After watching the hilariously awkward press conference for Lars von Trier’s Cannes competition film, Melancholia (all 38 minutes are here), one can see the awkward position the festival is in. One one had, the Cannes festival is one of the last bastions of unfettered free speech slash freedom of expression. Despite this clearly it is the case of an awkward auteur who had no interest in engaging with the world press (of whom, other than Bruce Kirkland, did not seem to ask much of anything of interest considering the prestige of the festival.) On the other hand, the world is still very sensitive to jokes made about the state of Israel, Hitler, and the Nazi parties final solution of WWII, which von Trier fumblingly delivered during the press conference (and this after announcing, tongue in cheek, that his next film will be a 3 hour porn film starring his Melancholia leads, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kristen Dunst) before realizing how deep he dug himself and pleading, “How do I get myself out of this sentence?”
So, Cannes has taken the hammer approach and booted Lars von Trier out of the festival (his film gets to stay in competition) whilst declaring him a persona non grata, despite his apology after the fact. Outside his films (and many would argue within his films) the crazy Dane has always been a bull in a china shop. Why bag on the man for being who he is? Clearly he isn’t as serious as the world would have him be. For the record, I am a big fan of the director’s particular brand of cinema, and all the controversy, infamy and bluntness he brings to the table. I know that festivals need their dog and pony shows, but discriminating cinephiles are (hopefully) wise enough to let the films speak for themselves, and find these types of press conferences about as vulgar as explaining-in-detail a good joke. A joke that the worlds largest and most prestigious festival just supplied an even bigger punchline too. Censoring their own position on freedom of expression while purporting an adherence to those principles. Who is the Nazi now?
Either way, well played Mr. Trier for keeping Cannes amusing to those of us (by making an ass of yourself in public for our entertainment) thousands of miles away.