Netflix’s Okja, a fantasy feature directed by Bong Joon Ho and starring Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal, has certainly made a big impression at Cannes 2017 – although not entirely for the right reasons.
Before the web juggernaut had even arrived at the Cannes Film Festival, the event’s director and head judge Pedro Almodóvar claimed he didn't think films without cinematic distribution ought to even be considered for the Palme d'Or prize.
So, from the moment the Netflix logo flashed on screen during today’s premiere of the film, it was loudly booed by the (historically vocal) attendees.
Worse was to come: with the heckles continuing for five minutes, it quickly transpired the film was being screened in entirely the wrong aspect ratio, cutting out much of the screen along with the face of Swinton.
According to reports, the atmosphere of the room was likened by those inside to “an unfolding prison riot environment” – which, if it’s anything like having the broadband go off during the last episode of Stranger Things, is semi-understandable.
Thankfully, sense prevailed and the film was stopped and restarted.
“The second time around the audience booed the Netflix logo again. But there was also some cheering at the same time and a warm round of applause at the end,” said the BBC’s Laura Turner.
In fact, the reviews have been unanimously positive for the film. eliciting these gushing responses in 140 characters or less:
OKJA: like ET on crack. wild & wildly uneven, but always soulful. A+ cast, 1 legendary chase, everything you want AT the movies #Cannes2017— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) May 19, 2017
So #OKJA is a fantastic mainstream movie. Smart, funny, wild, highly lovable, about a real issue, fantastic camera work, great cast.— Julia Pühringer (@JuliaPuehringer) May 19, 2017
Only Bong Joon Ho could make the story of a mutant pig and the girl who loved her both endearing & political. #Cannes2017— erickohn (@erickohn) May 19, 2017
OKJA is great. A spirited, weird, poignant plea for compassion and principle. Its closing moments feel like a benediction. #Cannes2017— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) May 19, 2017
Bong Joon-ho's Okja is a wonderful family action-adventure in the spirit of Roald Dahl, Melissa Mathison and Dodie Smith #Cannes2017— Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) May 19, 2017
That all sounds very promising, doesn’t it?
Besides, if Netflix is looking for another reason to remain optimistic, Okja is far from the only title to meet the wrath of the Cannes faithful: other films to wear the badge of honour of being jeered at the festival include Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
And clearly, having the confidence to screen Okja at such a grand event only shows the confidence Netflix must have in its latest acquisition. Written by Joon Ho and Jon Ronson – yes, the very same – it charts the story of a young girl deep in the forests of Gangwon Province, South Korea, who fights against a corporate multinational headed by Swinton’s CEO from kidnapping her best friend – a massive animal named Okja.
We’re already sold, but you can make your own mind up when the film hits the streaming service on 28 June.
Images: Rex Features