The Corner

Say What?

Usually the bulletins from the Cannes Film Festival have to do with the Palme d’Or and topless starlets. Not this year. From Variety:

The Cannes Film Festival has kicked Lars von Trier out of the festival, banning him from all events and declaring him a “persona non grata” in the wake of the Danish director calling himself a Nazi and expressing sympathy for Hitler.

A spokesman for the festival told Variety that von Trier won’t be allowed to attend any events during the remainder of this year’s festival, which concludes Sunday. His Palme d’Or contender “Melancholia” is still eligible for the prize — but von Trier won’t be allowed to attend the award ceremonies.

It’s hard to tell, but from the story it seems art-house favorite von Trier was making, how you say in English, a joke. That, at least is the Hollywood Reporter’s take:

Danish director Lars von Trier pulled a Mel Gibson in Cannes Wednesday, giving a shocking and hilarious press conference for his new film Melancholia in which he admitted to being a Nazi, to understanding Hitler and speculated that his next movie could be The Final Solution.

Von Trier has never been very P.C. and his Cannes press conferences always play like a dark stand-up routine, but at the Melancholia press conference he took it to another level, tossing a grenade into any sense of public decorum. In response to a question about his Germanic roots, Von Trier set off on a long and twisted answer that, if this were America, not Cannes, would have meant career suicide.

How do you say “funny” in Danish? The quotes, from the Reporter, are pretty ugly:

“For a long time I thought I was a Jew and I was happy to be a Jew,” he began, “then I met (Danish and Jewish director) Susanne Bier and I wasn’t so happy. But then I found out I was actually a Nazi. My family were German. And that also gave me some pleasure. What can I say? I understand Hitler…I sympathize with him a bit.”

Von Trier qualified that “I don’t mean I’m in favor of World War II and I’m not against Jews, not even Susanne Bier” before digging himself deeper. “In fact I’m very much in favor of them. All Jews. Well, Israel is a pain in the ass but…”

As Melancholia stars Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, sitting on either side of Von Trier, stared at him agog, the director paused.“Now how can I get out of this sentence? Ok. I’m a Nazi.”

Von Trier apologized:

For his part, von Trier issued an apology Wednesday, stating, “If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi.”

But the damage was done: He’s been declared persona non grata, effective immediately. Of course, this being tolerant Europe:

The festival spokesman indicated that the “persona non grata” designation may not be permanent.

Mel Gibson, call your agent. In the meantime, Liberal Fascism, anybody? Over to you, Jonah.

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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