Lars von Trier channels his inner Nazi

Iconoclastic Danish director Lars von Trier premiered his new end-of-the-world film Melancholia yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival -- but it was his comments at a press conference afterwards which really had the press buzzing.

Von Trier -- whose work ranges from the outstanding (such as Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark) to the teeth-grindingly unbearable (Dogville) -- is an outspoken critic of Israel, the United States, and Western values in general, so his bizarre post-screening comments didn't come as a total surprise...but still:

Von Trier upstages his end-of-the-world drama at Cannes with Hitler, Nazi quips

Asked about his German heritage, von Trier launched into a rambling train of thoughts, starting with how he used to think he was a Jew and his disappointment when he learned he was not.

"I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because, you know, my family was German," von Trier said. "Which also gave me some pleasure. ...

"What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end," von Trier said. "He's not what you would call a good guy, but I understand much about him, and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews. ...

"I am very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass."

Von Trier then asked, "How can I get out of this sentence?"

Going on to say he liked Hitler aide Albert Speer, von Trier finally wrapped up with the wisecrack, "OK, I'm a Nazi."

Afterward, von Trier told The Associated Press the remarks just spilled out without any forethought.

"I don't have so much to say, so I kind of have to improvise a little and just to let the feelings I have kind of come out into words," von Trier said. "This whole Nazi thing, I don't know where it came from, but you spend a lot of time in Germany, you sometimes want to feel a little free and just talk about this (expletive), you know?"

Considering that von Trier is a hardcore leftist, the mainstream media and chattering classes will of course give him a pass on all this. (The Reuters coverage of the press conference, for example, glosses over the anti-Israel remarks and suppresses some of the Nazi quotes.) But those who ponder the left's endless fascination with totalitarianism, and who view contemporary anti-Israel sentiments as the new manifestation of an ancient hatred, might have a different opinion.

Really, how many times can you say "I'm a Nazi. Ha ha, just joking," before your listeners stop hearing it as a joke?