Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 09
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
December 9, 1973
Don't Look Now released

On December 9, 1978, Nicolas Roeg's iconic Venice-set chiller Don't Look Now went on release in New York City.

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December 9, 1973
Looking at Don't Look Now

When British director Nicolas Roeg’s perverse thriller Don’t Look Now hit American theaters, not everyone was happy. In the New York Times review, Vincent Canby claimed that when this “fragile soap bubble of a horror film” ends, “you may feel, as I did, that you've been had.” Adapted from a Daphne Du Maurier short story, Don’t Look Now previewed many of the director’s upcoming themes—chaotic, realistic sex; disjunctive narrative montages; storylines that collapse the psychological and the supernatural. Here a young couple (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland), traumatized by the recent drowning of their young daughter, comes to Venice for a working holiday and possible relief from their grief. What they find instead is a mystery lost in the maze of Venice’s back streets and canals and shrouded in the city’s famous fog. And while some find the film’s enigmatic style off-putting, more have found it unforgettable. The sex scene, which was thrown in at the last moment, has become so infamous that for years people have questioned whether it was real or simulated. The film’s fractured shooting style remains a model for how to transform a city into a cinematic character. And the infamous chase of a girl in a red raincoat has been referenced by films as diverse as the torture porn hit Hostel to the comedy In Bruges to James Bond’s Casino Royale to many music videos. 

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