The House That Jack Built
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The House That Jack Built

The House That Jack Built

It takes about an hour for Lars von Trier to make a predator/prey animal metaphor in his serial-killer movie, complete with archival nature-documentary footage and heavy-handed voice-over. According to Jack (Matt Dillon), creatively interpreting William Blake, there are tigers and lambs, and it is in the tiger’s nature to devour the lamb. Jack, of course, sees himself as a tiger — because he is a killer, but also because he likes to think of himself as an artist, burning bright and fearful. The lamb may die, but as he sees it, it has “been bestowed with the gift of living forever in art. And art is divine.” I can’t remember if his simultaneously belabored and banal musings come before or after Jack taxidermies a child he’s gunned down, but I suppose that doesn’t matter.

The House That Jack Built is a film that Cannes has been collectively bracing itself for since the news that the festival’s ban on the filmmaker, put in place after he “joked” about “understanding Hitler” at the 2011 edition, had been lifted. Word of the film’s excessive violence only exacerbated that (I heard a rumor that felt like the work of some creative PR, that paramedics and stretchers would be on hand for audience members at the premiere who couldn’t handle it, because Cannes definitely needs more of a Fear Factor vibe). As it turns out, the film’s most offensive qualities have nothing to do with its grotesque violence and displays of human mutilation, but its terminal navel-gazing and reductive, borderline harmful ideas about art. In some respects, Lars von Trier seems to only know how to make films about himself anymore; rarely has the work been so hermetic and lifeless.

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The House That Jack Built
The House That Jack Built
The House That Jack Built
The House That Jack Built