Cannes Kicks Off With Robotic 3.5-Minute Standing Ovation for AI-Themed Comedy ‘The Second Act’ Starring Léa Seydoux

The stormy clouds outside the Palais might have dampened some spirits as the credits rolled on the opening night film of the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Or maybe it was the movie itself.

“The Second Act,” Quentin Dupieux’s talky French comedy about the making of the first movie directed by AI, mustered a lukewarm 3.5-minute standing ovation on Tuesday night in Cannes.

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Dupieux attedned the premiere along with his French cast of Léa Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Vincent Lindon and Raphaël Quenard. The four actors all politely stood as a camera quickly passed by through the tepid applause.

In the meta film, these French stars play actors making a romantic comedy they know is pointless, as it’s the first movie written and directed by AI. In the opening scenes, we learn that Florence (Seydoux) wants to take things to the next level with David (Garrel), but he is no longer attracted to her and tries to pawn her off on his homophobic friend Willy (Quenard). Florence’s father (Lindon) is open to meeting her new boyfriend. Or so it seems that’s what’s happening — as the movie continues, each actor is revealed to be playing a different part from who they really are.

“The Second Act,” which opened in France on the same day as its Cannes debut, has received mixed reviews. But that’s an expected occurrence for the festival’s first screening. (Other opening night films have ranged from Johnny Depp’s period piece “Jeanne du Barry” to Nicole Kidman carrying the dud biographical drama “Grace of Monaco.”) Of “The Second Act,” Variety‘s Peter Debruge wrote that “practically every scene overstays its welcome, including the otherwise smart final shot. Dupieux’s strategy seems to be flipping or repeating certain punchlines for fresh effect, which is fine for a while, until you realize that neither ‘The Second Act’ nor those second-degree readings have much to say.”

While the movie itself might not live in Cannes infamy, the opening night ceremony featured its share of big moments to launch the world’s most glamorous celebration of cinema. Fighting back tears, Meryl Streep accepted an honorary Palme d’Or from Juliette Binoche.

Streep recalled the last time she attended Cannes, with the 1988 Australian drama “Evils Angels.” “I was already a mother of three, I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over,” she said.

The ceremony also featured a spotlight on this year’s Cannes jury, led by “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig.

Seydoux, a mainstay of French cinema, has gained popularity among English-speaking audiences as a Bond girl in 2015’s “Spectre,” and most recently featured as Lady Margot in Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part Two.” Her breakthrough role in “Blue Is the Warmest Color” (2013) earned her a Cannes best actress award, and the film also won the Palme d’Or. She served on the 2018 Cannes jury.

Dupieux’s film “Deerskin” previously opened the Directors Fortnight in Cannes in 2019. “The Second Act” is playing out of competition at Cannes.

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