Cannes Organizers Sink To Lars Von Triers' Level, Ban Director From Festival With Immediate Effect

by Oliver Lyttelton
May 19, 2011 12:15 PM
20 Comments
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Wow, Lars-Von-Trier-Is-A-Dick-At-A-Press-Conference-Gate just keeps running and running, doesn't it? The troublemaking director managed to totally overshadow the quality, or otherwise (the film's attracted the most divisive reaction of a festival that's already seen little consensus on its films) of "Melancholia" by behaving in his usual provocative manner at the film's press conference yesterday. The headline-happy helmer told assembled reporters that "Ok. I’m a Nazi... For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew... I found out I was actually a Nazi. Which also gave me some pleasure. My family were German. What can I say? I understand Hitler…I sympathize with him a bit... I don’t mean I’m in favor of World War II and I’m not against Jews, not even Susanne Bier. In fact I’m very much in favor of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain the ass but…"

It was a stream-of-consciousness bit designed to get a rise out of the crowd, but even von Trier perhaps couldn't have anticipated the degree of that rise: there was an immediate uproar, and Cannes organizers condemned the director's comments. Von Trier issued an apology, saying that "If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologise. I am not antisemitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.” As was more or less evident to anyone who, you know, actually listened to the actual words he was saying. But the mea culpa apparently wasn't enough -- the "Melancholia" party was canceled, and, as Deadline are reporting this morning, the festival bosses have now declared the Danish director "persona non grata" on the Croisette.

The festival issued a statement this morning, which reads:

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. The Festival’s Board of Directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday 19 May 2011, 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.

If we may, we'd like to highlight four of those words quickly: "freedom of expression and creation." Yes, the director was being a prize ass, to the surprise of absolutely no-one. But we'd think that the official reprimand, and subsequent apology would have been the end of the story, without the need to blacklist the director. If Von Trier had stood up and outlined racial supremacist views, that would have been one thing, but he was nowhere near that, and even clarified his views at the time, and to ban Von Trier from the festival only a few days after parading Mel Gibson, a man on record as making genuinely racist and anti-Semitic statements, down the red carpet for the out-of-competition premiere of "The Beaver," a move designed to generate publicity just as much as Von Trier's comments were, is an act of staggering hypocrisy.

Update:
You can now watch Von Trier's comments for yourself in the video below. Not exactly "Triumph of the Will," is it?

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20 Comments

  • Ramzi Kibbi | March 26, 2013 6:15 PMReply

    I'm sorry did no one understand that he was JOKING!!!! God why do the board of directors have a stick up their ass I mean can't anyone take a joke about Jewish people. He literally said he wasn't against anyone yet you ban him forever. One of the stupidest decisions ever made...

  • josh | February 24, 2013 12:25 PMReply

    When are people going to wake up and realize that lars von trier is not a genius and that genius and insanity.Are two entirely seperate things yet there are back packing hipsters that are like leaches.Who support coots like this knucklehead von trier i dont know what fuck goes through the minds.Of the actors who support his work and or decide to work for him,von trier is not the only one.There are other directors too who come off like they are genius butare really crazy

  • Marco | February 10, 2013 9:44 PMReply

    Oh my... you guys are realy trying to defend what he said? Go suck a cock, you fucking stupid retarded morons (or should I just call you "liberals", to sum up??).

  • Marco | February 10, 2013 9:40 PMReply

    Oh my... you guys are realy trying to defend what he said? Go suck a cock, you fucking stupid retarded morons (or should I just call you "liberals", to sum up??).

  • Simon | January 27, 2013 6:34 PMReply

    Glad to see that I am not the only who thinks, like Focion, that Kate Muir's stupid question was suggesting if Lars' german roots were connected to his interest in Nazi aesthetic.

    When I watched the full conference, I was furious and offended by the racist undertones of the journalist's question and to me Lars's answer was a way of exposing that journalist's racism. Not only that, her question felt to me like a trap she wanted to set Lars on and I am just surprised that she got away with it without any reprimands from the festival.

    On another note, what really bothers me in that two-year old story it is how, of all the presses in the world, it is the French press that remains the most offended by what Lars said and who never grasped his dark humour while the other countries did. And what I find ironic is that the same French newspapers who slandered on Lars are the same ones who defended DSK after he raped that hotel maid in May 2011.

    To me, this story reveals the back-stabbing tactics of the Press and the hypocrisy of the Cannes Film Festival, who doesn't know how to discipline the journalists they invite; journalists who tend to turn the press conferences into trials.

    So to me, the only mistake Lars von Trier ever did was wasting his time doing press conferences for idiots that never had any respect for him.

  • focion | May 21, 2011 12:22 PMReply

    Kate Muir`s question was: "Can you talk a bit about your german roots an the gothic aspect of this film? And also you mentioned in a danish film magazine, that you`re interested in the Nazi-aesthetic and you talked about that german roots at the same time, can you tell us a bit more about that?"

    This "at the same time" sounds indeed strange in my ears, although i`m not a native english speaker. Isn`t it like suggesting, as remy wrote, that there might be a causal connexion between his biological descent and his interest in Nazi aesthetic. Or am i totally wrong?

    Here`s the link to the interview Muir is talking about:
    http://www.dfi.dk/Service/English/News-and-publications/FILM-Magazine/Artikler-fra-tidsskriftet-FILM/72/The-Only-Redeeming-Factor-is-the-World-Ending.aspx

  • zatopek | May 19, 2011 12:52 PMReply

    So, the Times reporter asked about his German roots and his views of Nazi aesthetic which he had said that he admired in an earlier interview. That's clearly insinuating that maybe von Trier had some sort of Nazi ties/sympathies/whatever. Maybe they should ban Kate Muir of The Times from Cannes press conference also?

  • JD | May 19, 2011 12:47 PMReply

    Does this mean he's also banned from winning awards?

  • Gatz | May 19, 2011 12:32 PMReply

    Looks like LVT's taking home the Palme D'oh!

  • Ryan | May 19, 2011 9:44 AMReply

    It's such bullshit. Everyone's giving Terrence Malick a hard time for not attending the press conference, but filmmakers shouldn't. If you say the wrong thing, you'll get banned. Common's not allowed to attend Cannes, either. Mel Gibson, always welcome.

  • Christopher Bell | May 19, 2011 9:03 AMReply

    He just can't tell a joke and at some point during what he was saying he realized that he couldn't formulate his thoughts/points properly and was probably sounding very questionable.

    The controversy is being very select with their quotes with this one - not only missing his uncomfortable tone but also "Look, I don't condone the second world war" or "How do I get out of this sentence" - doesn't seem like a provocation at all, just something that poured out of his mouth in the wrong way.

  • dudu | May 19, 2011 4:48 AMReply

    Each year he has to raise the bar to get some attention.
    I do love the “Israel is a bit of a pain in the ass” line, though.

  • Kathleen Walsh | May 19, 2011 3:29 AMReply

    After watching the clip, and in the context of the Melancholia review posted by Kevin yesterday, describing the exploration of depression that Von Trier has experienced himself, I just feel really bad for the guy. I don't think he had intentions to drum up publicity or get a rise out of anyone in saying that, I think he's just not in the practice of censoring himself or expressing himself in those bland, safe press conference-ready soundbites. You could see by the end that he realized he said something he shouldn't have, and he was talking about it in the first place because it was brought up by a reporter. Yes, it was stupid he said those things. I feel bad that he is being so publicly raked across the coals for it.

  • mary | May 19, 2011 3:22 AMReply

    Lars von Trier responds to the ban. (As expected, he says that he is definitely not Mel Gibson)

    http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/film/14770791/cannes-film-festival-2011-lars-von-trier-responds-to-being-declared-perso

  • Alex | May 19, 2011 2:59 AMReply

    I'm fairly certain that this is all staged. It's not like it's the first time Lars has ever said anything incendiary at Cannes. And it's not like he's the first director to do so either. And I'm sure other directors have said worse. Surely there has to be a Godard quote from the late 60s-early 70s that was comparable to this. He's been a Cannes darling his entire career; I feel like this is all part of the LvT show and that this year, he's stepping it up a bit.

    Almost certainly, he'll be back to premiere his next film and it will have the controversy built in because of this and so he won't need to say anything at all next time out.

  • Afandi | May 19, 2011 2:49 AMReply

    I love this guy. TOO BAD he could not keep his mouth shut.

  • Pierre | May 19, 2011 2:37 AMReply

    Correct me if I'm wrong but they will still uphold his freedom for creativity and expression through cinema. His films aren't banned, right? Just him?

  • Ken | May 19, 2011 2:32 AMReply

    This is shocking. Isn't LVT like a Cannes Film Festival staple? i wonder how he'll react to this and if there'll be anyway to overturn this

  • Nik Grape | May 19, 2011 2:28 AMReply

    Completely retarded. Hopefully they will revise their decision because he was obviously joking and anyone with half a mind who watched the press conference knows this.

    I might sound wrong here but had von Trier joked about Stalin, Milosevic, Hussain or pretty much ANY other tyrant other than Hitler, I doubt he'd be banned. My feeling is comment "Israel is a bit of a pain in the ass" is what hit the final nail in the coffin.

    Ludicrous. If he wins the Palme (unlikely) I'd laugh till no end.

  • Remy | May 19, 2011 1:11 AMReply

    This is absolute bullshit. If anyone actually watched that segment of the press conference- Roger Ebert posted it via Facebook- there is no way they could've taken LVT seriously... he was just....mumbling in an obvious joking manner, in fact he was semi-articulate. The extremes that people will go to protect PC-ness are shameful and ridiculous.

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