Thursday, September 24, 2009

NYFF 2009: Lars von Trier's Antichrist

Perhaps this post should be subtitled, "In Defense of" or possibly even "in RABID Defense of".  Nonetheless, here it is.

Okay, let me begin by saying that yesterday's NYFF press screening for Lars von Trier's Antichrist waas met by giggles, guffaws and a general malaise of what the!? get-this-over-with shuffling about in the seats.   The film even received a bevy of cat calls when everyone saw the film was dedicated to Andrei Tarkovsky.  Okay, the Tarkovsky thing was a bit out-of-the-blue but as far as everything else goes and/or went, I must say - with more than a great deal of arrogant pride for some reason - that for better of for worse I liked the damned thing.  In fact I think I could even go a stretch further and say I loved the damned thing - genital-mutilation and all!

So what I am saying here is, send me off to cinephilia purgatory if you want, I don't give a damn.  I (arrogantly again?) pronounce LvT's Antichrist as the second best film of 2009 (second only to another ballyhooed mixed mataphor movie, QT's both beloved and bemoaned Basterds).  Well at least in my opinion it is, as for everyone else - not so much.  So no matter how many belittle the film (the impression I got after overhearing post-coital, er I mean post-screening comments at Walter Reade yeasterday) or just plain were not happy with what the director was doing with it (though others did like it for what it was) while at the same time being bothered by it still (and isn't this merely falling into the provocateur's grubby little Danish hands?) and no matter how many people begin to uncontrollably snicker and chuckle when the blood-drenched fox tells Willem Dafoe that chaos reigns (perhaps instead of Tarkovsky, LvT should have dedicated his film to Chris Noonan and/or George Miller!?) and no matter how many claim all von Trier is doing is satiating his own misogynistic wet dreams, I stand by this film with a furious dedication to defending its rather precarious (if it has any at all) honour.

Simply put, I loved this big steaming pile of pretentious cinematic garbage for whatever it is worth.  And by "steaming pile of pretentious cinematic garbage" I mean to compliment the film in not only the best way I can think of but also in the most apprpriate way to praise a film made by a director who when informed (via his Skype Q&A after yesterday's screening) that no one had walked out of the screening, replied with a wink-and-a-nod "then I have failed".  A sidenote: one critic sitting in the back (did not see who it was) was heard saying that he had wanted to walk out.  Too bad von Trier didn't hear him, it may have made the bastard's day.

Oh yeah, with all this defending of the film's character (or lack thereof) from those I perceived to be my enemies due to their obvious distaste for what is certainly a distasteful movie I forgot to talk about the actual film.  That is a wink-and-a-nod comment too by the way - I am sure no one even cares that I loved a film that they hated, but its kinda fun to provoke (oh now I get it).

The film itself starts off with a title card which reads (in scribbled crayon-coloured handwriting) - no make that boasts the director's name.  This was the moment the snickers first began.   Aside from obviously finally letting go of at least some of his dogme hang-ups, all this boast does is let us know who made the damned film.  Would these snickers have met Capra when his name-before-the-title movies played?  Perhaps he should have dedicated the film to Capra then.  But I digress.

Antichrist opens with a silky black and white slo-mo (for slo-mo's sake perhaps?) of He and She (Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as the unnamed but for He and She couple) doing the proverbial nasty from shower to sink to bedroom, all the while, their toddler toddling his way from crib to open window to snowy ground several floors down (teddy bear in tow).  Is this prologue pretentious?  Hells yea, but who would have expected any less - von Trier is no less pretentious than say, Welles or Kubrick or Bergman or Antonioni or Lynch or Tarantino or Godard (I can go on ya know).  I think this is actually the very reason I like the filmmaker so much - his proud pretentiousness in the face of cinematic art.

Anyway, to go on with the film, after this the movie turns to colour (and I think even its many detractors cannot say much against the gorgeous cinematography throught) and the therapist He decides to take the fractured, grief-striken She to their cabin in the woods.  Did I mention the aforementioned cabin in the woods is called Eden?  So yes, after the fall the couple goes back to Eden.  Maybe instead of Antichrist, LvT could have called his film Eden II: The Revenge of the Serpant (or talking fox). 

Yeah yeah, I know.  The whole thing reeks of a wild abandon of indulgence.  But in the strangest of ways (similar to QT's Basterds and just about every goddamned JLG film!) this is what makes the film work for me.  Its self-arrogance.  Its buzzing hindrance.  Its ugly, nasty self-indulgent nature.  Its Strindbergian theory if you will.  And I haven't even mentioned the parts where He ejaculates blood and She takes a pair of scissors to her, well let's just leave it at that.  She did win Best Actress at Cannes for this, so what does that say about Cannes?  It says a lot I think, but as I said, lets leave it at that.  The fox, the scissors, the Omen-esque overtones, the Lynchian white noise, the Tarkovsky rhetoric, the scissors, the snicker-inducing arrogance, the closing credit that reads "Misogyny Researcher" (and yes, it is a woman), the scissors.  The film is nowhere shy of batshitcrazy and I suppose I like that in my cinema, which definitely explains by fist-in-the-air defense of LvT's latest provocacation.  Anyway, I said I would leave it at that so leave it at that I will - for now.

I will be posting a full length review on the film (over at The Cinematheque) closer to the release date of the film (which is Oct. 23 at IFC Center in NYC to start).  As for now, I'm going to leave it at this.  Did I mention the scissors?

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