The controversial French period drama starring Johnny Depp, Jeanne Du Barry, opened this year’s Cannes Film Festival, receiving a seven-minute-long standing ovation.
Even Anurag Kashyap’s stylish neo-noir Kennedy received an applause of the same duration after it was screened in the Midnight Screening Section.
Proud moment for Indians! #RahulBhat and #AnuragKashyap's film #Kennedy gets applauded at the premier of #CannesFilmFestival2023 with a 7 minute long standing ovation, actor gets all emotional watching the crowd appreciating his opening and closing scenes! This is their second… pic.twitter.com/33LPRx94zf— Ramesh Bala (@rameshlaus) May 25, 2023
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Harrison Ford’s final outing as the classic archeologist, similarly received an applause that lasted for five minutes.
Despite these instances making headlines, such prolonged standing ovations are nothing new at Cannes. In fact, a five-minute-long standing ovation is considered to be normal or even lukewarm as Cannes reportage suggests. Yes, Kennedy and Jeanne Du Barry found people clapping for seven minutes but Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon received a nine-minute-long applause!
Yes, it’s that petty of a competition at the French film festival.
Standing ovations have become a classic Cannes cliche with perhaps the festival attendees just clapping and clapping out of peer pressure!
A duration of 5-7 minutes doesn’t seem extraordinary given how Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy epic Pan’s Labyrinth was applauded for 22 minutes in 2006. While it still maintains the record for the longest standing ovation at Cannes, many other films have gone on to generate such a cacophony of claps.
Last year, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was cheered on for 12 minutes, the same as the silent film The Artist that went on to win the Best Picture Oscar (arguably not a win that aged well; with many today regarding it as overrated).
Even before Kennedy, Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur (which was screened in its five-hour original cut at the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2012 edition) received a standing ovation (although it hasn’t been clocked yet).
However, it is worth noting that the films with the longest standing ovations at Cannes are all 21st century releases ranging from Michael Moore’s satirical documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 (20 minutes) to the Lebanese drama Capernaum (15 minutes).
Even though it is difficult to determine when exactly the practice of extremely long standing ovations started at the 76-year-old festival, it is clear that people began clapping for at least more than 10 minutes starting with the 2000s.
It is possible that a long standing ovation would have followed a Cannes screening but European media would have covered it (which it hasn’t if one digs the Cannes archives).
But that doesn’t mean that the film fraternity didn’t have the stamina to clap non-stop in the past. After all, when Charlie Chaplin returned to America (after decades of suspicion on his political affiliations) to receive his Honorary Oscar in 1972, Hollywood welcomed him back with a 12-minute-long standing ovation (the longest ever in Oscar history).
No matter how good a film is at Cannes, there is no straight answer to why audiences indulge in such long standing ovations. Peer pressure and aping influential figures seems like a common reason.
For instance, as ABC reported the aftermath of Killers of the Flower Moon’s premiere, a deafening applause was heard which began to die down until leading man Leonardo DiCaprio and members of the Osage Nation (the indigenous group featured in the film) began cheering. Suddenly, it seemed like the rest of the audience got re-energised and wished to follow DiCaprio’s cue to clap more, resulting in an ovation that lasted for nine minutes.
According to Associated Press, the cameras at Cannes start panning across the audience with many of the “clappers” getting their own zoom-ins. So, joining the applause for a longer period than usual guarantees a good photo opportunity in front of the cameras.
So, the next time if you decide to attend Cannes (much like the Indian social media influencers this year), be sure to do some hand exercises. Who knows if the camera will linger on you while you clap non-stop for 20 minutes!