Film: A new, mellowed Lars von Trier arrives at Cannes | WBEZ
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Cannes Film Festival 2011: Lars von Trier and Nicholas Sarkozy

(Getty/Vittorio Zunino Celotto)

Melancholia, the new 2 hour and 18 minute feature by Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, The Anti-Christ) who often delights in shocking his audiences, had its world premiere here in Cannes Wednesday. Starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as two sisters, the film is a kind of a diptych, each focusing on one of the sisters.

In the first episode, the Dunst is the newlywed who arrives at her sister’s beautiful chateau for her wedding reception only to have the marriage itself quickly unravel.

In the second episode, it is Gainsbourg who falls apart as a planet that’s been hidden behind the sun emerges on a trajectory with the Earth.

Shot in English, Melancholia features von Trier’s usual jagged handheld digital camera-work; it’s his vision of the apocalypse - though what all this exactly means remains obscure. Yet it’s a much toned-down and accepting von Trier who is on display here – none of the in-your-face cruelty or audience manipulation that’s on display in films like The Anti-Christ.

The madhouse of crowds of people pushing into the various entrances to the Grand Theatre Lumiere (according to their badge or ticket, which determines the highly-stratified pecking order) was equaled only by the crowds clamoring to get into a special screening Xavier Durringer’s new film, The Conquest.

Largely made for French audiences, The Conquest is a dramatic film takes on the ruthless rise-to-power of current French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy is wonderfully portrayed by veteran actor Denis Podalydes, who picks up on all of Sarkozy’s quirky mannerisms as he schemes his way against the ruling oligarchy of then-French President Jacques Chirac. He does it while being humiliated by Chirac for his short stature, and as Sarkozy’s marriage to Cecilia, also his advisor, comes apart.

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