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Category: Lars von Trier

Oscars 2012: 'Snubbed' Albert Brooks, Patton Oswalt tweet woes

January 24, 2012 | 10:55 am

Click here for more coverage of the Oscar nominations

"You don't like me, you really don't like me," Albert Brooks tweeted Tuesday, a few hours after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to recognize his performance as brutal gangster Bernie Rose in Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" with an Oscar nomination. Those nine words were all that fellow rejected actor Patton Oswalt ("Young Adult") need to get him going on a Twitter rant that pretty much encompassed every overlooked actor in this year's Oscar race.

It began with Oswalt asking Brooks to join him for a drink at the Drawing Room. "Me and Serkis have been here since 6 am," he tweeted, referring to Andy Serkis and his failure to obtain an acting nod for his motion-capture work in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

FULL COVERAGE: The Oscar nominees

"See you later tonight," he continued. "Serkis has Pogues on the jukebox and Fassbender just showed up in a pirate hat." Michael Fassbender was also ignored, with academy voters not recognizing him for his role as a sex addict in the harrowing drama "Shame."

Oswalt was not content to settle with the actors. "We're definitely going to run out of booze. Charlize & Tilda just pulled up in a stolen police car." Neither Charlize Theron nor Tilda Swinton was rewarded for her work in such prickly films as "Young Adult" and "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

His absurdist scene continued, begging Brooks to meet him. "Dude, get down here. Gosling is doing keg stands and Olsen and Dunst literally just emerged from a shower of rose petals."

Ryan Gosling received no love for either of his compelling roles in "The Ides of March" and "Drive." Elizabeth Olsen ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") and Kirsten Dunst ("Melancholia") were unable to crack the competitive lead actress category.

Oswalt then invoked Dunst's controversial director Lars von Trier, who made waves in Cannes last year with some ill-considered remarks on Nazism: "Von Trier just pulled up in a pass van dressed as Goering. 'Let's go to Legoland! With a boozy hurrah, we're out."

Looks like Brooks missed his chance to accompany his fellow snubbies with Oswalt's final tweet. "Oh. My. God. Just pulled up to Legoland. DiCaprio's rented the park for the day. Dibs on the Duplo Gardens!"

It's a shame we won't get more commentary from Oswalt. His voice on the campaign scene was, to say the least, quite refreshing.


And the nominees are...

Oscars 2012: Who was snubbed? Who surprised?

Oscars 2012: Surprises? Getting naked doesn't guarantee a nod

 -- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Patton Oswalt during the 17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on Jan. 12 in Los Angeles. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.


National Society of Film Critics: 'Melancholia' best of 2011

January 7, 2012 |  1:51 pm


Kirsten Dunst, from left,  Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg  in "Melancholia."

The National Society of Film Critics, which is made up of 58 the country's major film critics, rarely agrees with the choices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscars. And the group probably stayed true to form with its picks for its 46th annual awards, naming Lars Von Trier's end-of-the-world drama "Melancholia" best picture Saturday.

Terrence's Malick's "The Tree of Life" came in second and the lauded Iranian drama "A Separation" placed third. "Separation" also won best foreign-language film and best screenplay for Asghar Farhadi.

Malick took best director honors with Martin Scorsese for "Hugo" coming in second and Von Trier placing third.

The annual voting, using a weighted ballot system, is held at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City; this year 48 of the 58 members participated.

Best actor went to Brad Pitt for both "Moneyball" and "The Tree of Life." Pitt also won best actor from the New York Film Critics' Circle and is nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG award and a Critics Choice award. Runner-up was Gary Oldman for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and Jean Dujardin placed third for "The Artist."

Notably missing from the list was Michael Fassbender for "Shame" and George Clooney for "The Descendants."

Best actress honors went to Kirsten Dunst for "Melancholia," with Yun Jung-hee for the Korean film "Poetry" coming in second. Meryl Streep's turn in "The Iron Lady" placed third.

Best supporting actor went to Albert Brooks for a his dramatic turn in "Drive." Christopher Plummer placed second for "Beginners," followed by Patton Oswalt for "Young Adult."

Best supporting actress was given to Jessica Chastain for her roles in three films: "The Tree of Life," "Take Shelter" and "The Help." Jeannie Berlin came in second for "Margaret" and Shailene Woodley placed third for "The Descandants."

"Tree of Life" also took home best cinematography for Emanual Lubezki with Manual Alberto Claro placing second for "Melancholia" and Robert Richardson taking third for "Hugo."

Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" was best nonfiction film. He also came in third place in the category for "Into the Abyss." Steve James' "The Interrupters" placed second.

In best screenplay category, Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin's script for "Moneyball" was second behind "A Separation" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" took third.

 The Experimental Award went to Ken Jacobs for "Seeking the Monkey King."

There were also several Film Heritage honors given out:

-- BAM Cinematek for its complete Vincente Minnelli retrospective, with all titles shown in 16mm or 35mm.

-- Lobster Films, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema for the restoration of the color version of Georges Melies' "A Trip to the Moon."

-- New York's Museum of Modern Art for its extensive retrospective of Weimar Cinema.

-- Flicker Alley for its box set "Landmarks of Early Soviet Film."

-- Criterion Collection for its two-disc DVD package, "The Complete Jean Vigo."


'Melancholia' -- Kirsten Dunst ponders the end of the world [video]

Veteran Koreanactress Yun Jung-hee comes out of retirement for 'Poetry'

Jessica Chastain heading to Broadway in 'The Heiress'

-- Susan King

Photo: Kirsten Dunst, from left,  Alexander Skarsgaard, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg star in "Melancholia." Credit: Christian Geisnaes/Magnolia Pictures.


2011: Seven film stories we never saw coming

December 31, 2011 |  1:00 pm


This post has been corrected. See note below for details.

The film world had its share of predictable turns this last year. "Harry Potter" went out with a bang. "Twilight" and "Transformers" earned a gazillion dollars (more). And 3-D continued to have us seeing double, the novelty now officially worn off.

But the last 12 months were also full of unexpected twists -- from a movie that had women saying things we hadn’t heard on-screen before, to a filmmaker who again was saying things he shouldn’t have been saying (but sort of had before). Here are seven of the year’s most notable surprises. (Click on the related links below for a full spin down memory lane.)

Always a Bridesmaid. Sure,  there was a sense before the year started that, when it came to potty-mouthed humor, it just might be the girls' turn. But few could have predicted that  an R-rated film featuring a lack of A-listers and a heavy marital theme would become a cultural phenomenon. Yet with “Bridesmaids,” Kristen Wiig, an actress known mainly for character parts, and Paul Feig, an actor and director known mainly for television, teamed up and, with an assist from Judd Apatow, created a monster smash. The film was the highest grossing original comedy of the year ($169 million) and launched the career of the previously little-known Melissa McCarthy. Maybe more important, It touched off a Hollywood gold rush and stirred a feminist debate. It even...put Wilson Phillips back on the map.

Ratner revival. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made some unusual choices in 2011 -- a lifetime achievement award for Oprah, a rule-change allowing a variable number of best-picture nominees. But even the most adventurous pundit couldn’t have predicted this summer surprise: Brett Ratner, known for popcorn movies like "Rush Hour," would be producing this year's Oscars telecast. And he'd be bringing along Eddie Murphy, who rarely made public appearances -- let alone at one of the most watched television broadcasts of the year -- to host.

Ratner retreats. Oops. After all the hype about the kind of sensibility Ratner would bring to the Oscars, it turns out we wouldn't have to worry about it much. This fall, Ratner made lewd and offensive comments on Howard Stern’s radio show, causing embarrassment for the Academy and a quick resignation from the foot-in-mouth producer. Murphy, who had been persuaded by Ratner to take the gig,  quickly followed suit. But the host’s replacement was even more of a stunner: Billy Crystal, who had hosted his first Oscars more than two decades before, would be returning, making the 63-year-old the oldest solo host since the mid-'70's.

Daybreak for Woody. For a number of years past, Woody Allen was like baseball, or Ron Paul. Every season, through thick and thin, he was there, doing his thing, with few believing he could be much of a factor. Yet that all changed this spring when Allen released his (depending on how you count) 46th directorial feature, a whimsical piece called "Midnight in Paris.” First the movie found an art-house audience. Then it became a crossover hit. Then it became a phenomenon. The story of a curmudgeonly writer transported to period Paris became the prolific director's most successful film ever. It even got people to see Owen Wilson as a star again.

Craig cratering. When he was cast in the summer of 2010 as the hero of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," Daniel Craig could do no wrong. He had come off several films in which he enchanted audiences as James Bond and had even thrown in a well-reviewed Broadway turn. And 2011 was looking even brighter: Craig had a role not only in "Dragon" but would be bringing out the eagerly awaited Jon Favreau-directed action-adventure "Cowboys and Aliens." But Mr. 007 soon found that the villains were getting the better of him. First, James Bond was caught in movie limbo. It eventually got out, but the disappointments were only starting. "Cowboys and Aliens" was a summer wet blanket. ”Dragon Tattoo" has struggled in its first weeks of release. And Craig launched a bomb with the horror title "Dream House," which was such a mess that  its director tried to have his name taken off it. It was all enough to make an actor feel like someone had thrown a martini in his face.

Kings crowned. Studios have pulled out old movies and dressed them up in new clothes before. But few could have predicted what would happen with a new 3-D edition of “The Lion King." When Disney decided to re-release the animated classic, it seemed like a nice but quaint idea. After the movie came out atop the box office one September weekend, though, it seemed like the company might have something more on its hands. Soon it won another weekend, beating new movies from Brad Pitt and Taylor Lautner. As the weeks piled up, the audiences kept coming.  The film wound up grossing nearly $100 million -- not bad for any movie, let alone one that was 17 years old.

That melancholy feeling. Lars von Trier had made plenty of ill-advised comments before. But no one in or outside a Cannes news conference room could have foreseen what would happen on the morning of May 18. After answering some innocuous questions about his new movie, "Melancholia," Von Trier took out a shovel and began digging. "I understand Hitler. I sympathize with him a bit. ... I'm a Nazi," he said as his star Kirsten Dunst looked on in horror. Things were  compounded when Von Trier showed only occasional remorse after the fact. A round of interviews with Dunst co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg were canceled as she hurried out of town, and the festival took the unusual step of declaring Von Trier persona non grata. In perhaps an even bigger surprise, the famously gabby Von Trier announced several months later that he was swearing off news conferences.

[For the record, 1:15 p.m., Jan. 3: An earlier version of this post identified the star of "Melancholia" as Reese Witherspoon. Kirsten Dunst stars in the film.]


24 Frames: Full Brett Ratner coverage

24 Frames: Full Daniel Craig coverage

24 Frames: Full 'Bridesmaids' coverage

24 Frames: Full Lars von Trier coverage

24 Frames: Full 'Midnight in Paris' coverage

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Lars von Trier at the Cannes Film Festival. Credit: Getty Images

'Melancholia' -- Kirsten Dunst ponders the end of the world [video]

October 28, 2011 |  1:27 pm

Alexander Skarsgard, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg in "Melancholia."

In Lars von Trier’s upcoming apocalyptic meditation “Melancholia,” Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, a young bride grappling with an overwhelming depression that seems linked to the appearance of a mysterious planet -- one that just might be on a cosmic collision path with Earth. Dunst earned the best actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance when “Melancholia” screened there in May (that was after Von Trier’s controversial comments made during a press conference to promote the movie).

In the following clip, she can be seen opposite Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays Justine's sister Claire. The siblings, whose relationship is fraught to say the least, find themselves momentarily alone on the vast estate where Claire lives with her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) and son Leo (Cameron Spurr). pondering the appropriate response to impending cataclysm.

"Melancholia" is scheduled to screen as part of the 2011 AFI Film Festival. It opens in theaters in Los Angeles on Nov. 11.



There's no end of apocalypse movies

Lars von Trier vows to never vow again

Cannes 2011: Lars von Trier says he may be done with news conferences

-- Gina McIntyre

Photo: From left, Alexander Skarsgard, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg in "Melancholia." Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Lars von Trier vows never to vow again

October 5, 2011 | 11:35 am

There’s something about Lars von Trier saying that he’ll no longer make public statements that feels akin to an asthmatic swearing off his inhaler. The director doesn’t simply like to talk -- he can’t get along without it.

And yet this morning, the Danish provocateur -- who came under fire at the Cannes Film Festival this year for saying he was a Nazi who sympathized with Hitler -- has pledged just that. In a typically Dadaist move, Von Trier released a statement Wednesday saying that he'll no longer release statements. The statement indicates that authorities in the Danish region of North Zealand confronted him over his Cannes remarks.

In its entirety, via his publicist’s email account, it reads:

"Today at 2 pm I was questioned by the Police of North Zealand in connection with charges made by the prosecution of Grasse in France from August 2011 regarding a possible violation of prohibition in French law against justification of war crimes. The investigation covers comments made during the press conference in Cannes in May 2011. Due to these serious accusations, I have realized that I do not possess the skills to express myself unequivocally and I have therefore decided from this day forth to refrain from all public statements and interviews."

The revelation that there was an inquiry, now or in August, was news in and of itself; there had been no previous report of an investigation. (It's even unclear what French statute Von Trier may have violated; the country has a law against Holocaust denial, which Von Trier did not engage in. The international organization the Council of Europe has an article that speaks out against "justification of genocide or crimes of humanity," but it's not a law, since the Council of Europe doesn't have the power to make those.)

Of course, with Von Trier all is performance, even his statement that he won’t give statements. It's worth noting he's made comments to this effect before. In Cannes, he told 24 Frames that he didn't know if he would ever sit for another news conference. "I'm just an idiot that should just stay home in Denmark and never talk to anybody," he said.

Like Terrell Owens, who often seemed to play football to support his press-conference habit, a filmmaker like Von Trier seems incapable of not speaking -- which makes it easy to read his "decision" as some sort of ironic joke. (Takes your best guess at how serious Von Trier is in our poll below.)

Von Trier does have a movie, “Melancholia,” opening in the U.S. on Nov. 11. Most directors prefer to speak in support of their film, and most studios want to encourage that. In this case, though, it may be better all around if Von Trier sticks with his impulse for reticence, fleeting though it may be.


Video: Did Lars von Trier go too far?

Lars von Trier retracts Nazi comment, apologizes

In interview, Lars von Trier says he may be done with news conferences

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Lars von Trier. Credit: Francois Mori/Associated Press

Cannes 2011: A spell of conflict, and then (some) resolution

May 22, 2011 |  6:45 pm


With the major awards handed out and the last of the cinephiles, partiers, salespeople and hangers-on finally packing up for calmer climes, let's take a moment to look back at this year's Cannes Film Festival in all its intensity and strangeness.

The 2011 edition of the world's most prestigious film gathering was historic in several ways. Egyptian directors banded together to create and premiere shorts about their country's revolution just three months after it happened, while more female directors landed in the main competition than ever before (a sharp contrast to Hollywood's glass ceiling).

Less nobly, for the first time in the history of Cannes, a filmmaker was declared persona non grata at the festival. Leave it to Lars.

It was, as might be expected with any 64th installment, sometimes a festival of the familiar — Harvey Weinstein spending millions on high-profile films from the likes of Meryl Streep and Shia LaBeouf, and Woody Allen embraced again, thanks to his opening-night movie, "Midnight in Paris."

But it was also a festival filled with paradox.  Cannes always contains multitudes, but the contradictions rarely have ever seemed this pungent, and they've seldom grabbed so many headlines. Cannes this year saw the European premiere of Mel Gibson's new film — and yet he had to settle for second place for the festival's biggest race-themed controversy. The Croisette also saw a silent film, Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist," making some of the loudest noise.

It was a festival where the darkest of subjects, a school shooting, was given the flashiest of treatments with Lynne Ramsay's well-received "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Cannes is filled with old-timers and veterans, and yet one of the biggest splashes came from a young 'un first-timer, "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn.

And finally, there was the festival's biggest enigma, Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," whose premiere ensured that the most scrutinized festival director was also the most invisible. Malick sat out the red carpet and the screening feting him and drove the point home when he also sat out the Palme d'Or ceremony Sunday, opting for his producers to accept on his behalf.

There was good and bad, strange and sane, in this year's Cannes. It's the favorable more than the dodgy one hopes will prevail, though in the end it will may well be that both co-exist. It was, after all, that kind of festival.

— Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France



What Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is actually about (yes, we finally see it)

Awards Tracker: Palme d'Or goes to Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life

In interview, Lars von Trier says he doesn't deserve a Palme d'Or

Photo: Sean Penn in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Cannes 2011: Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier, Cannes contrasts, strangely united

May 22, 2011 |  2:30 am


Among all the plot lines the Cannes Film Festival has offered over the last week, none has been as compelling as the tale of two directors -- each highly acclaimed, each inscrutable in his own way. One said too much, and one said nothing at all. One got kicked out of the festival midway through it; one never appeared in public in the first place.

And yet for all the differences between Lars von Trier and Terrence Malick, they shared the stage in these May days. They each furnished drama at a press conference, of all places, causing reporters to drop their pens -- Malick when producers declined to acknowledge there was anything wrong with his absence; von Trier, in a more morally problematic vein, when he made his infamous Nazi comments.

Ironically lost in the separate yet parallel stories of these two filmmakers are their movies, which have a surprising amount in common. Both "The Tree of Life" and "Melancholia" make generous use of grand cosmic images, set against soaring classical music, while focusing  tightly on the dysfunctions of one family amid the astral pomp. If you asked a blind focus group to pick out the two movies among the 21 in competition with the most commonalities, a good number would choose "Tree" and "Melancholia."

And yet. There's something telling about Malick's use of cosmic images to portray the world's creation and Von Trier's use of them to show its end. The Texas auteur is fascinated with the origin of all things and Von Trier, ever the nihilist, constantly wants to tear them down.

As interesting as it has been to hear speculation about why Malick declined to show up for his premiere, it's been that much more fascinating, if frustrating, to hear the speculation about Von Trier and his motives. He is either the second coming of David Duke, a horrible and inexcusable racist, or a simple and misunderstood talent, the Manny Ramirez of the international film world, whose missteps are proof of nothing more than his quirkiness. In truth, the reality probably lies in between; he does not really embrace the Third Reich, but his comments also can't be explained away as mistimed jokes.

When we interviewed Von Trier, as his critics were circling and the festival was preparing to eject him, the director had a simple response to all. "Terrence Malick is a clever man -- he knows that it's good to stay home." He seemed to be saying, in that moment at least, that he wished he was Malick. The rest of us could only wish for something more obtainable: that Malick spoke a little more, and Von Trier a little less.


Danish director Refn describes date with Gosling, laces into von Trier

Pitt and Chastain wonder if hype, squareness are behind 'Tree of Life' divisions

With Ryan Gosling’s ‘Drive,’ a different Dane gets his moment

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Lars von Trier. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency

Cannes 2011: Lars von Trier's 'Melancholia' could get a release-plan tweak

May 19, 2011 |  7:03 pm


How’s this for the ultimate film-marketing nightmare? You’re the Israeli distributor of Lars von Trier's “Melancholia.”

That’s the problem faced by Shani Films, the company that had bought and been all ready to release the director's new movie.  Three days ago, it hardly seemed unwise: You had a movie with a sci-fi element and actors that travel, like Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. And Shani had experience with Von Trier's work: It had released his 2006 workplace comedy, "The Boss of It All," in Israel.

Hardly unwise, that is, until Von Trier went and made some very badly received comments about Nazis and Jews.

According to one source who was briefed on the discussions but asked not to be identified because of their proprietary nature, TrustNordisk, the Danish film entity that has been handling international rights for the picture, has offered Shani the opportunity to revert the rights and be reimbursed the fees it paid. It is not yet known if Shani will accept the offer.

(In America, Von Trier's film is scheduled to be released by Magnolia Pictures, a subsidiary of Mark Cuban's entertainment empire, in the fall. As of Thursday night, an executive told 24 Frames all plans to release the film remained on track.) Spokesmen for Shani and TrustNordisk were not immediately available for comment.

Shani may not be the only distributor to be given a refund deal: One source familiar with TrustNorskisk’s plans said distributors in several other countries could soon be receiving the same offer.

Chalk up one more bizarre occurrence at this year's Cannes Film Festival to Von Trier: He's helped introduce the notion of film-rights refunds.


Cannes 2011: in interview, Lars von Trier says he doesn't deserve to win the Palme d'Or

Cannes 2011: Lars von Trier retracts statement about Nazis

Cannes 2011: A video examination, Part 4 -- Did Lars von Trier go too far?

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Melancholia." Credit: TrustNordisk

Cannes 2011: Organizers call Lars Von Trier remarks 'unacceptable,' 'intolerable'

May 19, 2011 | 10:58 am


The backlash to Lars von Trier's comments about Nazism intensified Thursday, as the Cannes Film Festival declared the director persona non grata at the world's most prestigious cinema gathering, effective immediately.

After Von Trier jokingly said he was a Nazi and more a German than a Jew at a news conference on Wednesday, festival organizers issued a statement saying they were "disturbed" by the comments. Then the festival's board of directors convened and returned with a stronger statement on Thursday afternoon.

"The Festival de Cannes provides artists from around the world with an exceptional forum to present their works and defend freedom of expression and creation," it said. "The festival's board of directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday, May 19, profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the Festival. The Board of Directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately."

The step was highly unusual; a festival spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but several 20-year veterans of Cannes said they could never recall a declaration of this sort before. The consequences of the board's move remain unclear, though it's safe to say that any hope the Danish director had for a Palme d'Or for his film, the otherwise well-received English-language sci-fi-family drama "Melancholia," or a return visit with future films, is now in all but gone. It was unclear whether the festival's competition jury, which this year is being headed by Robert De Niro, has been instructed to disqualify "Melancholia."

Earlier Thursday, before the declaration was issued, Von Trier showed some contrition in an interview with The Times. But he also had some harsh words for organizers, who had called him Wednesday. "It's a major thing at the festival, and very problematic for the festival. And that's a little strange, because even if I was Hitler, what does that have to do with my film being here? It's a festival for films, not for directors," he said.


Lars von Trier says he may be done with news conferences -- and that he doesn't deserve Palme d'Or

Cannes 2011: Director Lars von Trier retracts Nazi comment, apologizes

-- Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France

Photo: French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg and Danish director Lars von Trier at the Wednesday news conference for "Melancholia' at which Von Trier made his controversial remarks. Credit: Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA

Cannes 2011: In interview, Lars von Trier says he may be done with news conferences -- and that he doesn't deserve a Palme d'Or

May 19, 2011 |  6:17 am


On Wednesday, Lars von Trier set off a worldwide firestorm when, in his typically provocative way, he attempted to make a number of jokes about being a Nazi who sympathized with Hitler.

Less than 24 hours later, he added contrition to his repertoire, without letting up too much on the provocation.

In one of his first interviews since the controversy exploded Wednesday at a news conference for his Cannes film "Melancholia" -- and on the same day the festival declared him persona non grata -- Von Trier came off like a man who regretted the whole incident even as he seemed to take a small amount of playful enjoyment in the fact that, once again, he had gotten a lot of people worked up.

He began the conversation with an apology considerably more elaborate than the terse statement sent out on his behalf by his publicity team Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm really sincere when I say I don't really know what hit me. I can understand if you take things out of context. This was very sarcastic and very rude, but that's very Danish. I'm very sorry that it's being taken the wrong way," he said from beneath a straw hat as he sat in the garden of a hotel in Mougins, a town about six miles north of Cannes, where he stays during the festival. "I must say that I believe strongly that the Holocaust is the worst crime against humanity ever, and I do not sympathize with Hitler one second."

He did make light of the email statement Wednesday in which he apologized, saying it didn't come with much feeling behind it. "All apologies to me are nonsense. It's saying 'I did something wrong,' but what does that help? I think it makes the whole situation much worse." Why, then, did he send it out? "It's something called damage control."

Von Trier has been known to take shots at everything  from fellow filmmakers to American values, cultivating an image of the auteur shock jock. But he said that, despite the fraught nature of the Nazi comments, they were far from substantively motivated. "I didn't want to hurt anyone at all [with this]. Sometimes I hurt people on purpose, when there's provocation that I want to get through that has a meaning. This doesn't have a meaning." He continued, "I've studied how bad the Jews have been treated in [places such as]  Poland and France. This is something that matters very much to me. And this was an idiotic way to behave."

But for all his remorse, he said he believes that at least part of why the incident became such a live wire was because of the country in which he made the statements. "The reason why it's so big, especially here, is that France has had a problematic relationship with Jews, and you [as an interview subject] shouldn't touch such things. But on the other hand, being a cultural radical, you should touch such things."

He said he felt the flap was blown out of proportion by one group in particular: the Cannes Film Festival. Organizers called the filmmaker Wednesday to express their concern, and also released a statement that they were "disturbed" by the remarks. It's a reaction Von Trier has trouble understanding. "It's a major thing at the festival, and very problematic for the festival. And that's a little strange, because even if I was Hitler, what does that have to do with my film being here? It's a festival for films, not for directors," he said.

In a similar vein, he continued to stand by his belief that one should separate art from artist. "Albert Speer was for me a great artist, and we must accept that there can be big artists, like Riefenstahl, that suddenly get their room to work because of a dictatorship. There are people who want me to take that back, but for the sake of truth I can't do that."

But when asked whether he felt Cannes jurors upset by his comments could make the same distinction with his work, he replied flatly, "I don't deserve to win a [Palme d'Or]."

He also said he didn't know if he would ever sit for another news conference. "I'm not sure I'll leave Denmark again," he said, though anyone who knows Von Trier knows that tongue-holding is not something he practices often. He did say he was eager to return to his home country, where he plans on shooting both a soft-core and hard-core porn movie.

"I want to be surrounded by porn people who love me for what I am, who say, 'Where do you want the erection, where do you want the penetration.' Where it's not complicated. There wouldn't be a porn star running out there saying 'Lars said this or Lars said that.'"

As for "Melancholia," most of the interview was given over to the question of the day, though he did talk a bit about how he wanted to make a film about depression with a supernatural gloss.

Finally, the director said his own Jewish background  -- his father,  Ulf, was Jewish, although the director learned as an adult that the man was not his biological parent -- complicates the question of what he does and doesn't feel comfortable saying about Jews. "Half my life I've made very many Jewish jokes because when you are Jewish, you're allowed to do that. And now I feel kind of in-between."

But then he seemed to undercut the sensitivity of the moment when he added, "I'm very much into the Jewish stuff. Even when I found out I'm not Jewish by my genes, all my children have Jewish names. I'm actually" he pauses -- "too Jewish." And then realizing how that could be misconstrued, he said, "Oh ...", using an obscenity and leaning his forehead against the table in a playful what-have-I-done pose. "Don't write that." He added , "I'm just an idiot that should just say home in Denmark and never talk to anybody."


Cannes 2011: Lars von Trier retracts statement about Nazis

Cannes 2011: The six festival films you'll soon be hearing about

Cannes 2011: A video examination, Part 4 -- Did Lars von Trier go too far?

-- Steven Zeitchik in Mougins, France

Photo: Lars von Trier. Credit: EPA


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