A Cannes cameraman explains how he films standing ovations
“The cameraman has the responsibility to carry the emotion of the piece,” Cortet said. And those emotions can be very strong at Cannes, especially when the film ends and the lights come on for the first time. “It’s the moment where I’m able to catch a hug, a discussion between two people — I can navigate through those different moments,” Cortet said. “I like it more when it’s messy.”
Minutes into these candid moments, Cortet locks himself into a routine: he’ll walk down the row of actors, filming each of them for a surprisingly long amount of time, a phase he calls “eye line.” It’s the track that often extends the standing ovation to record levels, especially if there’s a large ensemble cast and a famous director in attendance. Then, once everyone has had a solo moment in front of Cortet’s camera, they can team up in new combinations, a phase that fleshes out the standing ovation clock even further.
And just over Cortet’s shoulder at most previews is festival director Thierry Frémaux, who pushes the cameraman even closer to the stars, exclaiming, “Close up! Shut up!” Turning the eye line is “a mix of me feeling the emotion and knowing how to shoot it, and Thierry knowing who to aim for,” Cortet said, adding with a laugh, “I prefer when I’m alone.”
Some Cannes regulars, like Spike Lee and David Lynch, are now familiar with Cortet and give him a wink or nod when he launches into the shot. “These directors, who are usually on the other side of the camera, recognize the difficulty,” he said. “It’s a pleasure for me to see that they have empathy for the situation.”
But not every director can stand it. During “The French Dispatch” standing ovation, Cantet moved down the aisle to block Wes Anderson when he noticed the author staring at the releases.
“I have to stop the directors from leaving!” he said. “They want to go past me.”
Cortet usually doesn’t enter the theater until 10 minutes from the end, so it’s sometimes hard for him to understand how well the movie has gone until the crowd jumps out of their seats. “I don’t feel the same emotions as the people in the room,” he said. “I don’t understand the reason for this raw moment.”