Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 21
Lars Von Trier April 30, 1956
Lars von Trier born

In Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the author chronicled '70s cinema by looking not so much at the movies as the larger-than-life personas of the directors. His book is full of outrageous anecdotes and apocryphal tales that argue for the concept of the director not as a smoothly efficient manager of the movie set but as a tormented artist. Today, though, there are fewer and fewer of these outsider auteurs in the film business. And when these monster-sized egos emerge, they are often quashed by an industry press that prioritizes cool box-office analysis over a celebration of Dionysian filmmaking abandon. So, then, perhaps Lars von Trier, born April 30, 1956, is one of our last great filmic wild men — even if his transgressive nature is, these days, expressed more through carefully aimed press conference missives and melancholy musings than sturm and drang on the set. When his last film, Antichrist, played Cannes, it won awards for lead actress Charlotte Gainsbourg but also from the fest's "ecumenical jury," which gave it an "anti-award" for alleged misogynist content. At the fest, von Trier, whose films include Breaking the Waves, The Kingdom, and Dancer in the Dark, caused a stir when, after being snapped at by a French PR person when he got up to go the bathroom during his film's credit sequence, left the theater entirely before the lights went up. When asked if he feels grand pronouncements, like his threats to quit the film business, or outrageous acts (like claiming he directed a film naked one day), are necessary to create publicity in today's crowded media landscape, von Trier told Filmmaker magazine, "I don't think they are necessary.... I have a very simple theory about these things. I think that I'm just a very emotional person and I do emotional things like leaving the cinema, like being provoked by this guy in the press conference. Things that I have to defend myself [against]. I do and I say what I feel, and I don't think these are things you can put on as an act. I really don't. I think that you have to judge [behavior like this] by the success of the artists, and if artists do something of quality then it is because they are also sincere in the way they act towards the press. I believe that is so."


More Flashbacks
Working Girl Dec. 21, 1988
Working Girl Opens

With Carly Simon's anthemic "Let the River Run" scoring Melanie Griffith's Monday-morning commute from Staten Island to Wall Street, Mike Nichols' Working Girl, which opened December 21, 1988, is an upbeat fantasia celebrating female empowerment, class mobility, and the underlying soundness of our financial system.

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December 21, 1988
Working Girl, a fable of money

Just days before Christmas, director Mike Nichols delivered Working Girl, a new brightly wrapped present of the American dream. If Oliver Stone’s 1987 Wall Street showed the greed and cruelty behind that fueled America’s financial professionals, Nichols' Working Girl gave that same capitalist dream a positive––and feminist––spin. A downtown secretary (Melanie Griffith) steals the identity of her investment banker boss (Sigourney Weaver) in order to sell a sure-fire marketing idea. But rather than being a political fable of the Man––er, Woman––keeping the hero down, like the 1980 feminist comedy Nine to Five, Working Girl was a fable of class mobility. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin commented, "One of the many things that mark Working Girl as an 80's creation is its way of regarding business and sex as almost interchangeable pursuits and suggesting that life's greatest happiness can be achieved by combining the two," In some ways, the film serves as a counterpoint to Pretty Woman, the 1990 film that should have perhaps switched titles with Nichols' comedy. The film proved a feelgood hit, with the Carly Simon anthem "Let the River Run" going on to win the Academy Award for Best Song in 1989. Significantly, the original title to this stirring track was “The Wall Street Hymn.” While the big hair to big money story hit box office gold, the 1990 TV sitcom spun from the story was fired soon after its broadcast premiere.

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