Each week, Now in Rep Cinema compiles the best repertory and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.
|Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em: Lars von Trier
Miles Nadal JCC
Monday July 11, 7 p.m.
|Forbidden Desires: Hitchcock and De Palma
Monday July 11, 7 p.m.
|A Woman Under the Influence
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday July 14, 8:45 p.m.
Friday July 15, 9:30 p.m.
Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em, Controversial Directors in Nayman’s Terms: Lars von Trier
Just what the hell is the deal with Lars von Trier, anyway? And, more to the point, what’s the deal with people wondering what the deal with him is? Granted, it was stupid of him to make those comments at Cannes this year about sympathizing with Hitler and identifying as a Nazi (while Kirsten Dunst looked on in horror). But what do people expect? For decades, he’s cultivated the persona of being a self-styled outcast and straight-up asshole. It’s like he’s following in the footsteps of someone like Werner Herzog: developing a persona that makes his name itself a selling point (Jason Anderson wrote about this in this week’s Grid, with regards to Herzog).
Chances are, before you even see a Lars von Trier film, you’ve heard stories about him—stories about how he hates woman and is a notorious taskmaster on the set. Stories about how he made Björk cry and how the “von” in his name is an elaborate put-on, an in-joke suggesting noble blood and hat-tip to Josef von Sternberg and Erich von Stroheim. Or how at different points in his life he’s self-identified as a Jew, a Catholic, and now a Nazi. Between all this and that smug, impish grin you couldn’t cold-clock off his pasty head, it’s pretty easy to hate Lars (von) Trier.
In no small part, it’s all this bratty self-mythologizing that has made Trier so controversial. That and his unblinking abuse of his female leads and confrontational imagery (spoiler alert: Charlotte Gainsboroug snips off her clitoris in Antichrist). It also makes Trier an ideal candidate for the second instalment of Adam Nayman’s Controversial Directors lecture series at the JCC, which previously explored the disjoint between the character of the artist and the reception of their art (in the case of Polanski).
As with Polanski, it’s impossible to deny the quality of (some of) Trier’s films, such The Element of Crime and Europa. Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, and Dogville are all engaging, interesting films, even when they seem downright mean. And even when they’re not so good, Trier’s films bear his unmistakable signature, making him one of the most clearly defined auteurs working today (or ever). He’s also funny, in a really dark, self-satisfied way, kind of like the weird kid in middle school who draws funny pictures of the teacher getting drawn-and-quartered, and who gets taken in for a board-ordered pysch evaluation but is really just taking the piss. So, (again, spoiler alert) when a fox, voiced by Trier, says “Chaos reigns!” in Antichrist, it’s both incredibly stupid and a handy little joke, especially in a film by a filmmaker whose dictatorial manner and tendency to cobble together manifestos laying out strict guidelines for his filmmaking eschews the freewheeling randomness of something like chaos.
Still, funny or gifted or not, there are plenty of things that niggle about Trier and his films. Why, one might ask, is it okay for him to run his female leads through horrifying misogynist gauntlets just because he’s playing with the expectation that he’s a misogynist? One might also ask what he was thinking with the dicey racial politics of Manderlay (which, with Dogville forms two-thirds of an unfinished trilogy indicting America, a country he’s never been to). And who the hell should be allowed to get away with voicing a talking fox who says “Chaos reigns”? I don’t know, man. Ask Lars von Trier. Or better yet, ask Adam Nayman. You’ll probably get something closer to an honest answer. Plus, who among you can resist the notably Trier-ish prankishness of attending a lecture on a self-described Nazi sympathizer at the JCC?
Also Unspooling…Forbidden Desires: Hitchcock and De Palma
Film critic and lecturer Kevin Courrier is back at the Revue with his new lecture series, Forbidden Desires, in which he’ll be examining film’s own essential voyeurism (which, really, is the medium’s main mode). First up are two of film’s most notorious peeping toms: Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma. If you’re lucky, Kevin will show a clip of the split screen from Phantom of the Paradise. If you’re lucky.
A Woman Under the Influence
John Cassavetes is perhaps best known for his searing, claustrophobic studies of domestic unrest, and A Woman Under the Influence may be his tensest. Gena Rowlands plays a wife and mother whose kookiness begins to show the cracks of schizophrenic breakdown. Well before Julianne Moore fell victim to the condition of every day life in Safe, Rowlands was the housewife afflicted by her displacement from the world orbiting around her. Anyone who thought Blue Valentine was a tough watch should try spending two and a half hours trapped in a stucco house with Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence. And, as a Lightbox bonus, Gena Rowlands will be talking about the film, and her collaborations with Cassavetes (her late husband) beforehand, at 6:30 p.m., and take part in a Q&A.
So if you live in Toronto and have eyes that work, you’ve probably noticed those ads for some movie called The Unleashed plastered all over the goddamn place. If you somehow missed them, they have a woman with her back arched and her arms kind of falling at her side, splattered with blood. And they’re everywhere! Other than that it’s called The Unleashed and that it probably has this girl from the poster in it somewhere, we really don’t know anything about it. Except that it opens at the Underground on Friday. So unleash yourself from the bondage of not knowing anything about this movie and go see it.