DID YOU READ

Clash of the (indie) titans.

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"I don't want you to ask me for anything ever again."
This was quite a weekend for film if you were in New York, what with Cristi Puiu‘s critically adored "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" at the Film Forum (our New York Film Festival review is here) along with "Army of Shadows," and of course, you could pick your version of cinematic Asian femininity: demure Korean revenge-obsessive, languid Taiwanese pseudo-Bardot, or waifish Cantonese recovering addict (all of these films being strategically released together and during the first weekend of the Tribeca Film Festival to insure minimal attendance: "Lazarescu" apparently pulled in a fat opening weekend haul of…$5880).

We’ve seen "Lady Vengeance" twice since the New York Film Festival (review here), not because we like it so much (though we do like it) as much as that we’re still trying to sort out what we think of Park Chan-wook. Two years after "Oldboy" picked up the Grand Jury prize at Cannes, Tartan Films seems content to aim "Lady Vengeance" at the fanboy crowd, smacking a Harry Knowles quote there at the top of the poster. Have we already wiped our hands of Park as a quality director? That seems to be the point of Nathan Lee‘s review in the New York Times, which is so devoted to bashing Park that it scarcely has space to actually tackle the film at hand.

We’re of the opinion that "Oldboy" is studded with scenes that are undeniably virtuoso, but is also based on what turns out to be such a ludicrous plotline that we feel like smacking upside the forehead anyone who tries to argue that the film manages any kind of grand statement about revenge. "Lady Vengeance" is better than "Oldboy" — it’s less silly, more pointed, and yes, we can buy that it has something to say about the foolishness of convincing oneself that revenge is for anything other than personal satisfaction. But…what of it? We still love the gleaming pop quality of the first 45 minutes, but once Park settles in for the grim, messagey slog of the rest of the film we could care less. It’s the end that really sticks in our mind; done with all his gothic revenge sequences, Park indulges in a moment of weary, well, sympathy for his heroine that’s worth more than a dozen bloody pairs of scissors lodging between someone’s vertebrae.

And "Three Times" (review here) is simply as lush a slice of pure cinema as you can imagine. Which is probably why people have walked out of or fallen asleep at it at both of the screenings we’ve attended. We can understand — Hou Hsiao Hsien‘s film are far from audience-friendly in their pacing. But for fuck’s sake, suck it up — some of those scenes are what movies were invented for.

We’re in the minority in loving Olivier Assayas‘ frustrating, fascinating last film, "Demonlover," which "Clean" is pretty much nothing like. Briskly straightforward, "Clean" is the story of a former rock star girlfriend/hanger-on Emily Wang, whose drifting life of bouncing from low-rent gig to cheap hotel room to next heroin fix with her once-famous boyfriend is interrupted when he dies of an overdose and she’s jailed for possession. Out after six months, she weans herself off the drugs and tries to get her life back in order enough to be allowed to see her son, who lives with his grandparents in Vancouver.

Assayas wrote the part of Emily with his ex-wife Maggie Cheung in mind, and it’s a bit of a loaded gift. Emily is a role any actress would kill for: She swans around in fabulous rocker-chick outfits, she has occasional breakdowns, fiends for pills, is alternately selfish and snobbish and vulnerable, and hell, even gets to sing. But she’s also past her prime, and the film’s most cutting moments have nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with the humiliation of being too old for the role in life you’ve set aside for yourself.

Cheung is very good, but if the film was written to both dirty her up and bring her down to earth, it fails. Cheung, who seems to have become more beautiful and more remote as she’s rounded 40, may have been the subject of one of the most memorable aestheticizations of a female ever committed to celluloid in "In the Mood for Love." But even stripped of makeup and working tables at a Chinese restaurant in Paris, she never seems less coolly iconic, her striking, luminous looks never believably slipping by unnoticed in the background. It’s by no means a terribly quality for a star to have, but, in the context of this, Assayas’ attempt to offer Cheung up to the world as a Serious Actress, it’s almost a detriment — her Emily may be a drug-addled wreck who’s lost anything, but it’s hard to truly believe that oceans wouldn’t still part for her if she asked.

Open in limited release.

+ Clean (IMDb)

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.