Cannes: Anatomy of a standing ovation for ‘The French Dispatch’

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CANNES, France — Wes Anderson has been waiting a long time for “The French Dispatch” to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

A star-studded comedy anthology about the latest issue of a literary magazine, ‘The French Dispatch’ was due to debut here last year until the pandemic prevented the festival from taking place. Instead of releasing his movie in the meantime, Anderson kept it for another year, and at Monday night’s glitzy Cannes premiere, he finally got his wish.

The film festival too. Cannes runs primarily on the cult of authors and movie stars, and “The French Dispatch” has offered plenty of servings of both. Cast members including Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro and Owen Wilson all came out in favor of Anderson’s film, contributing to what is almost certainly the biggest movie premiere ever. place since the start of the pandemic.

Cannes responded in kind, and the audience at the Grand Théâtre Lumière gave “The French Dispatch” a nine-minute standing ovation after the closing credits. These epic orgies of applause are one of the festival’s best-known oddities, but for outsiders the ovations must be confusing: do the audience really stand and clap for that long? Wouldn’t that get old quickly?

Let me explain how a standing ovation works in Cannes, using last night’s standing O for “The French Dispatch” as a minute-by-minute template. It’s a standing ovation Anderson must have been anticipating for over a year, even though it looked like he wanted it to end as soon as it started.

1 second in: The credits end, the lights come on and the jubilant audience rises. A cameraman rushes to the middle of the theater, where Anderson and his cast are seated. As he films them, the image is broadcast simultaneously on the big screen of the Lumière, which draws even more applause from the crowd.

6 seconds in: Although Anderson has risen from his seat, the rest of his cast remains conspicuously seated. Nervous, he tries to convince them to stand by his side, but the actors hold on: they want Anderson to have his own moment where he can be singularly applauded for his work.

36 seconds in: Half a minute of adulation is about all the visibly uncomfortable Anderson can take. To his right are Chalamet and actress Lyna Khoudri, who play the French revolutionaries in the film, and Anderson begs them to stand up. They begin to do so, but when Chalamet looks around and sees that no other actor has stood up, he stays where he is.

45 seconds in: Murray stands up and waves to the cheering audience. You can see the rest of the cast making mental calculations: “Well, if Bill Murray is going to get up, then I guess it’s time to get up.” They all stand up.

1 minute and 10 seconds in: Murray pulls out a fan and begins blowing cool air on his manager. Hey, if the standing ovation is going to last several minutes, might as well sprinkle in some comedy bits to pass the time.

1 minute and 30 seconds in: the actor Mathieu Amalric pulls out his iPhone and starts recording a video of the casting. Which is fitting, since everyone in the Light also has an iPhone trained on them.

1 minute and 50 seconds in: Swinton toes the line of her co-stars, giving del Toro and Adrien Brody a double kiss on the cheek. Let me try to describe Swinton’s outfit, which consists of a satiny pink blouse, shimmering green sleeves and an orange skirt: it looks like the most glamorous plate of fruit you’ve ever seen. .

2 minutes in: How can a standing ovation in Cannes last more than two minutes? Here’s the trick: Lumière’s cameraman, who previously recorded a wide shot of the cast, now switches to sustained close-ups of each actor. This allows the audience to give each of the performers their own round of applause, and is also why Cannes films with a large ensemble tend to get longer standing ovations.

2 minutes and 20 seconds in: As the camera pans from a close-up of Amalric to Khoudri, Brody runs from his spot at the very end of the cast and heads into the action. He hugs Amalric, who is near the front of the line, and the camera pulls back to cover him.

2 minutes and 37 seconds in: Chalamet now gets his close-up. “Thank you,” Chalamet said as the audience clapped wildly. He then points to Anderson, encouraging the cameraman to film him instead.

2 minutes and 55 seconds in: Anderson stands with Wilson and seems completely uninterested in enduring another half minute of prolonged public attention. The camera instead locates Swinton, a Cannes veteran who is in three films here this year. Though she’s a seasoned pro at taking a standing ovation, Swinton shakes her head no and points to her director. Eventually, she takes the initiative and pushes the camera towards Anderson herself.

3 minutes and 23 seconds in: The cameraman lingers on a close-up of Anderson, who whips the weary crowd into another round of shouts and cheers. But it’s clear the director doesn’t know what to do with himself when he’s the only focus of the frame. He is saved by Murray, who comes for another hug.

3 minutes and 53 seconds in: Brody leans in to kiss Anderson on the cheek and ruffles his hair. We’re not even halfway through this thing.

4 minutes and 30 seconds in: Swinton takes the “Tilda Swinton” sign taped to her seat and sticks it to the back of Chalamet’s silver jacket. We have reached the improv-comedy part of the evening.

5 minutes and 25 seconds in: Having located del Toro at the end of the line of actors, the cameraman has now fulfilled his obligation to let each of the performers have their own solo applause session. So what will keep the ovation going? Throw mischief. The camera cuts back to Chalamet, who hides her face with the “Tilda Swinton” sign. Swinton snatches it from his hands and sticks it on his back again, in his place.

5 minutes and 50 seconds in: Now hugging Brody, Chalamet turns to the camera and makes the “LA fingers” hand gesture. Brody blows a very serious kiss at the camera.

6 minutes and 5 seconds in: Yes, we are entering minute 6. Anderson pulls out a pink handkerchief and wipes his brow. He seems to have tears in his eyes.

6 minutes and 35 seconds in: Chalamet turns to Anderson and bows in an “I’m not worthy” salute. The applause begins to beat a little. It’s time to bring out the big guns.

7 minutes and 7 seconds in: Anderson receives a microphone. He winces and tries to deflect it, but Cannes officials squeeze it into his hands anyway.

7 minutes and 15 seconds in: Anderson, who lives in Paris, begins to speak to the public in French. He calls the premiere “an honor for me”, but after seven seconds he turns to Chalamet and cracks up in English, “I don’t know what else to say.” The audience laughs and Anderson adds, “Hopefully we’ll be back soon with another one. Thanks very much.”

7 minutes and 30 seconds in: Anderson’s short speech was enough to resuscitate the crowd, and the applause returned to its original level.

7 minutes and 50 seconds in: Several French-accented cries of “Bravo!” are heard as Anderson tucks her long hair behind her ears and peers into the audience.

8 minutes and 24 seconds in: Murray walks up to Anderson and suggests he’s ready to go. Anderson couldn’t agree more, running up the aisle so quickly he bumps into the cameraman, who is still filming him.

8 minutes and 40 seconds in: It looks like the cameraman blocked Anderson’s path. He won’t get off that easily! Instead, Anderson is forced to stand in the aisle and absorb even more applause and encouraging whistles from the crowd. The expression on his face is somewhere between an awkward grimace and pure, stunned joy, which nearly nine minutes of standing ovation will do to you.

9 minutes in: The cameraman relents and allows Anderson to move on. As the director and his cast leave the theater, the ovation finally dies down. The French rush outside to smoke, the Americans rush outside to tweet, and in a few different languages ​​I hear a plaintive question: “Is there an after-party?”

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