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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Boo birds flock to Cannes for 'Antichrist'

May 19, 2009 |  3:53 pm

The Cannes Film Festival always manages to premiere at least one movie that is a major-league freak- out, prompting a tornado of boos, hisses and catcalls from the assembled moviegoers, not to mention a few hoots, howls and shrieks of amazement. This year it was Lars von Trier who delivered the goods with his disturbing new domestic drama that was so gruesome some critics weren't even sure how to describe it. Some dubbed it torture porn while others--like Variety's Todd McCarthy--wrote it up as a "theological-psychological horror opus." (I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I doubt that it was meant as a compliment.)


So how bad was the movie, which stars Willem Dafoe and Charleotte Gainsbourg as parents grieving their young child's death? Here's a sampling of critical reaction. Imagine seeing these blurbs in a full-page newspaper ad and think to yourself: Would I be rushing into the theater or running as far in the other direction as possible? 

Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert: "Von Trier's film goes beyond malevolence into the monstrous. Never before have a man and a woman inflicted more pain upon each other in a movie."

Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum: "Blood spurts, bones are  broken, genitals are mutilated. Hellooo? Are you still with me?"

Toronto Globe and Mail's Elizabeth Renzetti: "Von Trier is to subtlety what Don King is to neat hair.... One bit of self-mutilation in particular is not likely to help Von Trier's reputation as a director who has a tricky time representing women. [It's] Ingmar Bergman meets 'Saw.' "

Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells: "Easily one of the biggest debacles in Cannes history and the complete meltdown of a major film artist.... One of the most absurdly on-the-nose, heavy-handed and unintentionally comedic calamities I've ever seen."

Time Out New York's Stephen Garrett: "I personally had a ball. [It's] gonzo drama at its most feral."

Variety's Todd McCarthy: "Von Trier cuts a big fat art-film fart with 'Antichrist.' Traveling deep into NC-17 territory, this may prove a great date movie for pain-is-pleasure couples. Otherwise, most of the director's usual fans will find this outing risible, off-putting or both."

Screen's Jonathan Romney: "Who would've thought that the mischievous yet high-minded Dane would have provided the latest high-profile torture porn? [It's a] bizarre, increasingly hysterical melodrama."

New York Times' Manohla Dargis: "Chaos reigns ... but I would be lying if I didn't admit that this impossible movie kept me hooked from start to finsh."  

If you still want to watch the film's trailer, which carefully avoids showing the film's most alarmingly perverse moments, please be my guest:

Photo of Lars Von Trier at Cannes Film Festival. Photo credit: Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP/Getty Images