BAM’s ‘Booed at Cannes’ series highlights hated greats

"The Mother and the Whore," starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Bernadette Lafont and Francoise Lebrun, was booed at Cannes. Credit: New Yorker Films/Photofest
“The Mother and the Whore,” starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Bernadette Lafont and Francoise Lebrun, was booed at Cannes.
Credit: New Yorker Films/Photofest

The Cannes Film Festival, long the planet’s most prestigious, begins Wednesday, and only one thing can be said for sure: Something (or some things) will get booed. In 2011, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” was met with loud jeers at its first screening — then went on to win the Palme d’Or, the fest’s top prize. The film has good company, going deep into the festival’s six-decade history.

This trend is celebrated in the most amusing film program in awhile, “Booed at Cannes,” which runs at Brooklyn’s BAMcinematek through May 23. Fifteen films are rounded up, some more shocking than others. It’s one thing for David Cronenberg’s “Crash” (May 17) or David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” (May 11) to get vocally trounced. It’s another to imagine Michelangelo Antonioni and cast fleeing the theater after “L’Avventura” (which won the Jury Prize) got the same treatment. That film is missing from the slate, but luckily another Antonioni, “L’Eclisse” (May 10), got the same treatment. And who hates “Taxi Driver” (May 18) or Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2005 Thai wonder “Tropical Malady” (May 23) that much?

As anywhere, it’s only a handful of loud boors who make the racket. But that’s all it takes, and over the years — particularly once the awards ceremonies became televised — it’s become a cliche. Go on YouTube and watch 82-year-old Robert Bresson get heckled as he accepts an award for his final work, “L’Argent” (May 19), from Orson Welles. Ditto a grinning David Lynch (again!) as he won for “Wild at Heart” (May 11), and Maurice Pialat for “Under the Sun of Satan.” With his typical gruffness, the French filmmaker calmly retorts to his detractors, “If you don’t like me, I don’t like you either,” then pounds an up-yours fist.

“Satan” (May 9) is one of the few films that never fully recovered from its Cannes debut, despite, like “The Tree of Life,” winning the Palme d’Or. A grim religious inquiry, it’s told in a fastidious style that’s even less welcoming than Pialat’s other work. At least it won something. Federico Fellini’s 1990 swan song “The Voice in the Moon” (May 16) seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. Featuring an unaccountably reined-in Roberto Benigni — plus a crazed dance scene set to Michael Jackson — it’s a problematic but fascinating film. But how many know that? It became the director’s last, and his only one to never score an American release.

Others have trickier histories. Jean Eustache’s talky 1973 epic “The Mother and the Whore” (May 12) has become a classic, yet has eluded home video since a VHS release in the 1990s. Luis Bunuel’s “El” (May 20) and Francois Truffaut’s “The Soft Skin” (May 22) — bemoaned for being a step down from “Jules and Jim,” a Cannes toast in 1962 — have been similarly hard to peep. With Cannes 2013 looming, perhaps we can imagine a future iteration of this program resuscitating this year’s opening night film, “The Great Gatsby.”

If you go

‘Booed at Cannes’
Through May 23
BAMcinematek
30 Lafayette Ave.
Brooklyn, N.Y.
www.bam.org/film/2013/booed-at-cannes


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