Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
October 29
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
The Naked Kiss October 29, 1964
The Naked Kiss opens

A prostitute thrashes the drunken pimp who has stiffed her. As they fight, he reaches up and grabs her hair — and winds up with a fistful of her wig.

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October 29, 1993
The Nightmare before Christmas opens

Director Henry Selick made his feature directorial debut with The Nightmare Before Christmas, a stop-motion animated film about dual Christmas and Halloween worlds and the battle between them when the monsters and demons of the latter decide to place themselves in the world of the former.

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October 29, 2008
Being Different

The first outing from director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman took audiences into a strange headspace.

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