White Noise opens in Venice to “tepid” standing ovation

White Noise gets "tepid" 150-second ovation at Venice Film Festival

LR: Adam Driver, Noah Baumbach, Don Cheadle, Greta Gerwig and Jodie Turner-Smith at the White Noise photocall in Venice
Photo: John Phillips (Getty Images)

For us normal, a movie getting any kind of ovation—let alone a standing one—is extremely rare, reserved, perhaps, only for die-hard fans at midnight Marvel screenings. It’s different for industry insiders at festival openings: these lavish affairs deserve a lavish response. It seems, to an outside perspective, that festival attendees spend half their time on their feet, clapping away for some arthouse film. The arms tire just to think of it!

This isn’t a knock on cultural festival. It’s a different environment to screen a film with the actual filmmakers in attendance, and why shouldn’t they get some real-time response to their work? But these ovations have developed a language of their own. It’s not enough to merely rise and give a clap of approval; the amount of time spent clapping translates into its own early review of the film’s quality. (Especially when actual reviews are still under embargo.)

That’s why it brings us no pleasure to report that Noah Baumbach’s White Noisewhich opened the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday night, only got a measly 150-second ovation. This reaction has been described as “brief.” It’s been described as “muted.” A room full of people on their feet for two-and-a-half minutes, and variety is calling the response “tepid.”

A single clapping-hands emoji reaction could sustain this writer through the new year, but again, the Venice Film Festival is a different beast. Denis Villeneuve’s Dunesfor instance, prompted the audience to “[roar] on for a continuous eight minutes” in 2021, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Other Venice 2021 highlights, per Imagewere spencer (three minutes) Power Of The Dog (four minutes), and Parallel Mothers (a whopping nine minutes). And don’t forget this year’s much-memified Elvis reactionan “uproarious 12-minute” affair at Cannes (per variety), where the longest ovation to date was 22 minutes (for Pan’s Labyrinth).

It’s not exactly a death knell for White Noise, but it’s presumably not the response you want when your new film opens the Venice Film Festival. Don DeLillo’s novel has been called “unfilmable,” so perhaps it’s inevitable that the adaptation would be met with a mixed response. Hopefully, Baumbach doesn’t take the measurer 150 seconds too hard. You’ll get ’em next time, champ!


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