For about 20 minutes, the press conference passed by with the usual questions from the foreign press to the filmmaker and actors.
It should be noted that questions during press conferences at Cannes can be unbelievably tedious and anodyne, which is why Von Trier perhaps decided to stir things up around the 20 minute mark.
He claimed he was making an explicit porn film with Kirsten Dunst, which elicited nervous laughter from the actress and journalists, and how it would be connected with the Church (this really has to be heard for the full effect).
So far, it was Von Trier playing his usual games, which I suspect he does to confuse, annoy and create publicity at the world’s biggest film festival.
But 3 minutes towards the end Von Trier proceeded to make, even by his own standards, some pretty inflammatory remarks.
When asked by Kate Muir of The Times about a previous comment he made regarding his interest in ‘Nazi asthetic’ in his films Von Trier said:
“I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew. Then later on came Susanne Bier [Jewish and Danish director] and then suddenly I wasn’t so happy about being a Jew. No, that was a joke, sorry. But it turned out I was not a Jew but even if I’d been a Jew I would be kind of a second rate Jew because there is kind of a hierarchy in the Jewish population. But anyway, I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out I was really a Nazi, you know, because my family was German … which also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end”
At this point Dunst (sitting next to him) seemed physically uncomfortable, prompting Von Trier to say that there would be a point to his jokey ramblings.
“I think I understand the man. He’s not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I’m not for the Second World War, and I’m not against Jews. I am of course very much for Jews. No, not too much because Israel is a pain in the ass. But still, …how can I get out of this sentence?”
He then expressed admiration for Nazi architect Albert Speer before ending another rambling sentence with:
“OK, I’m a Nazi.”
Peter Howell of the Toronto Sun then asked whether he would make a movie even bigger in scale than Melancholia:
“Yeah, that’s what we Nazis … we have a tendency to try to do things on a greater scale. Yeah, may be you could persuade me …the final solution with journalists.”
I don’t think any sane person would take Von Trier’s comments literally but many around the world would certainly take offence at his flippant joking about the mass murder and genocide of World War II.
The festival were quick to issue a press release:
“The Festival de Cannes was disturbed about the statements made by Lars von Trier in his press conference this morning in Cannes. Therefore the festival asked him to provide an explanation for his comments. The director states that he let himself be egged on by a provocation. He presents his apology. The direction of the festival acknowledges this and is passing on Lars von Trier’s apology. The festival is adamant that it would never allow the event to become the forum for such pronouncements on such subjects.
Then followed an apology from Von Trier’s official apology:
“If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologise. I am not anti-semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.”
Although this will undoubtedly get Von Trier and his latest film a lot of worldwide press, how it affects his career will be an open question.
A lot of people in the film world will dismiss this as the usual provocative statement that Von Trier is fond of making.
He angered some US critics with his trilogy about America – Dancer in the Dark (2000), Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005) – as they presented an ironic flipside of the American dream and the director proudly claimed he had never been to the country.
In 2009, Antichrist scandalised some of the audience in Cannes with scenes of explicit sex and violence, whilst the ensuing press conference became rather heated.
Although a talented director, he remains a cinematic prankster who seems to revel in the publicity he gets for making provocative films and statements.
Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life finally premiered in Cannes today, but how was it received by the world’s critics?
The basic deal seems to be that the film is Malick turned up to 11 (heavy themes treated with a stunning visual sense) and that it’s going to divide people.
A new Malick film with Brad Pitt is already a must see for cinephiles around the globe and the positive trade reviews from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter perhaps indicate that however crazy it gets, discerning audiences are going to have a lot to absorb and discuss.
Whether it can crossover into the glare of the awards season remains a big question but this is already an event that has gone down in recent Cannes lore and Malick’s usual refusal to do any publicity has just stoked the must-see vibes around this film.
Here’s some brief snapshots of reactions from various critics:
The lineup for this year’s Cannes film Festival has been announced and includes films by directors such as Terrence Malick, The Dardenne Brothers, Pedro Almodovar, Takashi Miike, Paolo Sorrentino, Lars Von Trier, Lynne Ramsay, Nanni Moretti and Nicolas Winding Refn.
La Piel Que Habito (Dir. Pedro Almodovar)
L’Apollonide (Dir. Bertrand Bonello)
Parter (Dir. Alain Cavalier)
Footnote (Dir. Joseph Cedar)
Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
The Kid With The Bike (Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
Le Havre (Dir. Aki Kaurismäki)
Hanezu No Tsuki (Dir. Naomi Kawase)
Sleeping Beauty (Dir. Julia Leigh)
Polisse (Dir. Maiwenn)
The Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick)
La source des femmes (Dir. Radu Mihaileanu)
Ichimei (Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai) (Dir. Takashi Miike)
We Have a Pope (Dir. Nanni Moretti)
We Need To Talk About Kevin (Dir. Lynne Ramsay)
This Must Be The Place (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
Michael (Dir. Markus Schleinzer)
Melancholia (Dir. Lars Von Trier)
Drive (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
OUT OF COMPETITION
The Beaver (Dir. Jodie Foster)
La conquête (Dir. Xavier Durringer)
The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Dir. Rob Marshall)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Dir. Jennifer Yuh)
Wu Xia (Dir. Chan Peter Ho-Sun)
Dias de Gracia (Dir. Everado Gout)
Labrador (Dir. Frederikke Aspöck)
Le maître des forges de l’enfer (Dir. Rithy Panh)
Michel Petrucciani (Dir. Michael Radford)
Tous au Larzac (Dir. Christian Rouaud)
UN CERTAIN REGARD
The Hunter (Dir. Bakur Bakuradze)
Halt auf freier Strecke (Dir. Andreas Dresen)
Hors Satan (Dir. Bruno Dumont)
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Dir. Sean Durkin)
Les neiges du Kilimandjaro (Dir. Robert Guédiguian)
Skoonheid (Dir. Oliver Hermanus)
The Day He Arrives (Dir. Hong Sang-Soo)
Bonsaï (Dir. Christian Jimenez)
Tatsumi (Dir. Eric Khoo)
Arirang (Dir. Kim Ki-Duk)
Et maintenant on va où? (Dir. Nadine Labaki)
Loverboy (Dir. Catalin Mitulescu)
Yellow Sea (Dir. Na Hong-jin)
Miss Bala (Dir. Gerardo Naranjo)
Trabalhar Cansa (Dir. Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra)
He is the US photographer and filmmaker who also shot the iconic cover for Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (1966) album.
As a director Schatzberg is probably best known for Scarecrow (1973), the film with Al Pacino and Gene Hackman that shared the Grand Jury prize at Cannes.
Dunaway and Schatzberg will both be attending the festival this year for a screening of their 1970 film Puzzle of a Downfall Child, in a restored presentation that is guaranteed to look better than this YouTube clip:
In this short interview on Vimeo (posted by Antonin74) he describes how he met Dunaway and their collaboration on the film:
He went on to direct The Panic in Needle Park (1971), a drama about heroin use in New York that also won acclaim at Cannes and was a breakout film for Al Pacino.
This year’s festival takes place from May 11th-22nd.