To go by a statement from Magnolia honcho Eammon Bowles, the primary reason Magnolia has just acquired U.S. distribution rights to Lars von Trier‘s two Nymphomaniac films is because the company did well with Von Trier’s Melancholia. Bowles (a) called the Melancholia experience “tremendous and never predictable” and (b) said “we couldn’t be more excited to be working with Von Trier again.” Fine.
I don’t know what Magnolia paid but what happened to the idea that films with explicit sexual content don’t perform all that well? Von Trier’s Antichrist wasn’t a “sexual content film” per se, but Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg certainly did a lot of heavy breathing and the film (which cost $11 million to make) was no more than a modest performer, if that. (Boxoffice Mojo reports a wordwide gross of $791,000 and change.) I don’t know what the VOD tallies are.
The last two fairly explicit sexual-coupling mainstream films were Bernardo Bertolucci‘s The Dreamers (’04). and Michael Winterbottom‘s Nine Songs (’04). There was a flurry of such films in the ’90s and early aughts — Zandalee (’91), The Lover (’92), Body of Evidence (’93), The Color of Night (’94), Original Sin (’01), etc.
On top of which it could be observed that Gainsbourg, Nymphomaniac‘s 41-year-old lead actress, doesn’t seem at first glance to be a prime attraction for the young male horndogs who would presumably be the core audience for this sort of thing.
Nymphomaniac won’t go to Cannes, I’m reading, but it will be completed this year.