Von Trier’s Real Mistake? Not Being Funny.

20 May

Oh, Lars. You’ve really done it this time. But hey, at least you don’t have to worry about not being around to collect the Palme d’Or though, because from what I hear ‘Melancholia’ wasn’t going to win it anyway. Even before this little episode.

It’s hardly extraordinary that a filmmaker who appears to have grown increasingly obedient to his own ego over recent years has detached himself so far from reality that he’s making badly delivered tongue-in-cheek jokes about being a Nazi at the world’s flagship film festival on a panel discussing one of the most anticipated films of the year.  However I do have to admit being a little surprised by the Cannes Festival directors stamping him ‘persona non grata’ and unceremoniously booting him from the Festival in the manner they have.

He was asked to clarify what he said, which he did, and apologised. Was he being disingenuous with the apology? Does he think that he operates on a different plain to the little people who didn’t get his joke? Is he so wrapped up in himself that he thinks that the rules of the everyday world don’t apply to him? Quite possibly yes to those questions.

This is, after all, a man who has openly courted controversy and offense by the bucket load throughout his career and taken (quite literally) a perverse pleasure in it at times. The decision to ban him is a bit strange to me. Cannes encourages “out there” films and characters. They support the avant garde, the unusual, counter culture creatures and figure-heads. I’m not defending or sympathising with anti-semites, but if you ask that the leaders of the weird world come and present their latest offerings to your festival and then stick them in front of the world’s press, please don’t act surprised if one or two have something inappropriate to offer. I mean, Cannes this year has Mel Gibson starring in Jodie Foster’s Beaver. That’s about as inappropriate as it comes. Vincent Gallo was a more worthy banee when he presented his johnson being sucked by Chloe Sevigny for no apparent reason in Brown Bunny. But there’s no Vincent Gallo and Brown Bunny at Cannes 2011, and every pantomime needs a villain. Even if the villain is a former fest-darling turned scoundrel.

But here’s the thing, the duplicity with this: it’s OK to be offensive.

You just have to be funny.

It certainly appears that way. A good well timed joke about something truly horribly unspeakably offensive appeals to something deep within the human soul, and it’s something that some of the best and smartest comedy writers and performers out there are well aware of. The Monty Python crew knew it, Matt Stone and Trey Parker know it, Frankie Boyle knows it, Sacha Baron Cohen knows it, Chris Morris certainly knows it … the list goes on. Why accept one and not the other?

“Oh, that’s should be offensive, but it’s packaged up so cleverly and funnily that I don’t find it offensive anymore.”

“OMG, that’s so subversive”

Oh fuck off.

Lord only knows where LvT thought his little monologue was taking him, but it seems clear to me that as the tension began to grow and mouths began to gape, he attempted to crack a joke to lighten the mood sadly only to make things worse. And his mouth continued to move and his brain continued to disengage until he’d talked himself down an inescapable dark alley. By which point it was too late. We’ve all been there.

Haven’t we? No? Well some of us have.

He made a bad joke about Nazis.

Get off your high horse. If he’d made a good one you’d be pissing yourself and throwing awards at him.


One Response to “Von Trier’s Real Mistake? Not Being Funny.”

  1. Ben Burdett May 31, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    “I mean, Cannes this year has Mel Gibson starring in Jodie Foster’s Beaver.”

    That is one of the single greatest sentences ever written. Kudos to you.

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