‘I love a good walkout’: Why film festivals can make audiences squirmAugust 4, 2022
David Cronenberg understands if you walk out of his new movie, Crimes of the Future. In fact, ahead of the film’s world premiere at Cannes in May, he was expecting it.
“There are some very strong scenes,” the famed body horror director told Deadline. “I’m sure that we will have walkouts within the first five minutes of the movie.”
As dramatic as that might sound, it’s not so unusual for a film at the Cannes Film Festival. And, though reports vary about how many chose to leave and when, there were certainly walkouts from Cronenberg’s film throughout the course of the festival – some during the opening minutes in which a young boy is killed, others after a scene where people orgasm from licking open wounds.
“Walkouts at Cannes are part of the fabric of the festival,” says Kate Jinx, one of the programmers of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), where Crimes of the Future film will have its Australian premiere this weekend.
From walkouts to boos to 10-minute standing ovations, having a strong reaction is “part of the fun”, she says. “I love seeing a good walkout [and] people booing a film too.
“Some of the biggest films of all time have been booed at Cannes. That includes a number of David Lynch films, Taxi Driver and, of course, David Cronenberg’s film Crash [his 1996 film about people who are sexually attracted to car crashes]. That was booed quite viciously, and prompted a lot of walkouts.”
Sometimes reports of these walkouts are overblown, Jinx says. As Cannes is full of industry types watching six films a day, people will often leave the cinema simply because they’ve got something else to get to or the movie isn’t relevant to them.
But, as a general phenomenon, walkouts can reveal a lot about what we value and what we’re willing to endure on screen – and, importantly, they happen in Australia too.
“People definitely walk out of films at MIFF,” Jinx says. “I’ve witnessed people walking out and even yelling at the screen.”
She says this is often a result of cinemagoers venturing out of their comfort zone and not quite liking what they find: “At festivals, people are a bit more open about what they’re seeing. It’s their time to expand their viewing habits.”
But, she says, “as so many of the films at MIFF are Victorian or Australian premieres, you can’t read a thousand reviews beforehand; you can’t do as much research as you normally might when picking a film [at your local cinema chain].”
If you’re at all squeamish, Jinx says you should probably steer clear of anything by Cronenberg (who has been known for aesthetically grotesque films since the ’80s). But there are other titles at MIFF which might prove a challenge too.
Triangle of Sadness will have its Australian premiere at MIFF this month.Credit:Triangle of Sadness/Sharmill Films
Despite earning the Palme d’Or and an eight-minute standing ovation, Ruben Östlund’s satire of the super-rich, Triangle of Sadness, also prompted some walkouts at Cannes over some “quite abject scenes” involving gooey oysters, champagne and sea-sickness.
And Jinx predicts the documentary De Humani Corporis Fabrica won’t be smooth sailing either. This French documentary is largely filmed via laparoscopic cameras inside the human body.
De Humani Corporis Fabrica: not the best movie to see after a dinner date.Credit:De Humani Corporis Fabrica/Les Films du Losange
While Jinx says some directors are “knowingly provocative”, like Gaspar Noé or Denis Côté (who also has a film in this year’s festival), she maintains that’s not an agenda or priority of the festival: “You don’t program for walkouts. I’ve never put a film forward that I didn’t love.”
Although she doesn’t shy away from films that will provoke conversation or disagreement either. And, though she points out anyone having a strong negative reaction to a film should certainly leave – “you don’t need to stay for the sake of cinema or anything” – she adds, “sometimes the more provocative films are more fun”.
“I think there’s something to be said for that kind of the communal experience [of people outwardly reacting to a film].
“Film festivals are important to me – especially ones like MIFF that aren’t about the industry – because it really is about the dialogues that happen around the films. It’s about the conversations that happen in the foyer, or in the line to the bathroom. Everyone talks about what they’ve just seen and, all of a sudden, all the guards are dropped between strangers.”
This is part of the reason Jinx says she’s a “glutton for punishment”.
“I sit through absolutely everything – you never know what that last 10 seconds is going to be.”
The Melbourne International Film Festival is in cinemas August 4-21 and online August 11-28. The Age is a festival partner.
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