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Andrew Reid

Lars von Trier returns to Cannes and people seem to have taken personal offence to his fictional serial killer

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"so many people can’t interpret the correct target of a film or even a joke, because they are too thick."

A joke, or a film that has to explain itself to the audience is a failure. If the audience don't get it, then you as an artist have failed, you've either marketed it in such a way that the wrong people are going to see it, or you're not a very good artist. Now if you're trying to show something to an audience that they wouldn't usually see, and are trying to show them why your work is good, then you both need to expect the discussion about it, along with the criticism and for only the very pinicle of your genre to have any chance of success. If you are not at the pinnacle, you're likely to fail.

" I remember reading just recently about a top scientist who was in a large elevator with a lot of members from the audience of a conference, and he joked he wanted someone to press the button for him to get out at the women’s lingerie department. The target for this joke was of course himself, a decaying old man finding humour in a desperate fictionalised version of himself, seeking sexual satisfaction by exploring the women’s lingerie department, "

With you completely...

"but he ended up losing his job because people in the elevator took offence"

He didn't lose his job. He didn't lose anything. If he does, it won't be about the joke, it was about how he responded to the complaint. See below.

"saw the target as their gender, thought it misogynistic and wanted him fired. And the community in which he worked was so politically correct that they actually went ahead and did so. A life’s work ruined in a blink of an eye, a career smashed in the time it takes to make a wise crack in a lift.

Actually, the complaint about the joke was, quite rightly about to be dismissed. The big problem wasn't the joke, it was that he tried to intimidate the person who complained. Ex Partie communication is a very bad thing and should never be defended.

"but trivially empty family friendly content has kick started a mental health epidemic"

No it hasn't

"In the lead up to this year’s Cannes, Kate Muir of the Guardian newspaper in the UK lambasted Von Trier’s presence in the festival purely for being male"

It's interesting you think she lambasted him, given that all she did was print his own words, in context. What she was saying was, when there are all these great female directors, why is space being given to this guy. Here's things he has said. She was lambasting Cannes, yes, but him, no - his own words were enough - she even printed his follow up's to complaints about his words. 

"At the screening of the new film, over 100 critics walked out mid-way through, probably because .."

Probably? Hmmm..... anyone can make up stories about why someone did domething that supports their narrative, look:

You probably wrote this article because you have been kidnapped by aliens.

"The Ghostbusters remake and Black Panther were both terrible films "

Black Panther was terrible? Really? Most people disagree with you.

"and were practically immune to criticism"

Not being criticised doesn't mean they were immune to criticism. For starters Ghostbusters was heavily criticised. I've only seen one even slightly positive bit of press about it that they didn't pay for and it was as faint praise as you can get, basically saying that it's for kids, and this is what kids find funny (They don't, as you can see by kid's criticisms of the film). Black Panther meanwhile was not heavily criticised because most people thought it was OK.

"This privileged puritan mindset implies that women and black people are so downtrodden, they need some lightweight popcorn hit to empower them into doing something with their lives. "

Hmmm... No. This "privileged" "puritan" mindset implies that not all successful movies need to be made for straight white guys in their early teens through late 40's.

"it demonstrates to us that Von Trier and artists like him are right not to care, because logically the audience have no right to be offended."

You there, stop feeling the things your feeling and saying the things you are saying! You don't have the right too feel those things and say those things. Von Trier would wholeheartedly disagree with this statement of yours:

“Rebelling is part of my family. If you come to a family gathering, the family says something, you have to say something else. Then my family met my wife’s family, who said yes to everything, but my family often said no. If I see a form or a concept, I’d naturally challenge it, to see if there’s any possibility to gain more from it.”

If everyone loved his film, if no-one was offended, if no-one criticised it, then he's failed, in his own eyes.

"It is the filmmaker who is offering something to the audience."

In exchange for money. Never forget that bit, you can rightly rail against criticism if you are offering it with no expectation of recompense, but as soon as you earn a living from your trade, expect to be compared against others doing the same, and criticised for where you fall short.

"To feel personally insulted afterwards tells me that these critics are grandstanding a superior moral position over a work of FICTION, whereas the job of Von Trier the director is to create art, not a piece of ethical code for society."

Logically then, you are grandstanding a superior moral position over a film writeup, whereas the job of a critic is to guide consumers to work they may enjoy, not a piece of ethical code for society.

"In the puritan society"

Let's talk about this. Can you really call a society puritan when bikinis are acceptable wear, when pornhub exists, when comedians routinely get naked on stage. Society isn't puritan, especially when you understand puritans dislike violence too, but society doesn't want to see tits in nearly every film (It would be nice if violence was in nearly every film too), not because they don't like seeing tits, but because it's so fucking boring seeing the same story points over and over and over again. If every schlocky horror film had gratuitous closeups of amputees limb endings, it would be that which society would be bored of.

" really, it amounts to cultural censorship"

Spoken like someone who has never experienced the horrors of actual censorship. No-one is putting him in prison for his movie, they are just not going to give him as much money as you would like for it. That's not censorship, cultural or otherwise.

"If the industrial pioneers whose technology led to the creation of the camera all sat around raising awareness about empowerment of science, rather than making experiments in a lab"

They did both, actually, because, you know, people aren't one dimensional cardboard cutouts.

"and the way things are going  we’ll be without the future films of one of the world’s most interesting directors because no studio will accept his material."

The irony, on a piece decrying pearl clutching, you scoop up the mightiest pearls you can find and clutch them so hard it's making me think this whole piece is your attempt at comedy.

 

----

 

I do agree with the thrust of your argument - that films like this are important and should be given publicity - I just think you went about it in quite the stupidest way possible. Now excuse me while I write an email to my local arts cinema explaining why they should show this film. Please stop assuming I'm so dumb (and the silent majority) that I swallow critics self serving ramblings hook line and sinker. And try to not say things that are factually wrong.

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59 minutes ago, SleepyWill said:

"so many people can’t interpret the correct target of a film or even a joke, because they are too thick."

A joke, or a film that has to explain itself to the audience is a failure. If the audience don't get it, then you as an artist have failed, you've either marketed it in such a way that the wrong people are going to see it, or you're not a very good artist.

I don't agree, unless we are talking about "commercial art" which are two words that don't go well together. 

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Like Nani Moretti said once when some interviewer asked him on the poor public reaction over one of his pieces and work...

What audience we're talking about?

What movie reviewers we're talking about? -- I legitimately wonder myself now.

Even Roger Ebert was too weak and he was the most famous one ever, I guess.

 

- E.

(former awarded movie critic)

 

PS: BTW, I had the chance to personally be involved with Zentropa during Breaking The Waves prepping more than twenty years ago now, exactly throughout such activity on his biography and filmography. Nothing more surprises me about LvT. He is simply one of the most interesting contemporary film creators, if not, 'the one' still alive-n-kickin'... simply a legend. And a major influence. Maybe not precisely for his generation but decidedly for several next ones, not only the immediately subsequent one. Dogma 95 as for instance was only a beginning -- his contribution is well beyond that... I invite anyone to (re)watch Europa (1991). That language could never be the last course of the road. Neither that shooting style as many uneducated movie critics on his work and film aesthetics itself have implicitly intended to understate.

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The highest compliment I can give is the man clearly has a consistent vision and usually says something with his narrative. Antichrist was riveting to me from start to finish. Films like human centipede, which are clearly made just to shock and offend don't get as strong a reaction, which to me is because Von Trier films are more impactful and well made. 

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Horror Films never get good reviews, it's the Film Genre everyone loves to hate, but unfortunately it is one of the most popular & enduring of all Film genres. I do like his recent quote "I'm not sure if they hated it enough, though." From what I can glean from the trailer, it looks as if it is going to be a very interesting & probably darkly funny film - taking a real scalpel to society. I love the fact that there are reports that Gasper Noe laughed throughout & I'll use this as my favourite review. It reminds me of watching "Scream" in France, with my then girlfriend & we were pissing ourselves laughing, much to the annoyance of other people who just didn't see the funny side of the film. I very much doubt that this film will ever be able to be more disturbing than "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer", but there aren't that many films that could or would ever want to be. 

As far as Von Trier goes, I'm not a huge fan & I don't think any of his films would get into my Top Ten - "The Kingdom" TV series would (all about supernatural goings on in a hospital - probably his best work). But, the one thing you can say about his films is that they get people talking about what they've just witnessed & surely that is preferred to the multitude of films that just wash over you & are forgotten a few hours later - like all the Marvel films, for instance.

Critics, after all, are just audience members that write about what they've experienced & if you walk out of a film, how can you have an objective view/opinion of your subject - you know, the film that you didn't even see!

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On 5/16/2018 at 10:58 AM, Andrew Reid said:

This privileged puritan mindset implies that women and black people are so downtrodden, they need some lightweight popcorn hit to empower them into doing something with their lives.

 

Quote

Whatever your opinion of the 1986 movie hit Top Gun, it boosted recruitment for Navy pilots by some 500 percent. It’s probably time to play that card again.

https://spectator.org/the-air-force-needs-maverick/

What we can see from these two quotes is if you do something and it inspires the white male first world Christian power structure it is good.  If it is aimed at inspiring women and niggers that it is horrible.

I honestly don't believe in free speech.  I think a lot of things should be banned.  They don't have any redeeming value.  Having said that as reprehensible in every way as this blog post was I have to grudgingly admit that it is positive that it was posted on the internet.  As a decent person there are times that I forget that people have thoughts like this in their heads.  As objectionable as this post was to read it definitely gave me some insight into the author.

Let's be honest.  This blog discusses the least import aspects of film making.  We are a bunch of EQUIPMENT nerds.  We aren't even film nerds.  We are just EQUIPMENT nerds.  This forum is just a guilty pleasure for me.  The fact of the matter is anyone can easily go out and rent an ARRI camera.  Someone could go out and buy an Alexa Classic use it for a couple of months and sell it.  Total round trip cost?  Less than the cost of a M43 speedbooster.  Gear is not what is holding us losers back from creating a masterpiece.  Having said that it is breathtaking to watch the author of this blog denigrate a historic movie like Black Panther.  I consider myself somewhat open minded.  By the Nazi standards of some people who shall remain nameless I am probably a raging left wing liberal.  Even I wouldn't bankroll a basically all black expensive Hollywood film with the goal of making hundreds of millions of dollars.  Conventional Hollywood thinking is such a movie would not even recover costs.  One of the central tenets of Hollywood was challenged this year and disproven in grand fashion.  And what was the reaction of this so called "film making" blog?  Ridicule.

On the topic of creativity.  What is more creative...

Making an all black movie that grosses $700 million or...

Writing the billionth article explaining how first world Christian white males are the true victims on the planet.

 

One of those things is unique and challenges me to rethink some of my conclusions about what is possible and the other is getting really really fucking tired.

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13 hours ago, Xavier Plágaro Mussard said:

I don't agree, unless we are talking about "commercial art" which are two words that don't go well together. 

Art in which the supposed audience are not supposed to get it, generally work because the people who believe they are the audience are not. Some artists are their own intended audience, taking amusement at the bewilderment, or for others to take amusement at the same thing.

When you make a work intended for (insert group here) and that group of people see it and say it's rubbish, then it's rubbish. Art is a lot of things but one thing it can never be is audienceless. Art by definition is supposed to be seen or otherwise experienced. Sadly artists are just normal people and come with the full range of weasel like behaviour that we can all exhibit when our feelings are hurt, and that includes lying about the intention of art if it fails the honest intention.

 

As for "commercial art", everyone's got to make a living, and if you can monetise the thing you love, why shouldn't you, why should you get sneered at for making the decision about your life that made you happy? Who are you to say that if I make something and someone is prepared to pay to experience it, that it's worth less than something made that no-one is prepared to pay to experience? Or that if I choose to take that money, suddenly my art is less worthy.

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It was always going to be a big ask to write convincingly that excessive and gratuitous brutality is somehow more of what the world needs right now, if only because it apparently shows a rebel genius giving us all the middle finger, or elucidating some obscure deeper principle through his violence.

But the sweeping generalisations and straw-man arguments that litter your piece certainly don't help in that quest.

Nor does decrying today's polarisation of opinion, while at the same time polarising this discussion by denigrating those who you target.

Perhaps LvT has something interesting to say to some people; perhaps he doesn't. But so far, I'm not convinced.

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9 hours ago, Richard Bugg said:

It was always going to be a big ask to write convincingly that excessive and gratuitous brutality is somehow more of what the world needs right now

The world needs less brutality in reality (you know... real life)

In art and fiction there is always a space for brutality and violence.

Violence can be done well in a fictional form... as a form of art... many films and actors are an example of that.

I am against mindless violence in films seen by kids and idiots and don't want it normalised in the general public.

But in an art-house film by Von Trier, it has an artistic purpose.

Some people can't see that artistic purpose, and will complain.

But as it's a work of fiction not a real murder spree, it is your artistic freedom as a director to do what you fucking like.

And the freedom of the audience to decide whether to watch it or not.

Quote

if only because it apparently shows a rebel genius giving us all the middle finger, or elucidating some obscure deeper principle through his violence.

"His violence"

Has he personally inflicted real-life violence on anyone through his fictional violence?

Quote

But the sweeping generalisations and straw-man arguments that litter your piece certainly don't help in that quest.

Nor does decrying today's polarisation of opinion, while at the same time polarising this discussion by denigrating those who you target.

Perhaps LvT has something interesting to say to some people; perhaps he doesn't. But so far, I'm not convinced.

So what's your goal here exactly Richard?

Censor what you don't understand?

11 hours ago, Kieran said:

Politics aside, here's an interesting interview with the cinematographer about the shooting of the film and the cameras & lenses used:

https://www.afcinema.com/Cinematographer-Manuel-Alberto-Claro-DFF-discusses-Lars-Von-Trier-s-The-House-That-Jack-Built.html?lang=en

Nice find

Agree with this bit...

"I did a couple of tests by giving a few scenes from the film to Éclair Laboratories in order to get an HDR copy (EclairColor standard). I found the tests to be a great success and I would really have liked to have shown the film in that version at Cannes. Unfortunately, I was told that it’s too early to do that in terms of equipment there. In any case, what I like about HDR is that the increased contrast you get with digital cinematography absolutely doesn’t look fake. But, that’s almost always the case when you want to get a flashy image in SDR from a digital camera. It helps me to get away from the obsession of low-contrast images and to provide films with a new palette of expressions."

For me HDR is about getting a more realistic high contrast scene, with lots of colour and pop, that looks like it was shot on film.

I hate high dynamic range for low contrast scenes.

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“What I do support is the freedom of the filmmaker to make a film of his choosing without censorship.”

The danger here is that this statement is difficult to distinguish from:

”...is the freedom of the person to behave in a way of his choosing without censorship.”  That is anarchy. In a JCSesque happy psycho-utopia it might work but in practice there is no evidence that it can or does or has.

In a civilised society there are - and must be - certain moral standards and rules which govern the behaviour and actions of individuals. Those who break those rules are liable to sanctions. And that, in my opinion, has to apply to “filmmakers” just as much as a school teacher or any other occupation or label. Yes, “creative types” push, bend and test the rules - but that is an entirely different statement than to suggest that a filmmaker should be allowed to operate entirely out-with any moral boundary. No one individual or category of individuals deserves to be exempt from the moral control which “society” - broadly understood and interpreted and not even necessarily universal -  deems appropriate. Remember Zach? I’m sure he described himself as a “filmmaker”.  He wasn’t allowed to express his creativity in the way he thought appropriate because he “breached” the “rules” of a “community”.

Note that, as far as I am aware, no one proposed that he should have been stopped before making the film. He had the “freedom” to make it - society retains an assumed  moral authority and freedom to respond in whatever way it seems appropriate.

Freedom - the key word here possibly - is never unrestrained or unqualified or independent of a given framework.

”He is here to trouble us and to prod, to get us out of our comfort zone and possibly even to give a few of us nightmares.”

Would that justification also apply to a terrorist? 

Once the statement is qualified then it inevitably acquires an unresolved ambiguity and “dies the death of a thousand qualifications”. 

An interesting and thought-provoking article. 

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16 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

Has he personally inflicted real-life violence on anyone through his fictional violence?

You pose that as a rhetorical question, as though the answer is self-evident. But it is a very relevant question. How do you define violence? Is it aways physical? What is the impact of witnessing extreme violence, real or depicted? Can showing a violent film be a form of violence itself?

You have already alluded to how films might provoke a physiological and psychological response (nightmares), and have suggested that films like this should be kept from children and "idiots". Why do you suggest these films be censored for some people and not others? Aside from the fact that you have qualified your own argument about censorship in this way, I presume it's because you recognise that exposure to screen violence might have some deleterious effect on at least some people? A cursory examination of the published literature suggest that this is indeed likely to be the case.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29093050

This film has been made. You have linked the trailer, which itself depicts graphic and extreme violence. You suggest that this is for an "art house" audience, but here it is on the internet.  It will be downloaded into people's homes, not confined to carefully chosen audiences that have weeded out the vulnerable. So children, youths, "idiots" and all manner of people will watch this trailer, and will watch this film, because in this day and age it is easily available, and because parents don't always take proper care or don't always understand the effects of such films on their children's and their own development. And who knows what effect these films have on the psyche of the general community over time. We are running that experiment now. People used to think smoking and asbestos were harmless.

The real question is this: Is curtailing individual freedoms in some instances justified due to probable harmful effects on the community?

I think in most rational and civic minded communities the answer would be yes. People who call themselves "Artists" are no exception. This is not sinister big government at play. This is about building civil and healthy societies. Where that line is drawn is a matter of debate. But to argue against any form of restriction is to neither accept nor care that some forms of expression might be harmful and might have harmful impacts on others.

This NYT article on the current controversy provides some interesting insights. Based on the final chilling paragraphs LvT may well be sociopathic. I certainly wouldn't want him as my banner boy for freedom of expression, but then again if you argue against censorship in any form then you are arguing not only for LvT's work, but also for far worse. Good luck with that.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/movies/lars-von-trier-the-house-that-jack-built-cannes-film-festival.html

 

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43 minutes ago, Richard Bugg said:

You have already alluded to how films might provoke a physiological and psychological response (nightmares),

Yes, but moreover,  LvTr with film as this last one doesn't provoke anything, doesn't reveal nor explore anything, it is legitimate and welcome part of brain-and-feel-washing industry.

Seen inside of global direction of modeling human mind - It just well serves in plan of step-by-step habituation to projected goal as described, say, in Huxley's dystopias.

With its intention and articulation, today it is simply cheap commercial movie for so-called or so-self-esteem upper western public.

There's no elaboration as inside, say, Clockwork orange, there's no intrinsic form-call to dilemma or critic dialogue, it is just big movie-spot.

For me, fundamental conception of article is wrong - problem of this movie is not at all that it deserve censorship, which is senseless. Problem is, not that it is just irrelevant by its cheap-cliche idea, but that it is deeply opportunistic and easy-understandable commercial - although impudently promoted as rebellion.

Deprived from subtlety, it is not achievement of rebel, but of well-established screw in industry.

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is it your british upbringing or a personal trauma that is responsible for the sexist and racist bias in this post?

where is the connection between the sexist joke in the elevator, black panther and Lars van Trier? there is none. it is all very differnt things. the only connection are your own white boy tears. this post shows what you are made of and it is a little sad. i feel sorry for you that you expose yourself in this way on the internet.

i know another person who would argue in the same way as you. currently he´s president of the united states.

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