The Sea of Trees and five other famous Cannes flops

James McGlade

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Gus Van Sant's 'The Sea of Trees' - Image Credit: Indiewire
Gus Van Sant’s ‘The Sea of Trees’ – Image Credit: Indiewire
In the midst of a career revival that critics refer to as the McConnaissance, when word got out that Matthew McConaughey would be teaming up with director Gus Van Sant for a drama about a man who travels to Japan to kill himself, many thought it sounded like Oscar material.

But, according to its reception at the Cannes film festival, The Sea of Trees would be more suited to a couple of Razzie nods.

In the movie, McConaughey’s character is wracked with guilt over the state of his marriage (with his wife being played by Naomi Watts) and crosses the world to find Japan’s famous ‘suicide forest’. While there he meets a Japanese man (played by Ken Watanabe) and the two discuss life in a self-reflective journey that’s a bit too schmaltzy for some critics.

It’s not the first hotly anticipated movie to flop at the film festival, as the list below shows.

1) Only God Forgives (2013)

Pairing up leading man Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn once again, this movie was expected to be as slick and cool as their previous outing Drive.

It divided critics with some adoring the direction and cinematography that made Drive special, while others criticised its preference for style over substance and it’s insistence on ultra-violence.

2) Grace of Monaco (2014)

This biopic of Hollywood actress turned Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly was destroyed by critics who found it to be hollow and laughable.

Nicole Kidman was generally applauded for her efforts in the shambolic production with nearly everything else slammed. Tim Roth received pretty scathing reviews with Stephen Dalton of The Hollywood Reporter writing, “Tim Roth never convinces as Rainier, chain-smoking through every scene with a pained frown suggesting mild constipation.”

3) Lost River (2014)

Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut showed that he had been taking notes on his adventures with Nicolas Winding Refn.

Although this film features some beautiful shots of the desolate wasteland around Detroit, but the film as a whole was nothing special. Robbie Collins of the Daily Telegraph summed it up well when he wrote, “[the film was] so mind-bogglingly pleased with itself that the words ‘five stars – a masterpiece – Ryan Gosling’ might as well appear on the poster”.

4) Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert De Niro played a mentally unstable Vietnam veteran who decides to become a vigilante after his nights as a taxi driver opened his eyes to the sleaze and decadence around him in this Martin Scorcese classic.

It’s place in film history is secure but those in attendance at its Cannes premiere weren’t so keen on it and booed when the film won the Palme d’Or prize for best film!

5) The Brown Bunny (2003)

The Brown Bunny film poster
The Brown Bunny film poster

Called the worst film in the history of Cannes by famous film critic Roger Ebert, The Brown Bunny made headlines for one particular scene rather than the film as a whole.

Chloe Sevigny performs an unsimulated sex scene with leading man Vincent Gallo, the Frenchman also directing, writing and producing the controversial movie about a motorcycle racer haunted by memories of his former lover.

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James McGlade