As an avid filmfan I do like a lot of different genres and look for all sorts of different things in the films I view. Everything from “edgy” indie dramas to teen sex romps with lots of fart jokes and boobs to cool sci fi films to deep, introspective period pieces to spaghetti westerns to mel brooks to french nouvelle vague to samurai and kung fu flicks and genre pics to, well, you get the idea.
I admit, too, that I do enjoy cinematic provocateurs – those trying to freak out or even offend the more tender sensibilities of their audiences. Think Takashi Miike’s Audition or Eli Roth’s Hostel or Alexandro Jodorowsky’s whole career. However, that doesn’t mean I enjoy all provocateurs. My filmloving friends are often surprised to find how much I tend to hate David Lynch (who, for all of his apparent true weirdness and obvious psychological damage, seems to me to almost always be trying too hard to show how weird he is on film. “oooh check this out – didn’t expect that did ya? pretty weird, huh?”). And Lars Von Trier, the danish filmmaker perhaps most famous on these shores for creating the whole Dogma ’95 “genre” (more a strict set of rules that the films must adhere to than a true genre) and creating a trilogy of films on america that seem to profess a deep rooted hate american culture, while having never actually set foot on american soil (dude is apparently afraid of flying), is another non-favorite of mine.
My dislike of Von Trier stems largely from one of his Dogme ’95 films (for those unfamiliar with the idea, quickly it basically means films without frills – no special effects, no special lighting, no incidental music that isn’t actually heard by the characters, etc), Dancer In The Dark (starring Bjork – who claimed she would never do another film again after the battles she had with Von Trier), and Breaking The Waves (while not a Dogme 95 flick persee, it uses many of the same techniques plus is shot on grainy digital video). Both films that used rather stark filming techniques to tell brutal stories of how awful man is to man. They felt to me much like slowly stabbing and scraping my arms with pointed wooden sticks for 90+ minutes . So I’ve always been leery of attempting another Von Trier film.
However, I do peridocially revisit music and film that, while I may have previously greatly disliked, friends and/or artists I admire dig, just to find out if I can hear/see what these folks do in these works and maybefind out if I missed anything.
For example, despite my avowed hatred of Lynch, I will eventually go back a review Dune, Blue Velvet and some others once more, to see if my opinions change. (One of the great things, in my opinion, on music, film, literature, art in general, is that even though a completed piece of work is generally static, our opinions, reactions and general view of them are constantly changing, as we ourselves constantly change. The problems in the production and marketing of mainstream film and especially modern music culture these days, I think, can be largely attributed to the fact that thecorporations that run the film studios and record companies do not take these constantly changing perceptions into account, and market the stuff much like one would market a dish washing detergent or a deodorant or a car.)
All of this is a rather long introduction to the fact that Lars Von Trier’s new film, Antichrist, premiered at Cannes this month and apparently caused quite a stir. I’ll let the words of Mike D’Angelo – who wrote a pretty damned good daily blog of his attendance at this years’ Cannes for the AV Club – fill you in on why I find it intriguing, and am actually now, in fact, quite eager to see this:
I’m pretty sure I kind of despised your new movie, Antichrist, but that doesn’t remotely matter. Thank you. Thank you for having the guts to make something as insane and offensive and wholly uncompromising as this. Thank you for not caring whether people laugh at you, and for smacking the international press corps with a much-needed dose of cognitive dissonance. Most of all, thank you for lighting a bomb underneath the perfectly respectable, largely forgettable efforts of your fellow Competition entries. You may have whiffed huge this time, but movies like yours are what the Festival de Cannes should ideally be about.
Combine this with my recently gleamed knowledge that, long before Dogme 95, Lars was apparently a very visually imaginative director (I’m now also dying to check out his supernatural hospital miniseries for Danish TV The Kingdom he produced way back in the ancient 90s) who wanted to do more than make movies his audience would just have to endure.
The story, as far as I can tell, of Antichrist, involves an unnamed couple (Willem Dafoe and British/French actress/chantuese Charlotte Gainsbourg) who lose their toddler in the opening scenes. They then retreat to their remote cabin in the woods, charmingly called Eden, to try and cope. And apparently it spins waaaay out of control and becomes very twisted and insane – notoriously including some scene of backwoods masturbation/genital mutlation (mutilations?) that is supposed to be very difficult to view.
Gainsbourg, daughter of late french singer/provocateur Serge Gainsbourg and brit Jane Birken, has been upping her profile quite a bit in recent years. After a role in 21 Grams, she played the romantic female lead in Michel Gondries offbeat follow up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, and then last year released her own debut record, 5:55, on which Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker wrote the songs and french mondo cool mood duo Air played backing band. And now this movie, in which she’s been praised for playing such a brave role. uh oh.
Apparently Von Trier caused quite a stir at the post screening press conference, proclaiming himself the best director in the world and being hit right away with a question demanding that he justify himself and his movie.
I will probably hate this film, but somehow it doesn’t make me want to see it any less. It will, at the very least, surely be a more interesting experience than most of the remakes and sequels hollywood is offering us this summer.