Oh dear — this is turning out to be a pretty rough weekend at Cannes. We’re still awaiting the first official reviews of Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist,” which just screened this evening, but it seems to have attracted the full ire of the notoriously excitable Cannes crowd. Boos, gasps and laughter reportedly greeted the screening on the gory, sexually explicit film, which apparently throws everything from talking animals to genital mutilation into the pot.
Jeff Wells pulls no punches in his assassination of the film:
Easily one of the biggest debacles in Cannes Film Festival history and the complete meltdown of a major film artist in a way that invites comparison to the sinking of the Titanic … It’s an out-and-out disaster — one of the most absurdly on-the-nose, heavy-handed and unintentionally comedic calamities I’ve ever seen in my life. On top of which it’s dedicated to the late Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, whose rotted and decomposed body is now quite possibly clawing its way out of the grave to stalk the earth, find an axe and slay Von Trier in his bed.
EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum, however, more diplomatically states that the film does exactly what it sets out to achieve:
The movie looks almost tauntingly great, of course, with von Trier’s longtime collaborator (and Slumdog Millionaire Oscar winner) Anthony Dod Mantle as cinematographer. So it’s one good-looking, publicity-grabbing provocation, with an overlay of pseudo-Christian allegory thrown in to deflect a reasonable person’s accusations of misogyny. As a kicker, the director dedicates the picture to the memory of the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky–a final flip of the bird to the Cannes audience.
And oh, how our audience took the bait! But then, there’s always at least one film at this outsized, obstreperous, one-of-a-kind film festival each year that’s pre-determined to freak out the press-pass-wearing populace. Consider the crowd (including the belligerent European gent who nearly knocked me over shoving to get through the gate) happily, perfunctorily scandalized.
Schwarzbaum is right, of course — Von Trier thrives on such media shockwaves. After all, “Dancer in the Dark” inspired similar fury (if not quite the same level of shock) upon its Cannes debut, so I’ll avoid drawing conclusions just yet. Will “Antichrist” find as many sympathetic critics when the smoke clears? We’ll see. For now, color me curious … and worried.