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Monday, May 18, 2009
Cannes Day 6: The beauty of disagreement, or something like that
Cannes Day 6
As expected, the calculated extremism of Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist” (see Day 5) dominated the festival today. At the second screening this morning, a friend reported that a member of the audience was so outraged by the scene of self-mutilation and preposterous violence that he shouted abuse at the screen once the film ended. I met an Indian journalist/professor who expressed his disbelief at the film’s scandalous absurdity and wondered who in the right mind would want to “enjoy” such atrocity.
There are people who admire the audacity and radical vision of the director, and they’re prone to condescend those who fail to see through its machinations and simply dismiss it as a nonsese. Lars von Trier, the Danish director, compounded the layers of his practical joke by saying in a press conference this afternoon that he might “get killed”, supposedly by someone so angered by the film. Then he addled the discussion by implying that God himself had inspired him to make this film and that he’s probably “the best director in the world”. Go figure...
Perhaps the best way to react to “Antichrist” is this: I believe you can “like” or “be impressed” by the film on the intellectual level – through the fact that you can see how this is a cerebral, audacious and intelligent movie – but on the human level, it's almost impossible to like the film or to connect with it in any meaningul, productive way. By saying this, I guess Lars von Trier has succeeded in what he’s set out to do: to provoke, and to force you to reflect on the power – no matter how repulsive – of his cinematic creation.
On another note: the Competition film screened today is “Vincere”, by Italian director Marco Bellochio. It’s a gripping story of Mussolini’s secret mistress and her tragic descent into the dust bin of history. Bellochio effectively intercuts his story with newsreel footages featuring the Fascist leader and his involvement in the chaotic European destiny of the mid-20th century. The result is strong, taut drama, with the beautiful Giovanna Mezzogiorno in the lead role. I will venture to say that the film might even win something on Saturday night when the awards are announced.
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