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CANNES WATCH: McConaughey, Van Sant film greeted harshly

Matthew McConaughey poses for photographers at the photo call of the film The Sea of Trees, at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 16, 2015. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

CANNES, France (AP) — Matthew McConaughey’s remarkable comeback streak in recent years — the so called “McConaissance” — hit a bump at the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees.”

The film, about two men (McConaughey, Ken Watanabe) who find each other in a Japanese “suicide forest,” was greeted harshly by critics and was loudly booed in its initial screenings to Cannes media. Ahead of the film’s official premiere, McConaughey was sanguine about the reaction.

“Anyone has as much right to boo as they do to ovate,” McConaughey told reporters Saturday.

“The Sea of Trees,” which was picked up for U.S. distribution by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions ahead of the festival, is about a man who wrestles with guilt over a bitter marriage (Naomi Watts plays his wife) and travels to Japan to kill himself.

Variety called the film “a risibly long-winded drama.” The Hollywood Reporter slammed it as “woefully sentimental and maudlin.”

Van Sant recalled that films of his have previously drawn divisive responses in Cannes. His Palme d’Or-winning school shooting drama “Elephant,” he said, caused a fist-fight between festival audience members.

McConaughey plays another scientist character — a community college science professor — following last year’s brainy space epic “Interstellar.”

“Interstellar was an exploration out there. This was an exploration in here,” said McConaughey, pointing at his chest.

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— AP Film Writer Jake Coyle: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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