NOVEMBER/DECEMBER NEWS 2013

12.22.13

NYMPHOMANIAC opens in three days. One reviewer wrote, "You don’t come to a Von Trier film for social realism and a cast-iron sense of time and place. You come for raw honesty; provocation; contradictions; flights of fancy." Well said. Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave a lengthy essay on the film. Here are some of his more interesting observations including those relating to Stellan's role as Seligman:

  • At its core the film represents an intellectual male artist's arduous, wayward, idiocentric, blunt, naughty-boy attempt to address Freud's famous question: “What does a woman want?”

  • Seligman - An avowed celibate, Jewish-born atheist and voracious reader who continually references authors and intellectuals of all persuasions, he lives like an ascetic priest, surrounded by his texts in shabby quarters that speak to a life of the mind and disavow creature comforts.

  •  Physically unimposing, the man [Seligman] is an intellectual voluptuary, ever-ready with perspectives drawn from Roman history, the Bible, Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Mann and countless other sources. He's a voyeur with the pretense of brainy detachment. “There's nothing sexual about me,” he insists, but he's fascinated by her stories, he can't get enough.

  • The whole temperature of a film can be heavily influenced, even determined, by the heat a particular actress provides, so one can only wonder what Nymphomaniac would have been like had von Trier sought and found an equivalent of, say, Julie Christie in Billy Liar, Eva Green in The Dreamers or Jennifer Lawrence in almost anything.

  • There are flashes of hard-core action during the initial two hours - the odd angle here and there, some insert shots - but mostly the sex scenes look like pretty standard simulation. Volume two gets down in ways the first half doesn't, although anything resembling real sensuality remains MIA.

  • The spiritual catharsis achieved by von Trier's greatest heroine, Bess, in Breaking the Waves, eludes Joe, who remains a prisoner of the physical.

  • The exchanges between Gainsbourg and Skarsgård remain mostly on the somber side but both actors keep the talk interesting.

  • Although shot by cinematographer, Manuel Alberto Claro, Nymphomaniac doesn't possess quite the lush, dark beauty of von Trier's last film, Melancholia, but it still has moments of striking physicality. Music choices are eclectic.

12.19.13

Since I last posted, there have been three more international premieres of DER MEDICUS. Yes! It was getting difficult to keep up with the man! I'll start with the world premiere in Berlin. Stellan said he was very pleased to be in Berlin. "I love Berlin! Unfortunately, this time I'm only here for two days." He admitted to visiting many times through the years describing Berlin as a vibrant city. The first time he visited was back in 1982 when he received the Golden Bear for "Den Enfaldige Mördaren", and 31 years later he was back at the Zoo Palast with his latest film on the same screen. When asked if he goes to the movies much, he responded, "Unfortunately not. Especially in the last year I have seen very few movies because I've been working so much. Stellan admits to not having read the massive bestseller the film is based on but says his sister read it years ago, loved it and spoke very passionately about it. Regarding the screenplay, Stellan thought all the characters were great, but especially the barber that he gets to play. And how was it working with director Philipp Stölzl?  Stellan answered, "I enjoyed working with him. I think I've never met anyone who is so cultured and has so many ideas on art and culture." Ultimately, his experience on this project was very positive. "I liked the idea of being part of such a large European production."

During the press conference, producers Nico Hofmann and Wolf Bauer reported that they had had some difficulty persuading author Noah Gordon to accept a film adaptation of his book. The hardest part was how to take this huge rich history and compress it into a film. Deciding what to keep or not keep was "insanely difficult". Though one must condense, you have to remain true to the spirit of the story. When Gordon learned that scenes would be omitted or changed, he was critical. However, in the end, he had great confidence in the filmmakers and was amazed by the performers.

I was able to translate a couple of the reviews. Carsten Baumqardt of Filmstarts.de wrote: "The 2 1/2-hour adventure is divided into three clearly separated parts that are different from each other and well done. The first part with Rob Cole and the Bader has the highest atmospheric density profiting from the invigorating presence of Stellan Skarsgård in the role of the dazzling charlatan... Philipp Stölzl's romantic and historical adventure is an opulent, visually stunning film adaptation of the Noah Gordon bestseller though it doesn't reach the emotional impact and thematic scope of the book."

And Christina Kühnel of T-online.de wrote: "Squeezing a 850-page bestseller into a 2 1/2-hour movie version is a pretty risky undertaking... Whoever loved the book will also love the movie, and even those who have not read the bestseller will likely find favor with the film. Though the adaptation has been greatly changed in some parts, the result is not a garbled summary of the book version, but a gripping voice in the spirit of the original. This is due to the fact that the producers worked closely with author Noah Gordon... That the film now arrives 27 years after publication of the first edition may seem late after all the hype on the book has long since subsided. But the story has lost none of its fascination. "Der Medicus" is a thrilling historical epic which, like the novel, works on several levels."

After Berlin the director along with cast members Tom Payne, Olivier Martinez and Stellan went on to attend premieres in Vienna, Zurich and Madrid. The Vienna premiere actually took place on Tuesday, the same day as the one in Berlin. Not sure how they pulled that off. The Swiss premiere was held on Wednesday and the Spanish premiere was held today with author Noah Gordon in attendance. Those boys are going to need some shuteye. You can check out all the premiere photos at this link.

This month Alexander, Stellan's eldest son, took part in the UK charity event called Walking with the Wounded. Both Alexander and Prince Harry, who is patron of the charity, participated in the international 208-mile trek across Antarctica to the South Pole. Originally, the American, British and Commonwealth teams were competing against each other, but the expedition director announced that the event would no longer be a race and the teams would instead be going at their own pace due to weather conditions. The charity helps retrain and reeducate wounded servicemen and women to help them find long term employment after they have left the Armed Forces. A very noble cause and congrats to Alex for volunteering. The photo shows Alexander with the Prince.

Swedish magazine Inrikes ran an interview with Stellan in their November 2013 issue. The translation actually turned out to be rather boring - same old same old, so I'm simply posting the photos. I understand Stellan's need for privacy in revealing too much of his personal life but even in his professional career, there must be more interesting tidbits he could pass along. We've read enough about how he needs to bring along family and friends to his  filming locations. He continually laments, "I have simply never learned how to be alone." Tell us something we don't know!

12.18.13

The premiere of DER MEDICUS ("The Physician") was held yesterday at Zoo Palast in Berlin, Germany and Stellan was in attendance. Check out the photo gallery. Come back tomorrow for more coverage, interviews & reviews!

12.06.13

Regarding U.S. distribution, Magnolia Pictures has just announced that NYMPHOMANIAC will be released in two parts this spring. The first half will debut on demand on March 6 and hit select theaters on March 21. The second half will be on demand on April 3, with a theatrical release of April 18. Both parts will premiere simultaneously on Christmas Day in Denmark.

The first film tells the story of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac who is badly beaten and left in an alley. She’s helped by an older bachelor, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), who takes her into his home. As he tends to her wounds, she recounts the erotic story of her adolescence and young-adulthood (portrayed in flashback by Stacy Martin). This film stars Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Connie Nielsen and Udo Kier. The second part focuses on Joe’s adulthood and stars Jamie Bell, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth and Jean-Marc Barr in addition to Gainsbourg, Skarsgård, Martin and LaBeouf.

On December 4th, a press junket for the film was held in Copehagen. The photo session took place in the city's colorful Nyhavn near the harbor. Besides the director, cast members Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stacy Martin and Stellan were present. Check out the photo gallery. A press conference at D'Angleterre and a private screening was held as well. And when 50 international film journalists descended upon Copenhagen, the controversial Danish director said not a word. His publicist warded off questions from the journalists saying, "Lars does not talk to the press."

But Stellan had a few things to say. Whether the film becomes a big hit is not something Stellan can answer. He says, "It doesn't look like anything I've seen. I think it's a f***** great movie. Everything's not pleasant and, therefore, there is both unpleasant and beautiful secnes, just as there is in life. But I hope people are ready to take on the trip." He's unsure how the film will be received in his own country, but he thinks that the Swedish society has become more puritanical. He explains, "It is, in a strange way, linked to the feminist movement. Sexuality has now become a problem. In the most extreme elements of feminism, any sexual act more or less is considered as rape."  He darn well knows the film will not be popular in places like Saudi Arabia or Salt Lake City.

Stellan insists that it should not be considered a pornographic movie. He told the Guardian after the film was screened, "Pornography has just one purpose, which is to arouse. To make you wank, basically. But if you look at this film, it's actually a really bad porn movie, even if you fast forward. And after a while you find you don't even react to the explicit scenes. They become as natural as seeing someone eating a bowl of cereal."

During the press conference at D'Angleterre, Stellan defended Von Trier's behavior at Cannes 2011. He blamed both the media for misrepresenting the tone of the director's remarks and the Cannes festival organizers for overreacting to the controversy. He told the press, "The cowards at the Cannes festival not only demanded that he apolize, which he did, but then banned him, probably under pressure from the sponsors." He continued, "I was in Cannes with him. I was so angry. He spoke to a room full of journalists who knew him. People who liked him. They knew he was not a Nazi. He made a Nazi joke, and everyone knew it was a joke, but the next day, he was on the front page everywhere. His children went to school and was told that their father was a Nazi. It was terrible and Lars was very upset by the incident. He is very vulnerable. He no longer feels he can talk to journalists, because he always says what he thinks." Asked if he thinks the controversial director will give future interviews, Stellan smiled and said, "It's hard to get him to shut up. But I think he will eventually find himself comfortable with not talking to the media."

11.22.13

Following months of titillation in the form of posters and short, out-of-context clips, Lars Von Trier released a graphic full-length teaser for NYMPHOMANIAC today. To be sure, this is NSFW viewing. Surprisingly, much of the dialogue is indecipherable, especially that of its star, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Everyone seems to mumble. The trailer dwells mostly on scenes of pain and suffering, the total antithesis of sex! Lars, you forgot the fun part! (laughing) Oh well...

Apparently, the controversial Danish director has left his five-and-a-half-hour sex epic in the hand of others to be cut down into two, two-hour films. In an in-depth article on the making of the film, to be published in Danish cinema magazine Filmmagasinet Ekko, von Trier's long-time producer Peter Aalbaek Jensen said the director delivered a five-and-a-half-hour cut of the film. But the version that will premiere in Denmark on December 25 will be just four hours, and divided into two parts. Jensen said the cuts were purely for commercial reasons and not to eliminate any of the films' many explicit sex scenes.

"The short version is against Lars' own will, but he accepts it because he understands market mechanisms," Ekko quoted him as saying. There were initially plans to release both a hard-core and soft-core version, but those plans have now been abandoned. Instead there will just be the hard-core version but distributors in individual countries can decide to blur whichever elements they find unacceptable. The Danish version will go with all the sex scenes in focus. It is the first time ever after over 30 years of filmmaking that the 57-year-old director has given up on the final cut of his own film.

11.08.13

In a recent interview, Stellan's THOR co-star, Kat Dennings, was asked what was it like teaming up again with our Swedish thespian. She replied, ""So awesome! I love Stellan so much. He is the sweetest, best, funniest guy in the world. I worship him. He had to hear a lot of girl talk, poor guy. I mean, he has like 25 kids so he knows how it is but Natalie and I were just like, 'blah blah blah blah blah,' and he would just be sitting like this all day. He is one of the girls." "Thor: The Dark World" opened today in US theaters and is presently registering a 66% on the Tomatometer after 158 reviews. The original, which debuted two years ago, fared a bit better with a 77% rating. Kirk Baird of the Toledo Blade sums up the popular view - "Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård, who return as Jane's intern Darcy Lewis and the brilliant scientist Erik Selvig, make for good comic relief."

When THE RAILWAY MAN premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to lukewarm reviews a couple months ago, there wasn't even one poster to be found, but since the Weinstein Company picked up the film for US distribution, we now have overkill!

The fact-based film will make its US theatrical debut on New Year's Day. Here are a couple more of those "lukewarm" reviews:

"The film progresses by the unimaginative device of alternately progressively revealing Lomax’s wartime experiences in flashback and carrying forward the story in the present, until the two meet in the final scenes of reconciliation. This parallel track ends up dissipating the tension of both past and present and giving us too easy a perspective – it might have been better either to have stuck strictly to chronology, neither leaping forward nor back, or even to have reversed it completely and begun with the end and then gone backwards. Since this is a film all about not being able to escape the past and live in the present, how the two are integrated is a crucial decision – and the solution adopted by the director Jonathan Teplitsky and screenwriters Frank Cotterell Boyce and Andy Patterson feels too safe and ready-made."   ...David Sexton, London Evening Standard

"An old-fashioned war drama stuffed into a cumbersomely choppy time structure, 'The Railway Man' is well-acted and handsomely produced, but its honorable intentions are not matched with sustained emotional impact or psychological suspense. The film boasts committed work from Colin Firth as a British train enthusiast profoundly damaged by his experience as a prisoner of war, along with tearful support from Nicole Kidman as his wife. But despite those deluxe elements, it never quite transcends its stodgy approach."  ...David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter