By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com May 19, 2011 at 12:15PM
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?