Lars von Trier didn't just make waves in Cannes this year, he literally stopped the festival in its tracks today.
Moments before the first screening of banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's This Is Not A Film, the festival announced the expulsion Lars von Trier who is here in competition with Melancholia. The move stirred shock among journalists here and ignited an even louder debate about Von Trier and his recent remarks.
In the wake of yesterday's comments at a festival press conference making light of Hilter and Nazis, this afternoon festival leadership took the unprecented step of declaring the Danish director, "persona non grata." Von Trier's film will remain in competition, but he has personally been banned from the event, a dramatic development for a festival that has embraced the director and his often controversial work for decades.
Festival organizers issued the following statement this afternon: "The Festival’s Board of Directors, which held an extraordinary meeting this Thursday 19 May 2011, profoundly regrets that this forum has been used by Lars Von Trier to express comments that are unacceptable, intolerable, and contrary to the ideals of humanity and generosity that preside over the very existence of the Festival. The Board of Directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars Von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately."
In a verité audio podcast, we sat down at a busy sidewalk café with the Film Society's Scott Foundas and Gavin Smith late this afternoon at the Cannes Film Festival.
"Especially in a festival that's showing work by two filmmakers who were banned in their own country for making films, it actually does strike me as a little bit extreme," offered Scott Foundas, "My feeling is that Lars historically has tended to play the fool or the provocateur or some combination of the two and very rarely intends for what he says to be taken serious(ly)."
"Nobody can deny that the film has certainly been hurt by all of this outside attention that has nothing to with with the film itself, which I quite like," Foundas explained.
"Personally, I think that he should be banned from the festival for life for making this film," offered Film Comment editor Gavin Smith, "Because I think its the most excruciatingly boring experience I've had in a movie theater in years and I think it's an incredibly intept and bombastic and stupid film."
Gavin Smith and Scott Foundas not only debated Lars Von Trier at length in today's podcast but they also discussed their distaste for the new Pedro Almodovar film, pondered Takashi Miike's 3D fest entry and ordered a soft drink and coffee.
Lars von Trier and the cast of Melancholia at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.
Eugene Hernandez is the Director of Digital Strategy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and a founder of indieWIRE. Follow him on Twitter from Cannes (@eug) and follow the rest of FIlmLinc.com's Cannes coverage in our special section.