No journalist has tried to organize a Lars Von Trier Cannes-banning protest petition so I guess I’ll have to do it, dammit. Or at least I can propose the wording of the statement:
Date: Thursday, 5.19.11
To: Cannes Film Festival Board of Directors
From: Cannes-attending Journalists & Filmmakers
Subject: Decision to Declare Lars Von Trier “Persona Non Grata” In Wake of Inflammatory Statements at 5.18.11 Press Conference
We, the undersigned, recognize the the Board’s responsibility to respond forcefully and unequivocally to the offensive statements made on Wednesday, 5.18, by Melancholia director Lars von Trier. You are a political body as well as a team dedicated to drawing annual worldwide attention to the most exciting and artful films, and in this context you were obliged to verbally admonish Mr. Von Trier, even though he sincerely apologized for these statements on the same day he made them.
We feel, however, that declaring an artist of his accomplishments and magnitude “persona non grata” is an over-reaction. We ask that you reconsider.
You no doubt understand that Mr. Von Trier is a bit of a rascal and a provocateur. He loves to poke at the hornet’s nest. We recognize, of course, that he went too far with Wednesday’s statements (although we believe they were made in jest) and that he committed a grave political error in doing so.
But Lars Von Trier is one of your own — a longtime friend of the festival — and it seems harsh and even rash to throw him under the bus in this manner. Your decision seems particularly inappropriate since he is the director of one of this year’s most emphatically praised competition entries, one which, until late yesterday morning, stood a reasonable if not better-than-decent chance of winning the Palme d’Or.
Lars von Trier is a serious and compassionate artist who has time and again made films that have, with the possible exception of Antichrist, lent immeasurable dignity and stature to your festival. His films have shown time and again that he is full of nothing if not artistic bravery. As with all artists, his films are surely a truer, deeper representation of who he is and what he feels and believes than any words he might carelessly speak at a press conference. Never trust the artist — trust the tale.
Due respect, but respect needs to be paid. Lars Von Trier, an imperfect human being like all of us, needs to be offered charity and clemency. Admonish by all means, but don’t excommunicate.