Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 17
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."


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