Noé’s controversial “Love” in 2015.Alamy Stock Photo

Not only is Noé’s film packed with hardcore sex scenes punctuated by wooden dialogue, they were filmed in 3-D!

You know how during that 3-D-glasses screening of “Avatar,” a flock of large alien birds seemingly flew into your face? I will say no more. “Love” got scattered walkouts and a grumpy reception from critics. Noé got the last laugh, though, when he later walked out of “Black Panther.”

Matt Dillon in 2018's bloody "The House That Jack Built."
A bloodied Matt Dillon in 2018’s “The House That Jack Built.”IFC Films/Everett Collection

If titillated French viewers didn’t storm out of the in-your-face sex scenes, they stampeded away from “The House That Jack Built” in 2018. Lars von Trier’s movie had more than 100 walkouts and a standing ovation. Matt Dillon plays a serial killer who, when he isn’t graphically mutilating women, hunts little kids with a rifle. His co-star Uma Thurman conveniently had a scheduling conflict and didn’t show up.

Let’s give the French a break. It’s their rivals the Brits who are at fault for “The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael,” which premiered at Cannes in 2005. During one scene of director Thomas Clay’s yucky film, a teenager breaks into a home and rapes the wife of a TV chef. A Variety critic called it “a sequence excruciating beyond any in memory.”

SOUTHLAND TALES, Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock, 2006. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 2006’s “Southland Tales.”Universal/Everett Collection

Dwayne Johnson’s Cannes experience was, unfortunately, not solid as a Rock. “Southland Tales,” a dystopian movie by Richard Kelly, was routed in 2006. Johnson plays an action star falling apart, and Sarah Michelle Gellar is a porn star with psychic powers. “I was dazed, confused, bewildered, bored, affronted and deafened by the boos all around me,” said Roger Ebert. The movie later went on to make a paltry $275,000 at the box office.

Whatever happens with Cannes this year, we all can’t wait to have the chance to walk out of a movie again.

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