Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

The Best Publicity Is Sometimes Bad

I'm pretty sure that Danish film direct Lars von Trier is delighted, both with the reception of his latest film Antichrist at the Cannes Film Festival and with the way that reception is written up in this wire story:
Cannes' notoriously picky critics and press often react audibly to films during screenings, but Sunday evening's viewing was unusually demonstrative.

Jeers and laughter broke out during scenes ranging from a talking fox to graphically-portrayed sexual mutilation.

Many viewers in the large Debussy cinema also appeared to take objection to von Trier's decision to dedicate his film to the revered Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky. Applause from a handful of viewers was drowned out by booing at the end.
The talking fox reminds me of an idea I had years ago, watching von Trier's film Zentropa -- now called Europa in the States, as it was all along in Europe -- of writing a piece on directorial interventions of a deus ex machina sort. Subsequently, I noted his tendency to blatantly insert his presence, in a manner disrupting traditional cinematic suture, in almost all his work. As I collect my thoughts on him right now, I think that my analysis of this tendency would have to include the role that anecdotes about his moves as a director in the real world have on the reception of his films, not to mention anecdotes, of the sort described in this story, about their initial reception.

From his notoriously harsh treatment of female leads, itself a kind of restaging of Alfred Hitchcock's directorial persona, to blatantly unrealistic details like the bells at the end of Breaking the Waves or this talking fox in Antichrist, von Trier has crafted an ouevre that is simultaneously self-aggrandizing and self-abasing or which, to be more precise, reveals self-abasement as the form of self-aggrandizement that it ultimately is. For many, this directorial shadow makes his films repulsive, even unwatchable. But from my perspective, it makes his work far more interesting than it would be if played "straight." I am starting to see him as the William T. Vollmann of contemporary cinema, an analogy that might bear some durian-like fruit down the road.
Tags: film

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