The Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival) is upon us. May 15-26, filmmakers and celebrities from around the globe will gather for the 12-day event in the small city of Cannes, France to celebrate films of every genre. The festival is the largest international cinematic art showcase, and a major platform for film commerce, as it provides an avenue for producers to launch their first-time films in attempt to sell to distributors worldwide. Thousands of films are submitted each year, with roughly 50 (and 30 shorts) chosen by the selection committee as Official Selections. While the festival could easily make the career of the next Quentin Tarantino, it also seems that every year at least one notable project premieres not to the sound of cheers, but to deafening silence or boos. This year, one victim could very well be director Baz Luhrmann's highly anticipated adaptation of "The Great Gatsby," as it is set to open the festival and is already receiving negative reviews from U.S. critics. Only time will tell on that front. Meanwhile, let's take a look at some other popular Cannes' flops in recent years.
The Brown Bunny (2003)
Let's start with a film that received a particularly scathing review from the late Roger Ebert. After its premiere, the controversial film (due to an unsimulated oral sex scene at the end between the two main characters) was torn apart by the legendary film critic. And while you may assume this was due to the sexual content, Ebert clarified that it was "not because of sex, violence, or politics, but simply because of its awfulness." He even proceeded to call the film the worst in the history of Cannes, which set off a battle of words between him and the director, Vincent Gallo, in which Gallo made light of Ebert's weight. But in the end, Gallo re-edited the film for release at the Toronto International Film Festival later that year, and Ebert gave the new cut three out of four stars and a "thumbs up" on his television show "Ebert & Roeper."
Southland Tales (2006)
What better way to follow up "The Brown Bunny" than with a film that Roger Ebert referred to as, you guessed it, the most disastrous Cannes' screening since. But this wasn't solely a Roger Ebert opinion. The film, a follow-up directing effort from Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko"), was panned by almost every critic in attendance, with complaints ranging from the movie's absurdly long running time of 160 minutes, to its general ugliness and lack of direction. Although there are plenty of negative reviews to sum up how poorly the film was received, we're going to go with Empire Magazine's initial take that "this was a film that seemed to willfully defy the most rudimentary expectations of entertainment." Amazingly, the film was still picked up and distributed by Sony, but even shortened cuts of the film that were eventually released received mixed to negative reviews.
The Confessions of a Child of the Century (2012)
Regarded as the highest profile flop of the festival last year, this film may even be partly responsible for rocker and former co-frontman of the UK band "The Libertines" Pete Doherty checking himself back into rehab shortly after the premiere. Sadly, it's Pete's own terrible acting that caused the film to bomb as badly as it did, based on the autobiography of French novelist Alfred de Musset. To sum it up as bluntly as possible, here's a review from The Guardian's Catherine Shoard: "Pete Doherty’s performance as a philosophising dandy is as catastrophic as the rest of this insufferable film." And with that being one of the more kind reviews, you get the picture.
Visage (Face) (2009)
It's probably not a good sign when half of the audience members walk out of the first screening of your new film, especially when it is the first to ever be produced by the world-famous French museum, the Louvre. But that's exactly the reception received by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang during the screening of "Visage." While it was said to be visually stunning, as parts of it were actually filmed in the Louvre itself, Variety said the film "[wound] up seriously irritating the skin without ever actually getting under it."
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Just because a film makes almost three quarters of a billion dollars in the worldwide box office doesn't mean it is necessarily a well-received film. Case in point: "The Da Vinci Code." Since many of us have seen the film, we can understand where reviews such as the following are coming from: "It’s a movie about whether the greatest story ever told is true or not, and it’s not the greatest movie ever screened, is it?" (London's Daily Mail). And yes, while one perhaps mentally unstable reviewer was quoted as saying "You'll Louvre it!," the rest of the initial Cannes audience was too busy laughing at lines such as "You are the last living descendent of Jesus Christ" to care.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
You don't walk into someone's house and tinker with their things. Yet, in a sense, this is precisely what Sofia Coppola did with this film, which is a highly stylized and modernized version of a subject much more familiar to the French than here in the U.S. A period piece nearly absent of any of the political context, where characters aren't speaking in accents and are accompanied by a soundtrack of new wave and punk music ranging from the 1980s to the early 2000s, its no wonder it garnered a negative response. In fact, like many a Cannes flop before it, the film was met with "boos" upon its conclusion. However, once released on a grander scale, the film surprisingly sat well with most French critics.
Enter the Void (2009)
One pattern when it comes to Cannes flops appears to be a long running time. It's one thing to be a bad film, but it's even more irritating to be a long, bad film. Director Gaspar Noé's was both, as no one wants to sit through a 154-minute film about an out-of-body experience shot in first-person point of view that resembles a mix between the FX reel near the end of "2001: A Space Odyssey" and a cheap looking neon computer screensaver. This is why the film was described as "a padding of simple ideas, stereotypes and cliches in a heap of contrived and vain images who think they're technical prowess" by such publications as French newspaper Ouest-France.
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
This movie about a corporate stooge played by Tim Robbins who is set up in a stock, also starring Paul Newman and co-written by the Coen Brothers and Sam Raimi, sounded like a slam dunk on paper. Yet, critics at both the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes alike weren't impressed. The Washington Post called the film "pointlessly flashy and compulsively overloaded with references to films of the 1930s" and said it lacked a sense of humanity. The film would go on to not only bomb with critics, but at the box office as well, grossing less than 3 millions dollars on an estimated 40 million dollar budget.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Although director David Lynch had success at Cannes with his film "Wild at Heart" two years prior, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" failed to capture critics' attention, as it was a prequel to his cancelled cult-favorite TV series "Twin Peaks," and therefore quite polarizing to anyone not familiar with the show. Sure enough, the film was booed by its Cannes audience, and critics followed suit, with USA Today going as far as to call the film "a morbidly joyless affair." Ouch.
Next: 13 Huge Summer Box Office Bombs
How could we end a list of horrible Cannes flops without a film so colorfully referred to by New York Times' critic Vincent Canby as "the kind of flop against which all subsequent flops are measured"? The film, by the legendary director of such films as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," Roman Polanski, was his first in nearly 10 years. Set primarily on a pirate ship constructed specifically for the film itself, the 40 million dollar film was torn to shreds by critics, and then again by the box office upon its release. Interestingly, however, the film was still nominated for an Oscar for "Best Costume Design."