A man being bludgeoned to death by a fire extinguisher. A yacht full of rich socialites vomiting and pooping. An un-simulated oral sex scene. Nicole Kidman peeing on Zac Efron’s jellyfish sting. All these eye-opening movie scenes share something in common: They led to walkouts from critics and/or audience members at the Cannes Film Festival.
Getting booed or causing walkouts at Cannes has almost become a rite of passage for many of the best filmmakers of all time, from Martin Scorsese to David Lynch, Sofia Coppola, Terrence Malick, Oliver Assayas and David Cronenberg. And don’t get us started on the likes of Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noé, two filmmakers who court controversy and boos every year they show up to the Croisette. Not even films that have won Cannes’ prestigious Palme d’Or are immune to audience jeers (see last year’s “Triangle of Sadness,” plus the likes of “The Tree of Life,” “Wild at Heart” and more below).
With a latest edition of the Cannes Film Festival, controversy is already swirling. The 2023 festival opened with “Jeanne du Barry,” which marked the return of Johnny Depp to Cannes one year after his legal battle against Amber Heard. While the jury sided in Depp’s favor, he remains one of the industry’s most controversial figures and Cannes is played home to his acting comeback. The film’s director, Maïwenn, also recently admitted to spitting on a journalist at a restaurant.
Then there’s Catherine Corsini, the French filmmaker whose latest directorial effort, “Le Retour,” was a late addition to the competition lineup as the festival’s administration board investigated allegations of inappropriate incidents during filming. One such incident was the filming of a sexually-suggestive scene involving the film’s 15-year-old female protagonist. French reports also said Corsini was being accused of alleged harassment by crew members. Corsini denied such claims and called them “inaccurate.” In other words, Cannes 2023 already isn’t going down without a few controversies.
Variety looks back at the some of the most controversial films in Cannes history below.