A strange afternoon in Berlin today. Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac Part 1” (the long version that hasn’t been seen until now) screened this morning at the Berlin Film Festival, and the press conference that followed had a few head-scratching moments. First off, Lars Von Trier himself showed up wearing a Cannes “Persona Non Grata” T-shirt (an overt reference to his being banned from the French festival the year “Melancholia” played), but kept his vow to no longer speak to press by not appearing in the press conference.
Though it featured actors Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Stacy Martin, Stellan Skarsgård, producer Louise Vesth and Shia LaBeouf, without Lars, the “Nymphomaniac” press conference was pretty uneventful, the actors mostly talking about how liberating, safe and thoughtful a Lars Von Trier film set was and just how sensitive and considerate the filmmaker was. Not the picture most think of when they think of a guy making what many consider a two-part, four-hour art-house porn movie (our review coming soon and our scribe said, “it’s the greatest thing ever”).
But just as the press conference was moving along, Shia LaBeouf, wearing a cap over the brim of his eyes, finally spoke. And he said one word and then left. Taking a sip of water, he then said enigmatically, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea,” and then got up and left (reports that he “stormed out” of the press conference are a bit of exaggeration as their were no anger to his words). After the recent plagiarism scandal, LaBeouf said he was “retiring from public life” and has often been tweeting “I am no longer famous,” so perhaps the stunt was in reference to his self-proclaimed non-celebrity status.
But what most people don’t realize is that LaBeouf’s comments are another sort of… well; let’s not say plagiarism, but a direct references (and possible homage) to the legendary Manchester United footballer and maverick French player Eric Cantona. Cantona was always known for his enigmatic comments in soccer press conferences, and LaBeouf’s quote is directly lifted from something Cantona said—right down to the sip of water and quiet exit (see both videos below). Football and cinema fans will remember “Looking For Eric,” the terrific 2009 Ken Loach film starring Cantona, much of which is based off of the strange, wise and baffling wisdom and comments that the footballer would say in press conferences over the years. In fact, he became famous for many of his weird abstractions when asked the most basic questions.
So is Shia stealing again, or being willfully playful and sly? It is a rather terrific reference, one must admit. The entire “Nymphomaniac” press conference will be online later today, but the good part is right below. Our review from the Berlinale shortly as well. Update: Rather amusingly, on the red carpet earlier in the day, the actor wore a black tux and bow tie, plus a bag with the words “I am not famous anymore” written on it.