It was the “boo” heard around the world.
Early buzz on Sofia Coppola‘s “Marie Antoinette” at Cannes seems to have built largely on one bit of info: that some attendees of the first press screening — at 8:30 a.m. on May 24 — had booed the film at its conclusion.
But in a scenario worthy of an Oliver Stone conspiracy film, it remains murky how much booing there was and who did it. Was it a handful of vocal malcontents? A lone booer?
Media reports ran the gamut: The New York Times wrote that the film “filled the theater with lusty boos and smatterings of applause.” Variety‘s Cannes edition deemed it “a cacophony of Gallic-accented boos” competing with applause. The Associated Press said there were “equal amounts of applause and catcalls.” Reuters said there were “some boos.” And the L.A. Times blog report noted, “Yes, there was booing at that infamous first press screening on Wednesday morning, but there was also applause, and even some cheers.”
Then there’s the question of accent. Most media reports attributed the boos to the French, with the notion that Gauls might be offended having their history filtered through an American perspective.
But some, including those in the Coppola camp, question whether it was the French, or the Brits or some other nationality.
After all, the film opened to robust numbers at the Gallic box office the same day and received largely positive reviews from Gallic critics.
One Brit insists, “There was nothing Anglo-Saxon about the booing; it was more of a ‘beurgh’ than a ‘boo.’ ”
Another attendee counters that it was a handful of drunken Brits.
Booing’s nothing new at Cannes. Pics ranging from Michelangelo Antonioni‘s “L’Avventura” to Vincent Gallo‘s “Brown Bunny” have famously been booed.
But the outburst at the “Marie” screening did surprise some veteran fest journos, who note that 99% of films don’t get booed at all, and that just a few boos by a dozen or so people can have a magnifying effect in close quarters. The boos for “Marie” may only have come from a minority, but the effect was significant and shocking.
But to some, the vocal reaction is a badge of honor. At Cannes, movies don’t get booed for being bad — they get booed for being shocking or transgressive. Bad movies just inspire walkouts.