The Cannes Film Festival – how long does your standing ovation need to be?

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We’ve been crunching the numbers around Cannes reporting and lengthy standing ovations, and here’s what the amount of time people stand up clapping at the end seems to say about your film…


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This feature contains spoilers for Mr Bean’s Holiday.

The 76th Festival de Cannes is currently well underway and film journalists are once again enjoying sun, sea, and cinema. Aside from the competition for the Palme d’Or and jury prizes, films screening out of competition include Martin Scorsese’s Killers Of The Flower Moon, Pixar’s Elemental and the long-awaited Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny.

And while Disney’s decision to launch Indiana Jones doesn’t seem to have gone well for the early critical buzz around the film, there’s one aspect of Cannes coverage that gets odder all the time, and that’s the reporting of standing ovations.

For instance, Variety copped some flak over the weekend for reporting that the fifth Indy movie received a “Lukewarm 5-Minute Cannes Ovation”. We’re not the first to say it, but gosh, we’d love a reaction that lukewarm to anything we do.

It’s odder still compared to Variety’s headline about the “Rapturous 5-Minute Standing Ovation” for Top Gun: Maverick at last year’s festival. We’re not sure how many different ways there are to read the room when people are on their feet and clapping for five whole minutes, but as in box-office coverage, what’s good for one film is apparently underwhelming for another.

This could be a blip except that when you dig deeper, the whole scale and value of the Cannes ovation thing is all over the map. And as you might have guessed, I’m not covering this phenomenon from La Croisette. But like Douglas Adams’ “many respectable physicists”, I’m not going to stand for this – partly because it’s a debasement of science, but mostly because I don’t get invited to those sorts of parties.

Indeed, my understanding of the atmosphere in Cannes comes from a reliable source – the 2007 comedy sequel Mr Bean’s Holiday, which ends with Bean doing a last-minute in-camcorder edit of a pretentious arthouse film mid-premiere. Afterwards, a lost boy is reunited with his filmmaker father, and Bean and the rest of the audience go out on the beach to sing “La Mer”.

That seems like a pretty solid response to me, but there’s hardly any clapping at all, relative to most movies that debut at the festival. In my solemn quest of about one afternoon, I’ve aggregated some of the reporting on long ovations over the years and tried to make it make sense. Please hold your applause until the end.

22 minutes: Masterpiece!

The longest reported standing ovation for a Cannes premiere was 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which sets a high bar. By now, Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish Civil War fantasy is widely agreed to be a masterpiece and the least any of us can do is applaud. Never mind that Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley beat it to the Palme d’Or! Guillermo made people stand up and clap for more than a sixth of his film’s total running time, so he’s the real winner here.

20 minutes: A movie for the moment!

Then again, a couple of years earlier, Fahrenheit 9/11 received a similarly warm response. Following the 13-minute ovation that greeted Bowling For Columbine at the 2000 festival, Michael Moore’s takedown of George W. Bush and the war on terror proved a movie for the moment, especially in the context of the US-led anti-French “freedom fries” backlash in 2004. Unlike Pan’s Labyrinth, it did win the top prize, but still, let’s not go daft – you can’t reasonably expect more than 1,200 seconds of palm-pounding for this sort of thing.

Matthew McConaughey18 minutes: It’s the McConnaissance!

It’s been around a decade since Matthew McConaughey’s career renaissance got well and truly underway, culminating with multiple Best Actor award wins for his performance as Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers’ Club during the 2014 awards season. One early omen of the McConaissance was 2012’s big ovation for Jeff Nichols’ Southern fable, Mud, in which he plays the title character. No prizes for this one, but still, that’s a lot of hand-slapping.

17 minutes: Needs more McConaughey!

We’re going to go down in minutes for the next couple of levels because an interesting pattern emerges. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey and got 18 minutes of clapping, but The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding-Refn’s woozy psychological horror about the fashion industry, has no McConaughey and its 2016 ovation was 60 seconds shorter. Are we reading too much into this? Yes! But is McConaughey also the key to raising the roof? Well…

16 minutes: Too much McConaughey?

Before you get on the phone to McConaughey, just remember that the same year as Mud floored the festival, he appeared in another movie that was in contention – Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. McConaughey plays more of a supporting role in this sleazy and sweaty erotic noir, which was instantly pigeonholed as “the film where Nicole Kidman does a wee on Zac Efron” because… well, we won’t go any more spoilerific than that. Not only did this effort deliver a piffling 16-minute ovation, but according to The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin in his review from the world premiere, the “cacophonous quarter-hour of jeering, squawking and mooing” wasn’t necessarily as positive as first reported.

It’s not good, but it’s alright, alright, alright…

Elvis11 – 12 minutes: All aboard the Oscar train!

The festival takes place in May, and these 11- to 12-minuters are usually films that stay in the awards season discussion until the Oscars, 10 months later. Maybe films like The Artist or Elvis (more lovely headline work from Variety there, crediting the entire uproar to Austin Butler’s on-stage pelvic sorcery) could easy do 20 minutes plus in the moment, or maybe some people in the room are holding their applause to give their poor, red-raw fingers a rest. Or maybe these films are mathematically about half as good as Pan’s Labyrinth, which would be high praise for a lot of the films that usually win Oscars instead.

10 minutes: ???!

10 minutes is as long as four-and-a-bit plays of “We Will Rock You” by Queen, and you could still hear more clapping after each of the films in this mixed bag. Movies that earned a nice round 10 minutes of applause over the years include Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic, Todd Haynes’ Carol, and Jodie Foster’s The Beaver. What the heck would that DVD boxset be called? Who knows, but stick that on a shelf at HMV and it would go like the clappers, or specifically like they did 10 minutes and 1 second after each of those films finished…


9 minutes: Watch out for that cameraman!

Ever since Pulp Fiction was booed for winning the Palme d’Or in 1994, Quentin Tarantino’s movies have divided audiences at Cannes. Later, his revisionist tale of occupied France, Inglourious Basterds, reportedly got both boos during the screening and an 8- to 11-minute ovation when it ended. Tarantino later stated that he re-edited the movie between the premiere and the general release as some scenes weren’t finished in time for Cannes.

But the 9-minuter in question is QT’s most recent film Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, which gave us this frankly hilarious video in which the cameraman, for reasons best known to himself, decides to wander down the row that the director and his cast are in and stick the lens right up their noses to capture the moment. The quick cut to another angle that reveals just how unnaturally close he is? Now that’s what I call cinema…

Less than 5 minutes: Quit filmmaking, you bum!

I mean, it’s not even worth turning the stopwatch on. How dare you bring this to La Croisette? Why don’t you go outside and sing with Mr Bean? Leave cinema to the artists and Matthew McConaughey, and this particularly bananas brand of coverage to the intrepid reporters on the ground…

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