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Von Trier Mania: Director Sets Next Project; Will “Antichrist” Become Box-office Phenom?

Von Trier Mania: Director Sets Next Project; Will "Antichrist" Become Box-office Phenom?

When even Hollywood blogger David Poland becomes enraptured by the latest exploits of Lars Von Trier (all news, big and small, of the Danish provocateur, has been appearing on his MovieCityNews website), I’m beginning to wonder whether Von Trier is beginning to reach some level of critical mass recognition, and that his latest “Antichrist” might blow up at the box-office. Even industry trade Variety got into the act, publishing this account of the “Antichrist” T-shirt “Chaos Reigns” craze, and perpetuating the myth of the audience member who passed out during the New York Film Festival screening. (Did medical technicians actually take the man from his seat, or as one audience member told me, did the man simply walk out on his own two feet?). Whatever actually happened doesn’t matter, of course: The marketing value of the moment has already been established and “Antichrist” is fast-becoming a major cinematic event–the kind of viral triumph that studios dream of cultivating.

Now would be the time for distributor IFC Films to start considering a more aggressive theatrical release. I have no doubt the film will do well via video-on-demand when it becomes available on Oct. 21 (will the cable version be censored for TV?). But its limited rollout a couple days later in theaters could be a missed opportunity if not easily adapted and expanded. A potentially cult event, “Antichrist” is crazy, controversial and enthralling enough to be the kind of “scary” film that catches fire with a younger audience. Of course, it’s arty and challenging, too, but you’ve got to believe there are enough hipsters in major markets that are curious enough about the buzz to catch it on the bigscreen. At least, I hope so, for as much as the movie goes off the deep end, as I reported in Cannes, “one can’t deny the film’s continuing primal power.”

Whatever you think about Von Trier’s filmmaking (personally, I believe it’s pretty awesome), he’s also a master marketer. “Dogme 95” may be one of the most successful global indie-film promotional campaigns in the last two decades. Von Trier is using his newfound moment in the sun to shrewdly announce his next project: a psychological “disaster” film titled “Melancholia”– I suspect that the “disaster” genre reference is another mere marketing ploy, as much as “Antichrist” and “Epidemic!” are “horror” films. According to trade reports, the $7 million movie will shoot next summer targeting a Cannes 2011 launch. Zentropa’s Peter Aalbaek Jensen told the Hollywood Reporter that the film promised “a mix of spectacular, cinematic imagery with Dogme-style handheld camerawork… [and] would be “romantic, in a Lord Byron sort of way.”

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