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The Most Disastrous Cannes Walkouts of All Time, Ranked

After 'Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo' gave one critic a "mild psychotic break," we revisited the worst receptions Cannes films have ever gotten.

by Drew Schwartz
May 24 2019, 8:12pm

Stills via iMDB

When Abdellatif Kechiche screened his latest film, Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo, at Cannes on Thursday, hordes of people stormed out of the theater in disgust. Kechiche is known for making sexually explicit movies—he's the same director who gave us Blue Is the Warmest Colorbut he apparently outdid himself with this one. According to one critic, "literally 60 percent of the movie is close-ups of butts," which, considering it's four hours long, sounds like way, way too many butts. Another wrote that the movie features a 13-minute long scene of some dude going down on a girl in a bathroom, a "protracted, graphic, and seemingly unsimulated" affair that basically amounted to, you know, just porn. It didn't help that Kechiche has been accused of sexual assault, nor that the stars of BITWC have spoken out about being mistreated on set—and, for all of the reasons above, the audience let Kechiche know just how much they hated Intermezzo by leaving the theater en masse.

It's far from the first time crowds have walked out of a movie at Cannes in the festival's 72-year history, and—somehow—not even the most brutal reception a film has gotten there. In honor of Kechiche's reportedly terrible, certifiably pervy, protest-inducing disaster of a screening, here are eight other times Cannes audiences dipped on a movie—ranked from "good God, that was bad" to "people literally fainted and required medical attention."

8. Crash (1996)

David Cronenberg's 1996 drama is all about people who get horny for car crashes, and the whole thing is basically just an hour and 40 minutes of the main characters doing it: They bang inside of cars, on top of cars, while they're talking about cars, while they're going through car washes—you get the picture. According to a 1996 Newsweek story about the film's Cannes screening, it was met with "numerous walkouts and a chorus of boos and whistles at the end." We're putting it eighth here because firstly, as Cannes walkouts go, that's pretty mild—but more importantly, Crash actually kind of slaps! Sure, there's a lot of weird sex stuff, and yes, it's completely unhinged, but it poses some interesting questions about our collective fetishization of technology and the nature of sex. Screw you, outraged Cannes audience of 1996. You should've had the guts to stay put.

7. Southland Tales (2006)

So this movie is weird as fuck: Basically, it's about an alternate-timeline 2008 presidential election, set in an America that just got hit with a nuclear attack, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Justin Timberlake, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, made by Richard Kelly, who did Donnie Darko. According to the New York Times, the film was "marred by walkouts and boos" at Cannes—which might not sound all that bad until you hear how hard Kelly took it.

"It was painful. I just thought, 'Please let it be over,'" he told the Times. "Part of me feels like I got away with murder. It's a film some people might consider an inaccessible B movie, and it's been slaughtered at the biggest film festival in the world."

Brutal!

6. Love (2015)

Gaspar Noé made a 3-D porno (???) and, unsurprisingly, everyone hated it! It's over two hours long, and features graphic scenes of masturbation and full-on penetration. At one point, a giant 3-D penis ejaculates into the audience. Naturally, according to the New York Times, critics walked out in droves. This one edges out Southland Tales only for gifting us the image of a bunch of people in tuxedos all jumping out of their seats in unison, fleeing a monstrous wave of jizz as it sails through the air in 3 goddamn D. Now that's a walkout!

5. The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael (2005)

Near the end of Thomas Clay's deeply, deeply graphic movie about the Iraq War, two men break into a woman's home, tie her up, take turns raping her, and then murder her. It was at that moment, according to a 2005 article in Variety about the film's Cannes screening, that "a stampede of viewers" got up and fled the theater. It's one thing for people to walk out of your shitty, needlessly grotesque film; it's another to get them to literally trip over each other trying to get away from it all at once, as quickly as they can. Congratulations, Thomas Clay—you did that.

4. Brown Bunny (2003)

The only thing you really need to know about this one is that there's a super long scene in which the director and star, Vincent Gallo, gets an actual, honest-to-god blowjob from Chloë Sevigny onscreen. Roger Ebert called it "the worst movie in the history of the Cannes Film Festival," and—because it sucked so, so bad, and featured a lot of graphic sex stuff—a bunch of people got up and left during it. But it's how they trashed it during the screening that gets Brown Bunny a spot so high up on the list. From the New York Times, which called the movie's Cannes screening "remarkable for the unrestrained hostility of the audience":

They clapped sarcastically when, for example, Mr. Gallo descended from his van on the side of the highway, walked around to the back, took out a sweater, put it on, and climbed back into the driver's seat. They whistled when he took a shower in a motel. And then, every time his name appeared in the end credits (which was often), they whistled some more, and gave voice to that French form of abuse that sounds like a cross between the lowing of a cow and the hooting of an owl.

What? Do French people actually do that? If so, I must hear this sound immediately. Good walkout!

3. Antichrist (2009)

Now we're getting into the good stuff. A whole heap of folks walked out of this one from Lars von Trier, infamous for a scene in which Willem Dafoe has his genitals mutilated and then, uh, weirdly cums? According to Morning Call, Antichrist's Cannes screening drew "gasps, titters... and boos." Not so bad! But then a handful of folks in the audience legitimately fainted during the screening, which is, you know, clinically insane.

"I thought I had my head down a lavatory, frankly," a Daily Mail journalist said at the time. Roasted.

2. The House That Jack Built (2018)

Lars von Trier strikes again! This one is also extremely violent: At one point, Matt Dillon slices off a woman's breast, which gets depicted in gruesome detail; later, he shoots two children point blank in the head. The thing was so gruesome that more than 100 people walked out of the theater, slamming the movie as "vile," "disgusting," and, surprisingly the most savage burn of all, "not art."

A 100-person strong walkout is pretty wild, almost pushing The House That Jack Built

into the number one spot here—but the worst walkout Cannes has ever seen would have to be, hands down...

1. Irréversible (2002)

When Gaspar Noé screened his unbelievably disturbing movie about a woman's rape—depicted in a brutal, 10-minute long scene that ends with her in a coma—and two men's long, bloody quest to avenge it, the entirety of Cannes basically... broke? Around 250 people walked out of the theater, and a handful of them needed urgent medical attention, a scene captured in this batshit report from the BBC:

Fire wardens had to administer oxygen to 20 people who fainted during the film... Fire brigade spokesman Lieutenant Gerard Courtel said: "In 25 years in my job I've never seen this at the Cannes festival."

“The scenes in this film are unbearable, even for us professionals."

Congratulations, Gaspar Noé: Your screening was truly, fully a shitshow, an event so deeply traumatizing that you left people in literal shock, gasping for air, receiving treatment from a fire brigade. You have won the Cannes Walkout Battle Royale.

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