CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 18: (EDITORS NOTE: Profanity) Director Lars Von Trier (tattoo detail) attends the "Melancholia" photocall at the Palais des Festivals during the 64th Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2011 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
The government of France has managed to do what we all assumed to be impossible: they've muzzled director Lars von Trier.
Von Trier, a notorious provocateur, was at Cannes this year with his new film, "Melancholia", about two sisters dealing in very different ways with the approach of a planet that threatens to crash into Earth. During a press conference at the film festival, von Trier started rambling and the next thing everyone knew, the man was making wildly inappropriate jokes about Hitler and Jews and the Holocaust.
He was promptly kicked out of Cannes, though festival organizer were sensible enough not to punish "Melancholia" star Kirsten Dunst, who would win Best Actress--fair enough. But now it's been learned by Deadline that the director was visited by police who wanted to question him about his having possibly broken French laws regarding speaking about war crimes. He's since issued this press release:
Today at 2 pm I was questioned by the Police of North Zealand in connection with charges made by the prosecution of Grasse in France from August 2011 regarding a possible violation of prohibition in French law against justification of war crimes. The investigation covers comments made during the press conference in Cannes in May 2011. Due to these serious accusations I have realized that I do not possess the skills to express myself unequivocally and I have therefore decided from this day forth to refrain from all public statements and interviews.
Let's make a couple of thing clear: 1) Von Trier's comments were stupid and totally indefensible, 2) his subsequent apology sounded a bit half-hearted and 3) There is no way on Earth a man like von Trier will keep his mouth shut for any significant length of time--his head would explode. That said, dragging a man inot court for spouting stupidities in a ill-advised attempt at humor is beyond dumb. The man's already been vilified in the global press, and, worse yet for him, European distributors dropped "Melancholia" like a hot potato, the law doesn't need to step in.