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GOA, India – Lars von Trier aficionados who were hoping their mercurial hero’s latest feature, the two-part sex epic, Nymphomaniac, might land in competition at next year’s Cannes Film Festival are in for a disappointment.
Speaking in a session at the Film Bazaar event in Goa, India, Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux said that due to the film’s planned release in Denmark and Spain on Dec. 25, it won’t qualify for a coveted competition slot at the prestigious fest, as they are reserved for premieres. That’s not to say the full director’s cut, which is being trimmed back from 5½ hours to a two-part four-hour version for commercial reasons, couldn’t screen out of competition, however.
Fremaux also reiterated that the Danish director is welcome back to the festival, despite the controversy that engulfed his 2011 appearance at Cannes. “You can trust Lars von Trier to make a big comeback one day,” he said.
At the 2011 Cannes festival, von Trier ignited a media maelstrom by telling journalists, “I really wanted to be a Jew, then I found out I was actually a Nazi. My family was German, Hartmann, which also gave me some pleasure. I understand Hitler, he certainly did some wrong things, but I can imagine him sitting in his bunker toward the end … now how can I get out of this sentence? OK, I’m a Nazi.”
Following the comments, the director was declared a “persona non grata” by the festival, although Fremaux later said the ban applied only for one year.
“That controversy was as stupid as what Lars said,” Fremaux told the Indian crowd, adding, “I told him that he made a bad joke, but that the controversy was unfair.”
Describing von Trier as “a friend,” Fremaux would not comment on whether the director had shown him Nymphomaniac yet — “though we do share views on cinema,” he said.
Nymphomaniac is billed as the story — from age 5 to 50 — of a self-confessed nymphomaniac, the older version of whom is played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. The film features an all-star ensemble cast including Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman and Connie Nielsen, among others.
Fremaux’s von Trier digression came in conversation with Indian director Sudhir Mishra as the two discussed both the selection process of world cinema at Cannes and the strong presence of Indian films at the 2013 festival, marking the centennial of Indian cinema this year.
Fremaux has visited India several times before, most recently as part of a delegation with French president Francois Hollande in February. But this is his first visit to the Film Bazaar, organized by the Indian government’s National Film Development Corporation.
“There is a lot more to do for Indian cinema at Cannes, both by the festival and the Indian industry,” Fremaux told The Hollywood Reporter before the event. “From our side we have premiered Bollywood cinema like Devdas [in 2002] to the new wave of independent cinema. In fact, I wanted Devdas in the competition that year. I wanted a Bollywood film every year at Cannes, but I never got the same quality as Devdas.”
Fremaux also pointed to the fact that Cannes has had regular jury members from India, such as actress Nandita Das and director Shekhar Kapur “which is a way for us to support Indian cinema and talent.”
“Cannes is not a French film festival — it is a world film festival that takes place in Cannes,” he added.
As for countries that are making an impact with their cinema, Fremaux listed Mexico, South Korea, Lebanon, Israel, China, Romania “and a little — and I can be sure more — India.”
“This was a great year for Indian cinema with films like The Lunchbox, Monsoon Shootout and Bombay Talkies. And of course, Amitabh Bachchan on the red carpet with the opening film The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio,” he added.
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