Tuesday, April 29, 2014

'Lost' films found 1: Richard Nixon as Oliver Hardy?

Some lost movies are forgotten masterworks, gems that have been hidden too long from public view. This piece is not about one of those films. The film in question is certainly historically interesting, and it's a major curiosity for comedy fans, but it's a startlingly awful picture, something that is so stunningly bad that you should take in a few minutes of it just to see how really wretched it is.

The film is Another Nice Mess, a 1972 comedy that has been effectively “lost” (read: no VHS or DVD release, no cable showings) for so long that it showed up on the esteemed Temple of Schlock's sublime ongoing list of “lost”movies . It's a political comedy that really a mess (and not a nice one) and is quite similar in terms of its schlockiness to two items I spotlighted years ago on the Funhouse TV show, Booker and Foster’s The Phynx (1970) and the astounding, non-porn comedy Linda Lovelace for President (1975).
The reason I was so surprised (and fascinated) at the film's 100% pure awfulness is that it was written and directed by an incredibly funny man, writer-actor Bob Einstein, aka “Super Dave Osborne” (and “Officer Judy” for those old enough to remember the Smothers Brothers variety show). Einstein has been doing funny material on TV from the late Sixties through to the present, from the Smothers show to Curb Your Enthusiasm. He's a great comedy writer who has humor in his genes – his father was the radio comedian Harry Einstein (aka “Parkyarkarkus”) and his younger brother is Albert Brooks.

Another very funny gent produced the picture — Tommy Smothers (the film is billed as a “SmoBro Production”). The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was one of the funniest and most cutting-edge variety shows of the late Sixties (so cutting-edge that CBS cancelled it), created by a very talented roster of writers and performers. 

Another Nice Mess — notice the use of the actual Oliver Hardy phrase (often rendered as “Another fine mess”) — is a disaster from start to finish, but as with most items from the Nixon years, it is a fascinating and vibrant disaster. As I note frequently on the Funhouse TV show, the Sixties (which as an historical era of course extended into the early Seventies) as a time period is a gift that keeps on giving and giving….

The most notable thing about this bizarre artifact is that Einstein decided to “layer” the action. So, on the base level, it’s a broad slapstick farce in which “Richie” (Rich Little, dressed up to look like Nixon, but playing Oliver Hardy) and “Spiro” (Herb Voland, dressed up to look like Spiro Agnew, but playing Stan Laurel) get into various predicaments around the White House, unaware that Adolf Hitler (Bruce Kirby) is stalking them.

Other filmmakers have decided to “resurrect” L&H, most notably Blake Edwards in the horrific A Fine Mess (1986), which was Edwards deadly “variation” on “The Music Box,” and John Cherry in The All New Adventures of Laurel and Hardy in ‘For Love or Mummy’ (1999), a heinous production from Larry Harmon (who owned the rights to the L&H screen characters).

What Einstein did in Another Nice Mess was to intercut footage of the real Laurel and Hardy from their later, sadder vehicles (Air Raid Wardens and Nothing But Trouble) into his political comedy. And then he inserted scenes with Rich Little playing “the real Nixon” watching the film in a screening room. Little’s impression of Oliver Hardy is pretty meager, but his Nixon just wears you down (and is a pale echo of the great take on Tricky Dick offered by the wonderfully cartoonlike David Frye).

So what we’ve got in this film is another feature from the turn of the Seventies in which the characters “interact” with footage from Hollywood’s Golden Age. The most famous example of this phenomenon is definitely Myra Breckenridge (1970) — which includes L&H footage — while the best example of it is without a doubt Harry Hurwitz’s The Projectionist (1971), in which L&H are also referenced, because star Chuck McCann does a really wonderful impression of Ollie.

In watching this amazing misfire, I was reminded of another cosmically awful Blake Edwards’ film, Son of the Pink Panther (1993). There Edwards keeps cutting from a slapstick scene set in a hospital to a television showing a much funnier hospital scene from the Marx Bros’ Day at the Races. As you watch the scene, ALL you want to see is the Marx sequence.

Here, Einstein has the real L&H reacting to “Richie” and “Spiro,” and the results are even sadder and more misguided than Edwards’ blunder, since Einstein is reminding us of the older incarnation of “the Boys,” while attempting to use them to brighten up a comedy that can’t be improved.

Perhaps the surest sign that all involved were at a very low ebb humor-wise is the fact that a mock television commercial included later in the film (as “Richie” and “Spiro” get high on pot) is terrible and not even a good “sign of the times” (the best example of mock commercials from that same era can be found in Robert Downey Sr.’s terrific Putney Swope).

To add insult to injury, Einstein uses contemporary footage of a real anti-war protest outside the White House to no good effect — if the film was indeed intended to mock the fuck out of Nixon, the footage could’ve easily been used to deride Nixon’s policies. Instead, the picture is a PG-rated farce that has no bite and not a dram of truly satirical intent.

As a point of trivia, it should be noted that Steve Martin (who began his TV comedy writing career working for the Smothers) makes his movie debut in a very small role as “a hippy” (around the 36:00 mark).

The best thing one can hope for watching this picture is that all involved were heavily stoned at the time they made it. That way, at least someone had some fun. History buffs, take note of this movie; comedy fans, get ready to fast forward….

Thanks to Steve Stoliar, author of Raised Eyebrows, for noting that this sucker had come “above ground” on the Net. Steve had the wonderful experience of seeing the film in a theater with a friend who kept complaining that it was the worst film he'd ever seen. The lights came up... and they saw the film's star, Rich Little, sitting right in front of them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

'Gabo' and 'Shaki' – Gabriel Garcia Marquez's friendship with Shakira

The death of a master storyteller like Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes us think of the stories of his we've read, the ones we've neglected, and the impact a writer can have on our lives. I deeply loved 100 Years of Solitude when I read it many years ago, prolonging the reading of the book just so the damned thing wouldn't end. I need to return to his work as a reader, but in the meantime wanted to salute him by discussing his friendship with another one of Colombia's best good-will ambassadors.

Back in the summer of 2001, several months before her first English-language album came out, I did a tribute on the Funhouse TV show to several Latin singers whose work I loved, including Shakira. She is of course now an international superstar, but at that time she was a dark-haired Latin-Arabic beauty who wrote songs that were both incredibly catchy and which had an emotional and occasionally political resonance.

Much was made at the time about Shakira's IQ being very high, that she had a sharp, eclectic musical taste, and was able to speak eloquently about matters that pop stars veer away from (this is all still true today – only less emphasized in the American market, since we in the U.S. sadly prize the lowest-common denominator). The single event that crystallized just how serious Shakira could taken was the fact that Garcia Marquez liked her music and profiled her in 1999 for the Spanish-language magazine Cambio. 

I have been unable to find that particular article online in either Spanish or English, but did come across this quote from it: “Shakira’s music has a personal stamp that no one else has and no one can sing and dance like she does, at whatever age, with such an innocent sensuality, one that seems to be of her own invention.” Wonderful praise from one artist to another.

Three years later, on June 7, 2002, this article appeared in The Guardian. It's a chatty and informal piece by Garcia Marquez that profiles Shakira; I'm not certain if it's a reworking/updating of the '99 piece, or something he did that was entirely new. In any case, it offers a fully-rounded portrait of the young star as she was making a splash literally around the world:
“Of the money she's earned, she says: 'It's more than I admit to and less than people think.' Her favourite place to listen to music is in a car, full blast, with the windows rolled up so it doesn't bother anybody else. 'It's the ideal place to talk to God, to talk to myself, to try to understand.' She hates television. She says that her biggest contradiction is her belief in eternal life and her unbearable terror of death."

Throughout the years, the two continued to encounter each other, but rarely in their native country. Garcia Marquez attended a Mexico City concert by Shakira in 2006. A TV news account of the meeting was broadcast in which there was only a few seconds of footage of the two together.

What the news organization did was dig up file footage of Garcia Marquez dancing at some other function (possibly years earlier) and the not-paying-attention Vulture blog declared it to be “Garcia Marquez dancing with Shakira.” This is interesting, in that their source was the Jezebel site, which merely described it as “Garcia Marquez shaking it to Shakira” (which is still not accurate, since they're not playing her music in the dance clip, but at least it's not as misleading as the Vulture headline).

Anyway, dig the guy's moves. He was *not* adverse to cutting a rug in between spinning magical realist fables:

I looked online for clips of Garcia Marquez interviews that are subtitled in English and found that there are precious few of those (at this moment). Below is the start of a documentary about him that is well-subtitled (and narrated by a posh British voice).

If you're more into the hardcore (and are bilingual), you could always listen to the full 100 Years... Spanish audio book online – which runs nearly twelve hours! The book is actually epic in scope, but not that much in length – the fascinating thing is that the mighty GGM was a more succinct and disciplined writer than the American school of “throw it all in, I'm as good as Tolstoy or Joyce!” fiction.

According to articles online, Garcia Marquez asked Shakira to contribute songs to the soundtrack of the film adaptation of his novel Love in the Time of Cholera. This is one she didn't write, a bolero called “Hay Amores”:

Finally, a bit of the music that Garcia Marquez was so impressed by. Here is the title track to Shakira's second “adult” album (she discounts two early efforts she released as a teen telenovela actress). The title of the 1998 album and song, “Donde estan los ladrones?” refers to the corruption in Colombian government.

The final two verses in English are: “They have seen them kneeling/sitting or crouching/Standing as they teach lessons/In all positions./Preaching at the churches/or even giving concerts/They have seen them at every cocktail party/distributing ministrations.

“Where are the thieves?/Where is the murderer?/Probably getting dirty/at the neighbour's patio./And what if it's them/and what if it's me,/the one who plays this guitar/or the one who sings this song./The one who sings this song.”

And still my favorite Shakira music-video ever, because the song itself bristles with energy and the video (directed by Gustavo Garzon) is half-contemporary reality/half-dystopian sci-fi. “Ciega, sordomuda,” from the same 1999 album.

A sample of these lyrics: “Argument and methodology/fail me/each time your anatomy/appears before me./Because this love no longer understands/advice or reason./It feeds on pretext/and lacks nerve [literally, pants].... Brutish, blind, deaf-mute,/clumsy, lost, stubborn/this is all that I have been/because of you I've turned into/a thing that does/no other thing but love you/I think on you day and night/and I know not how to forget you.”

On her website, Shakira wrote this message for Garcia Marquez: “Dear Gabo, you once said that life isn't what one lived, but the life one remembers and how he remembers it to retell it...your life, dear Gabo, will be remembered by all of us as a unique and singular gift, and as the most original story of all. It's difficult to say goodbye to you, with all that you've given us! You will always be in my heart and in those of all who loved and admired you. Shak"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Crazy on the mic: Deceased Artistes the Ultimate Warrior and Mickey Rooney

They say celebrities die in threes. Sometimes we only get two at a time, as happened this week when we learned of the deaths of Golden Age Hollywood stalwart Mickey Rooney and the pro-wrestler known as “the Ultimate Warrior.” Both men had very different show business careers, but both were alike in that they made little sense when being interviewed. For “Warrior”(Jim Hellwig did legally change his name to “Warrior” – presumably to block the McMahon ownership of the phrase “Ultimate Warrior” and allow him to keep the name when he moved to other federations) it was part of his shtick, but he clearly also believed the inspirational gobbledygook he imparted to his cheering fans; with Rooney, it was a matter of one-upping the interviewer and speaking the Voice of Authority. A really crazy, crazy authority.

First, let's view the Ultimate Warrior in action – no, not wrestling (the steroided “monster” types that Vince McMahon has favored over the last three decades can't do shit in the ring). He affected the same sort of gravelly voice that a number of the “sports entertainment” stars have had over the years. His spiels, though, were nowhere as blatantly funny and aggressive as Ric Flair or “the Macho Man.”

Instead, the Warrior – whose use of steroids gave him the most pronounced nipples in the WWF – would talk about his fans as “warriors” and do rambling discourses (half-screamed, half-whispered) on what he would do in the ring, interspersed with the occasional lopsided metaphor.

He also hit on the fact that if he could say his opponent's name in an accentuated way and repeat it a thousand times, he'd have a five-minute promo without having to come up with any additional thinking. Here it's “Hulk Ho-kan.” “Mean Gene” Okerlund is a perfect straight man here:

The Warrior frequently would do his promos with his back to the camera (making him, as friend M. Faust pointed out, “the Miles Davis of wrestlers”). Here he does the gravelly biz, plus saying “Ho-kan” over and over, ending with a metaphor about a plane crashing. The piece ends with the nasal snort that became the Warrior's signature punctuation mark.

A fan-edited collection of Warrior's promos has this amazing piece of free verse: “Dig your claws into my organs/Stretch into my tendons/Bury your anchors into my bones, for the power of the Warrior will always PREVAIL!”

By this point it's evident that Warrior knew how to craft *professional* craziness (that's a pro-wrestler's job), but where is the connection to the real-life craziness that Mickey Rooney exhibited? I must note that Warrior became a self-made political pundit of sorts when his wrestling career was over. He wrote fervently conservative blog entries online, spoke as much about political situations as he did pro-wrestling, and did speaking engagements (using his real, non-gravelly voice) where he dispensed wisdom that had all the sound illogic of the plane-crash metaphor above.

His most famous speaking engagement was at the University of Connecticut in 2005. At one point he was asked about gay rights and decided to tackle the situation head-on by noting that “Queering doesn't make the world work” (see it at 4:30 below). This from a guy who worked for many years in a completely oiled-down state, tangling his limbs with those of other adult males, as they both strove to prove their manhood.

He returned to this subject a few times, including his nasty obit for Heath Ledger, whom he depicted as advancing the gay agenda by being in Brokeback Mountain. The Deadspin site put up an entertaining “hit list” of Warrior's private beliefs and public excesses.

To conclude my section on the unexpected insanity of Warrior, let me just point to this blog entry on a very special issue of the Warrior comic book, in which our hero attacks the North Pole and takes Santa's place, but not before tying up Saint Nick in a very bondage-like way. The issue is known online as the “Santa rape” comic book. To be entirely fair to Warrior, he was supposed to have been the co-writer of the comic, but claimed later on that he just let the illustrators do what they wanted.

So Warrior did craft a very eccentric image that was built upon, first, a crazy cartoonish character and, later, some deep conspiracy-minded right-wing beliefs. Mickey Rooney, on the other hand, was a died-in-the-wool Hollywood legend who was at one point the most popular star in America (1939-41), thanks to his “Andy Hardy” series of films, but later on became a kooky old character actor who was the very definition of “quirky senior.”

Mickey did indeed start in silent film – and with his death, the list of surviving actors from the silents gets even smaller. As a public personality Rooney was anything but silent, though (sorry – had to). He was known for hijacking interviews with other panelists, as seen here on a Larry King episode about Marilyn Monroe. Milton Berle (he of the giant penis and horrible disposition) gets plenty pissed at Little Mick for his constant interruptions.

Mickey wanted to be the center of attention, as he was here on the PTL Club with the amazingly artificial Tammy Faye Bakker. At one point (34:00 in), he recounts to us a conversation he had with Christ (he unfortunately only tells us his side of the conversation). In general, though, he really loved to contradict his interviewers for no good reason and to no good effect. (Of course earlier in his career he was just plain drunk on-air, as he was on The Jack Paar Show.)

Here is an interview with Mick conducted by Canadian broadcaster Michael Enright (thanks to Richard L. for the tip). For some unknown reason, Rooney does the Python “Argument Clinic” bit with Enright here, contradicting basically everything he says, even when he's correct or merely stating an opinion. At the outset Enright laments that it was an interview that went horribly wrong, as if he did something to cause the chaos. What one gets out of it is that Mickey was contentious just because he could be – and that he liked to stretch out words.

Speaking of that... here is my personal fave bit of Rooney nuttiness. When told that younger people do watch The Twilight Zone, Mickey disagreed (but of course!) and informed his interviewer (identity unknown to me) that they just watch “ssssssexy things.” What a perfectly Rooney way to say that phrase....

One of the more notable explosions in an interview occurred when TCM's affable nice-guy interviewer Robert Osborne interviewed Mickey about his career and literally shrank back from the Mick as he praised Louis B. Mayer (at 12:00), and then again when he told the story of how his career and reputation were ruined by director Roy Rowland (at 29:30). Perhaps these interviews were Rooney's greatest performances:

There is an odd “sizzle reel” (yes, that term is ridiculous, especially for this material) on YT for what looks to have been an unfinished docu about Mickey and his wife Jan, from whom he separated two years back. It appears that the arguments between the couple were intended to be amusing, but Mickey looks really pissed off in most scenes in this montage.

To close out, I will offer you the two Mickey film performances that best define the man. I used scenes from these two movies on the Funhouse TV show when filmmaker Guy Maddin noted he'd like to work with Rooney. I asked which Mickey he'd rather have in his films, the young one or the old one, and he replied that either would do. “He's just so eager.” A good word to describe the screen's best Puck:

And although Steve Puchalski of Shock Cinema magazine has found an utterly astounding later performance by Mick (as a millionaire who wants to live as an adult baby!), that can be found here, the film that still seems to define the older Rooney is B.J. Lang Presents, aka The Manipulator (1971).

The film is deeply disturbing on a number of levels. Chiefly because its plot involves an actress (Luana Anders) being held hostage by crazy director Mickey in an abandoned film studio. This means that we, the audience, are held hostage by Rooney and spend 90 horrifying minutes in his company. Mickey in drag, Mickey as Cyrano, Mickey playing the ultimate Old Hollywood filmmaker, and having nightmares about his naked, makeup-caked, father and mother.

Filmmaker Yabo Yablonsky never made another film, and it's evident why. Here he tapped into a nightmare so terrifying that he never needed to make another movie. Here he trapped on celluloid the essence of Rooney.

The trailer is below, the whole film can be found here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tell us a story: Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac'

Sex is the ultimate red herring in Lars von Trier’s masterfully cruel and compassionate Nymphomaniac, which is now available for “complete” viewing (read: the second half, dubbed Volume Two, is now in release). The real subjects of the film are depression and storytelling. The first informs the sequences in which our heroine Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is degrading herself in the pursuit of release; the second is reflected in the film’s “Scheherazade” structure, in which said heroine recounts her life story to Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), a sympathetic, know-it-all Swede.

Although many pieces written about the film have, naturally enough, focused on the sex sequences, the storytelling frame device is key to understanding and enjoying the film (yes, the latter is possible), as they are reflections of von Trier’s pitch-black humor and his literary (modernist literary, that is) approach to telling a tale. The grimness of Joe’s story is counterpointed by the fact that her audience keeps interrupting (“this was one of your weakest digressions,” she informs him at one point) and that she is an entirely unreliable narrator.

This last notion, that of the “unreliable narrator,” is a cornerstone of Nymphomaniac that leavens the film and allow us to gain some distance from the severity of the sex sequences, many of which are moments of self-destruction rather than fulfillment. Normally we accept stories told in a film as being “true” (willing suspension of disbelief and all that) — here, in Volume One, Joe is interrupted at one key point by Seligman, who notes that there is a ridiculous coincidence in her story — thus causing us to wonder if she’s been embellishing, or if her tale is mostly fantasy.

The uncertainty that arises from the storytelling sequences make the film’s “extreme” moments even more effective, since we realize that the crazier the event, the more possible it is that Joe is making it all up. The two best examples of this are perhaps the most extreme sequences in the film, a humorous set-piece and Joe's most severe S&M moment.

The most humorous sequence – besides an amusing piece of physical comedy inspired by an old Harpo Marx routine – is the sequence where Joe and her married bedmate “Mr. H” are confronted by “Mrs. H” (Uma Thurman), a vengeful and oh-so-melodramatic wife. The sequence is beautifully played by Thurman, whose character says she doesn't want to cause any trouble, but that's exactly what she proceeds to do – humiliating her husband by dragging the children in to react to the fact that Daddy's leaving them, and assuring her husband and Joe (who does not want to become emotionally involved with H) that she will be just fine now that her husband has deserted her.

von Trier's critics accuse him of being “pretentious” because he often deals with angst and utilizes a bleak but exquisite visual style inspired by Tarkovsky (who is thanked in the credits here). These critics are mostly uncomfortable with von Trier's laser-like focus on the sort of odd behavior that depression provokes; what they overlook (or, more accurately, ignore) is the big amount of humor that appears in his films.

It thus makes perfect sense for the “Mrs. H” sequence to appear in a seemingly “bleak” film like Nymphomaniac because von Trier has been honing his dark, odd sense of humor since his breakout feature The Element of Crime (1984) and his superbly absurd horror TV miniseries The Kingdom (1994).

He has only made one film that is an out-and-out comedy (The Boss of It All, 2006), but his most peculiar film, the Dogma-inspired The Idiots (1998), contains a good deal of awkwardly humorous moments. Melancholia (2011) remains one of his most effective works because he brings the viewer into the world of Dunst and Gainsbourg's characters with the broad comedy contained in the first half of the film.

In Nymphomaniac, Joe's sex addiction is so obsessive and self-destructive that von Trier clearly wanted us to both feel for her and to move outside her dilemma to see how truly bizarre her life has become – this is stretched in the film's final “act,” in which she becomes a story-telling debt collector for a wealthy criminal (Willem Dafoe). At that point the intensity of Gainsbourg's performance is what keeps the film from falling apart.

While the “Mrs H” sequence is one of the key moments in Volume One of the film, the most important moment in Volume Two is definitely the sequence where she is worked over by a violent gentleman (“K,” played by Jamie Bell) who conducts brutal sessions with submissive women.

Joe becomes addicted to the sessions and finally has her “ultimate” encounter with this gentleman when she is able to get herself off while he beats her (thus breaking his rule that sex should have no part in the sessions). The sequence is shot as a pretty standard moment of R-rated S&M, but, again, Gainsbourg's performance is so intense that we feel both her shame and humiliation, and the illicit turn-on she's getting from achieving something she has been formally “denied.”

The scene is without a doubt the most intense in the film, as it currently exists in its four-hour, two-part form (the “director's cut” running five-and-a-half hours will supposedly be released in the months to come). It successfully makes the viewer flinch, although Gainsbourg's narration and her release serve to remind us of the artifice that von Trier has introduced, the notion that this could merely be Joe's fantasy – the only thing that we know is absolutely true are the bruises on her face and body from a beating she suffered before Seligman found her in the courtyard adjacent to his apartment building.

Gainsbourg's thoroughly committed performance is indeed the glue that holds the film together. Like his heroes Bergman and Fassbinder, von Trier has given many of his lead actresses career-defining roles. Gainsbourg has gotten three such roles, all of which seem to be (if Charlotte's interviews are to be believed) manifestations of his own neurotic, anxious, depressed personality.

She is absolutely fearless in Nymphomaniac, imbuing Joe with an aching loneliness and a suicidal urge that makes her come to life. She's a person we can feel sympathy for, while we become increasingly disturbed by her extreme behavior. Gainsbourg's “posh” British accent makes Joe even more of an enigma – a woman with a ladylike demeanor and voice who wants men to hurt, fuck, and/or abuse her (with the exception of her true love, played by Shia LaBeouf). 

The film is not an “easy view,” but von Trier's work is always demanding and always worth the attention. Here he has assembled a terrific cast who lend dimension to their roles, whether briefly seen and vaguely scripted (Dafoe) or featured prominently but intended as a “reflection” of our lead character (Stacy Martin, who plays the “jail bait” Joe).

As for the scenes that are missing from the Volume One/Volume Two version: one can clearly see where a few of the edits were made. Sex scenes are about to occur and then don't, or conclude so quickly that one wonders why they are present at all (as with a scene where Joe has sex with two African men, which is led up to for several minutes and then ends summarily). 

What is particularly enjoyable about the “Volumes” version of the film is that editors Molly Marlene Stensgaard and Morten Hojbjerg chose to leave in most of Joe and Seligman's tangential conversations (about sin, anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism, PC language, and the double standard that rules women's sexuality), which don't “advance the plot” in any conventional way.

When one looks at the film's structure, though, it becomes apparent that these dialogues are the plot, just as much as any of Joe's memories. These tangents punctuate and sometimes blatantly interrupt her story, lending it balance and making Seligman a surrogate for the viewer. (How often have you seen a film where a character coincidentally bumps into the most important person in their life and wanted to note how truly unbelievable that is?)

It's hard to imagine what von Trier will do now that his “Charlotte trilogy” is over. One thing is certain: each of the films is a stylized masterwork that is both deeply disturbing and oddly, brazenly playful. In making the films, von Trier might have exposed much of his own darker side, but he has also provided Gainsbourg with the opportunity to show that she is one of the finest (and, again, most fearless) actresses around.

The film's trailer, the one that is littered with review quotes on it. It's been considered “dirty” and has been labeled adult matter by YouTube (American companies pride themselves on their prudishness):

Lars hasn't been doing interviews for the film because of the “Nazi” problem at Cannes a few years back. Some of his older interviews are instructive, though, as is this one, where he talked about the film before he had shot it (audio only). He emphasizes that de Sade put a “lot of talk” in between his sex scenes:

Lars on battling depression:

Bonus clips: Lars in happier times, doing a music-video (!) for his film The Idiots.

A stunning little music-video made for The Kingdom in which Lars helps demonstrate the medical dance "The Shiver." If you think he's strange now, he was much stranger before:

Surely an odd cure for depression: the Rammstein song "Fuhre Mich," as heard in Nymphomaniac, Volume One: