“What can be said is that von Trier, after what many found the agonizing boredom of his previous Cannes films Dogville and Manderlay, has made a film that is not boring. Unendurable, perhaps, but not boring. For relief I am looking forward to the overnight reviews of those who think they can explain exactly what it means.” — Roger Ebert writing about this evening’s Antichrist screening.
Reuters’ Mike Collett-White reports that Danish director Lars von Trier “elicited derisive laughter, gasps of disbelief, a smattering of applause and loud boos on Sunday as the credits rolled on his drama Antichrist at the Cannes Film Festival.
“The film, starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple seeking to overcome the grief of losing their only child, has quickly become the most talked-about at this year’s festival, which ends on 5.24.
“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.”
I ran right up to the Orange wifi cafe after escaping from Lars von Trier‘s Antichrist, which had begun at 7:30 pm in the Salle Debussy. I sat down and wrote for a solid hour, so charged by what I’d just seen and what had just happened — easily one of the biggest debacles in Cannes Film Festival history and the complete meltdown of a major film artist in a way that invites comparison to the sinking of the Titanic — that I didn’t pay attention to the fact that my plug adapter wasn’t giving power.
The computer went down and I lost everything. Seven or eight really
It’s now 10:42 pm and the Orange cafe is about to close. It’s over and finished and I’m sick of this day. It’s been one thing after another today (heat, sweat, lost power cord) and I know when I’m beaten and drained. I’ll sit down and write more again tomorrow. But my God, what a screening! What a reaction! Critics howling, hooting, shrieking.
There’s no way Antichrist isn’t a major career embarassment for costars
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and a possible career stopper for Von Trier.
It’s an out-and-out disaster — one of the most absurdly on-the-nose, heavy-handed and unintentionally comedic calamities I’ve ever seen in my life. On top of which it’s dedicated to the late Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, whose rotted and decomposed body is now quite possibly clawing its way out of the grave to stalk the earth, find an axe and slay Von Trier in his bed.
Here’s a portion of Von Trier’s “director’s confession” from the press book:
“Two years ago I suffered from depression. Everything, no matter what, seems unimportant, trivial. I couldn’t work. Six months later, jsut as an exercise, I wrote a script. It was a kind of therapy, but also a search, a test to see if would ever make another film.
“The script was finished and filmed without much enthusiasm, made as it was using about half of my physical and intellectual capacity. Scenes were added for no reason. Images were composed free of logic or dramatic thinking. They often came from dreams I was having at the time, or dreams I’d had earlier in my life.
“In any case I offer no excuses for Antichrist. Other than my absolute belief in the film — the most important film of my entire career!”
A man whom I’ve admired and respected for many years has lost his mind for the time being, or at last lost it while he was writing and shooting the film. I just can’t fathom how the director of Breaking The Waves and Dancer in the Dark and Dogville could have made something so amateurishly awful. The decent and compassionate thing would be to forget Antichrist and to forgive Von Trier. To put it aside and move on on all fronts.
I know that if I had been in Dafoe or Gainsbourg’s shoes I would have come to my senses and walked off the film. I would have said “go ahead, sue me — I welcome a lawsuit!” and walked home proudly and at peace.
Staying for almost all of Alejandro Amenabar‘s 141-minute Agora at the Grand Lumiere caused me to arrive 15 minutes late to the 12:30 pm Taking Woodstock press luncheon at the Carlton. But no biggie. Here‘s costars Emile Hirsch and Demetri Martin riffing and responding. The recording muffles out for a minute due to Martin having inadvertently placed a cloth napkin on top of my digital recorder.
Imelda Staunton, who portrays Demetri Martin‘s constantly agitated and strident Jewish mom, was talking as I sat down at my table. She was asked about the film’s lack of Woodstock Music Festival concert footage, and her response was that we’ve all seen Michael Wadleigh‘s Woodstock and that “it’s already been done.”
I could’ve responded by saying “that’s not the point” but I didn’t want to be contentious. I could’ve said that no one expected director Ang Lee to use concert footage to any great degree but that the utter absence of any such footage feels curious, like a movie about a family of Normandy hotel owners grappling with the traumatic events of D-Day and not seeing a single soldier or warship or airplane. (I would’ve inserted maybe 90 seconds of concert footage in short little cuts throughout Taking Woodstock‘s third act.)
Staunton’s character has one silly-giggly Marx Bros. moment in the film when she and her husband eat four marijuana-spiked brownies. That’s a whole lot of THC for a very rigid-mannered middle-aged person who’s never turned on her life, which applies in this instance. A friend and I once chugged a chocolate milkshake mixed with a finely-ground ounce of pot, and we didn’t come down for two full days. It was like we were tripping.
Taking Woodstock producer-screenwriter James Schamus, director Ange Lee — Sunday, 5.17, 1:35 pm.
I mentioned to Martin that Elliot Tiber, the guy he portrays in Taking Woodstock, was 34 in 1969 and had led a fairly full life by that time, and yet it seems that he’s playing him younger or certainly wet behind the ears, and, as Todd McCarthy observed, that the template seems to be based upon Dustin Hoffman‘s Benjamin Braddock. Martin, an easygoing guy with a nice smile, sidestepped this one, saying mainly that he wouldn’t want to be compared to Hoffman, etc.
Hirsch and Martin were asked if they’d detected any difference so far in reactions to Taking Woodstock from older, boomer-aged viewers vs. under-30 types. They said they hadn’t. Hirsch acknowledged or noted that the Woodstock Festival doesn’t mean as much (or anything at all) to twentysomethings, and speculated that 20 or 30 years hence he might hear a similar underwhelmed reaction from younger people about, say, the election of Barack Obama.
I asked Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus if either of them had turned on at all during their wayward youth — i.e., dropped acid or mescaline or peyote or even if they were at least serious potheads. Lee has never been “experienced,” they said, and I thought I heard Schamus say he hadn’t touched the stuff either. But a journalist friend told me later that Schamus had copped to a little experimentation in the old days.
Nice shades, T-shirt, etc. Attitude down pat.
Left the power cord at home, battery’s about to die, need to delay further filing for an hour or so. But I got some good quotes from Taking Woodstock costars Demetri Martin and Emile Hirsch at a Carlton Hotel press luncheon earlier this afternoon, and also from producer-screenwriter James Schamus and director Ang Lee. Later…
Variety columnist Anne Thompson, Inglourious Basterds director-writer Quentin Tarantino at Carlton Terrace around 1:45 pm today.
Sunday, 5.17, 1:35 pm
I’m pretty much at peace with having blown off this morning’s 8:30 am screening of Johnnie To‘s Vengeance. I did the bad thing last night by staying out at the Taking Woodstock party until close to 2 am, and I needed the shuteye. To’s film stars Johnny “have a Gitane” Hallyday as a former French hitman in Hong Kong out to avenge his daughter’s murder. All right, I feel a little guilty but it’ll pass. I’ll catch it tomorrow at the Salle de Soixantime.
Poster art for Bong Joon Ho’s Mother
I saw two and a half movies yesterday, the “half” due to a boredom walkout. I bailed on Warwick Thornton‘s Samson and Delilah, a breathtakingly dull film about a small community of Aborigines wiling away the hours with minimal energy expenditure in the Australian outback, after an hour or so. A love story between a pair of teenagers gradually developed but it wasn’t enough to hold me. Next came Brilliante Mendoza‘s Kinatay, a meandering, tension-less, faux-morality tale by way of a verite snuff film. It’s about a young Phillippine police cadet who experiences his first torture-murder on a freelance job for a group of Manila mobsters. (Scattered boos as it ended.) And then at 10 pm I saw Bong Joon Ho‘s Mother, a richly stylized Brian De Palma-esque thriller about a mom who mightily endeavors to prove that her mentally handicapped son, accused of killing a young girl, is innocent.
There’s no doubting that Bong Joon Ho is a DePalma devotee in the same way that DePalma was a Hitchcock acolyte in the ’70s and ’80s. Mother was by far the most interesting sit because of his immaculate and exacting composition of each and every element. The result is consistently flourishy and at times operatic — deliberately unnatural, conspicuously acted, very much a director’s film. Ho is coming, however, from a fairly well-worn genre place, although I’ll give him points for delivering a surprising third-act twist. The talk is that Mother should be remade for the U.S. market with a name actress in her late ’40s or early ’50s in the title role.
It’s 9:46 am and I’m looking at the following for today: (a) the Kinatay press conference at 11 am; (b) 45 minutes worth of Alejandro Amenabar‘s Agora, which begins showing at 11:30 am in the Grand Lumiere; (c) a sitdown interview/lunch with Ang Lee and the Taking Woodstock gang from 1:30 to 2:45 pm; (d) a possible visit to the 3 pm Agora press conference; (e) three or four hours of writing time; and (f) a 7:30 screening of Lars von Trier‘s Antichrist, which I’m very much looking forward to.