Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Lars Von Trier's new film Anti-Christ premiered in Cannes this past Sunday, and apparently it's a mood-conceived provocation consisting of elements of explicit sexuality and extreme acts of violence.  One comparison levied at the film is "Bergman meets Saw."  As cautious as I should be towards valuing pithy analogies such as that one, I do find it enticing to see just how much meaning a true aesthete (which may or may not be Lars Von Trier) can shake out of a film whose premise, trailer, and, now, reception makes it look like a work of unadulterated exploitation cinema.

I am confident there will be much to find profound and revealing about this film, in spite of alleged grue and naughtiness.

A Daily Mail reporter in the Cannes Press Conference (pictured above) made a concerted effort to be particularly combative.  Initially in a perfectly acceptable manner, he asked Von Trier to, for "his benefit," explain and "justify" why he made this film.  When Von Trier gave an also perfectly acceptable, very reasonably conveyed answer of "No," due to the use of the word "justify" and likely its inconsistency with a certain regard he has for the meaning this work has to him, the reporter went on to interrupt him with a very stern, "No, you must," insisting he has an obligation to explain himself as a filmmaker at Cannes - because Cannes is such a big deal, ya know?  As big a deal as the Vatican.  Or a 17th century Spanish tribunal, I guess, in terms of having to perform moral auto da fe to the Cinema-Gods.  Well, I guess more like the Vatican, considering all the yacht parties, sun-bathing celebrities, and less immediate life-and-death business dealings.

Then proceeds lots of murmuring and one reporter coming to Lars' defense, proclaiming Lars an "artist" and the reporter-douche "not-an-artist," which is a defense against criticism I find a bit limited, but works in this circumstance.

But wait, how do I know this?  Am I at Cannes right now?  No, I'm not, goddamnit, because if I were, I, my brain, and all my senses (and I mean all my senses) would be right this second taking in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.  

No, there's video coverage available on the official Cannes website.  For the Anti-Christ conference, just click the following and enjoy: http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/mediaPlayer/9902.html.

Some further thoughts about Lars Von Trier's foray into the horror genre: 

Speaking as a fan of the horror genre, I would actually have preferred the film received more traditional, sober praise (or scorn)... but, all evidence considered, this response was much more in-the-cards (the love/hate/rioting/disgust/arousal).  I still lament the fact that we have a filmmaker here who has evoked incredibly precise, incredibly stimulating sociological treatises in his previous films, and when he makes his big, high-profile leap into the horror genre, remarks about the film's philosophical "plumbings" seem relegated to the usual horror tropes of "the depths of depravity and evil," and this idea of taking the genre to the "extremes" of abject violence as if that's the only place for horror films to meaningfully go.  I would've much preferred an alternate universe where Von Trier came up with a film consisting of scares and supernatural elements that tackled his usual lofty, highly discursive subject matter, instead of him exploring what are essentially the excesses of the horror genre - although, again, I look forward to this film greatly and expect a lot from it.  It doesn't seem like Lars did much to "class up" the genre, though... not that I necessarily would have wanted that.  Films like The Orphanage are said to class up the horror genre... and man was that film boring and often the opposite of classy.  What I ideally wanted was a classic philosophically-dense and challenging Von Trier dissertation that happens to be scary.  But I am very cool with what it seems like we've got - a mood piece-turn-shock cinema nightmare painting from a thinking-man provocateur.

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