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Cannes: Gus Van Sant and Matthew McConaughey Tackle ‘The Sea of Trees’ Takedowns

Cannes: Gus Van Sant and Matthew McConaughey Tackle 'The Sea of Trees' Takedowns

READ MORE: The Indiewire 2015 Cannes Bible

Many people — Indiewire included — came to the 2015 Cannes Film Festival hoping for a major comeback from Gus Van Sant, who is in competition for this year’s Palme d’Or for his drama “The Sea of Trees,” written by “Buried” scribe Chris Sparling. Van Sant, an indie icon and Palme d’Or winner for 2003’s “Elephant,” has in recent years misfired with the tepidly received dramas “Restless” and “Promised Land.”
Unfortunately, as Indiewire’s Eric Kohn put it bluntly in his scathing review following last night’s first screening, “The Sea of Trees” is the filmmaker’s “worst” yet. Kohn is not alone; the solemn drama was met with the first loud boos of the festival. (This writer sat next to a man who hissed as the credits rolled!)

“Anyone has as much right to boo as they do to ovate,” said “Sea of Trees” star Matthew McConaughey rather matter-of-factly at today’s Cannes press conference for the film. In it, the recent Oscar winner plays a suicidal American who travels to the “suicide forest” at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan with the intention to kill himself.

The quote came late in the discussion, following an earlier instance where a bearded and tanned McConaughey defensively told the press that he “likes” the film and “liked the experience of making it.” Asked what being at Cannes with “Sea of Trees” means to him, he said, “I look at this as a sort of dessert… no matter what we’re declared now, here it is, thanks for having us, hope you enjoy.”

“I read one review this morning and it was very definitive,” Van Sant said later, when probed about the negative reception to his film. “I was imagining everyone [had the same opinion]. It was like, now I know where we stand.”

Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate acquired “The Sea of Trees” before its Cannes premiere. Expect to see it in theaters this year.

READ MORE: ‘The Sea of Trees’ is Gus Van Sant’s Worst Movie

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