At the screening, the audience erupted into boos while the Twitter feeds and Facebook updates of distressed critics filled with brief snippets of shock. At IFC Daily, David Hudson rounds up the early reaction. Chances are good that U.S. audiences will never get to see this particular cut of the film. Anne Thompson of Variety, however, saw fit to praise von Trier's powerful filmmaking: "Trier's taking you to horrifying, hallucinatory places where anything can happen."
The press conference that followed was equally fraught. When pressed to defend Antichrist, von Trier told the hostile press: '"I am the best film director in the world." He tempered the statement, adding that he was only stating his own opinion. The inspiration for Antichrist's journey of horror came from the filmmaker's own two-year bout with depression.
Prior to the screening of Antichrist, Phillipine director Brillante Mendoza's Kinatay had the dubious honor of the most loathed film at the festival. The film features the forty-five-minute long murder and dismemberment of a prostitute. Robert Ebert wrote on his blog: "Here is a film that forces me to apologize to Vincent Gallo for calling The Brown Bunny the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival."
Many more Asian films have been in the spotlight this year. Johnnie To's Vengeance features the lead performance of French actor and rocker Johnny Hallyday. Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories of Murder) unveiled the melodrama Mother, a marked departure in style for the acclaimed filmmaker. Also screening in competition during the first week of the festival: Hong Sang-soo Like You Know It All, Kore-eda Hirokazu's Air Doll, and Spring Fever, the new film by Lou Ye who was banned in China for the sexually explicit content of his previous film Summer Palace.
With one more week to go, audiences eagerly await Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds featuring Brad Pitt and a star-studded international cast, and Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces, starring Penelope Cruz. New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion is in the running for her second Palme d'Or with Bright Star, a historical drama about the last years in the short life of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his love affair with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock left critics underwhelmed and is not considered to be in the running for the top prize.
The Cannes Film Festival runs until May 24, 2009. Stay tuned for more news and coverage from the red carpet.