DID YOU READ

Intimate Perfection

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By Andrea Meyer

IFC News

Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “Three Times” tells three separate love stories in three separate eras — in the years 1966, 1911, and 2005 — starring the same lovely actress and actor, Shu Qi and Chang Chen, to create a triptych of love in all its intricacy. In 1911, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, a courtesan waits for the sporadic visits of the married diplomat she loves, yearning for their relationship to develop into something more permanent. In 2005, a broody bisexual performance artist juggles her needy girlfriend and a photographer (who also has a girlfriend) on the back of whose motorcycle she finds freedom and release from the drama.

It is the first segment, however, entitled “A Time for Love,” that captures the heart as if by lasso. With stunning, saturated cinematography that recalls the work of Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai and the songs “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Rain and Tears” — music dripping with an innocent romance that seemed to disappear with the era depicted — played repeatedly, the scene is set for a pool hall girl with a repertoire of breathtaking outfits to fall for a soldier about to leave for training. He writes to her. She leaves her job for another. He sets out to find her. They spend a summer evening together. That’s all there is to it. The film is a little slice of perfection that makes you smile and gives you hope — that life is sweet, endings are happy, for every he there is a she.

What Hou has accomplished is no small feat. There are too many celluloid love stories to innumerate and few make us feel anything at all. Those that do more often than not do so through shameless manipulation: A swelling soundtrack; gauzy mood-lighting; an interminable series of obstacles set along the path to the poor lovers’ kiss; meaningful pauses, tears, and secondary characters’ crying, cheering, shaking their butts when lips finally meet. Running breathless through the rain also never hurts — in slo-mo if the footage still doesn’t cut it. But a genuine, simple story that gives you the chills? Not so many of those out there. What does it take to tell a perfect love story? The kind that makes you believe in love all over again?

“In the Mood for Love” (Wong Kar-wai): Hong Kong’s preeminent director of amorous films tells stories of cheating, dumping, breaking up and yearning more often than relationships working out. While this film, true to form, is about a man (Tony Leung) and woman (Maggie Cheung) brought together because their spouses are having an affair, it is one of the most beautiful depictions of love ever made. Besides the sensuality of Nat King Cole tunes and sumptuous images captured by Wong’s brilliant cinematographer Christopher Doyle, the movie is flawless in its depiction of yearning, of the purest passion yet untainted by consummation.

“Before Sunset” (Richard Linklater): The first film in Linklater’s duet, “Before Sunrise,” in which Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy spend one night together in Vienna before he boards a train, is pretty damn charming. But it’s the second, in which they meet again many years later, that touches perfection. Older and wiser now — he is unhappily married and has a child, she is in a tumultuous relationship — Jesse and Celine speak with greater insight about their emotional lives, meandering through Paris first by foot and then by taxi, eventually arriving at her apartment and a scene in which a song, a confession, a careless act, a look, a laugh combine to create a moment of rare perfection.

“Moulin Rouge” (Baz Luhrmann): Many movies are bolstered by one lover who dies, leaving the other alone and doomed to a life of emptiness without that person who remains crystallized in the mind as the romantic ideal. “Wuthering Heights,” “Betty Blue,” “Camille,” “Ghost.” (Not all of them are very good.) As a device, it’s a good one, and one of my favorites is Lurhmann’s portrait of doomed ardor, which meshes lush, frenzied visuals — enhanced by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor’s matinee-idol good looks and likeability — with musical medleys that merge the likes of Elton John, David Bowie, Kurt Cobain, the Beatles and Fatboy Slim, a thrilling (or ludicrous, depending on who you ask) plot and the most traditional of purveyors of doom, tuberculosis. In any case, while the love lasts it is absolutely breathtaking, gorgeous, thrilling.

“50 First Dates” (Peter Segal): No insult to Pete (who you may or may not remember from “The Nutty Professor II” and “Anger Management”), but it’s the concept here (the script is by George Wing) that works magic — executed sweetly by stars with serious comic chemistry, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, as Lucy, a woman who suffered a brain injury that erases her memory every day, and Henry, the commitment-phobe who loves her. The gags are silly (e.g. a smart-assed walrus plays a supporting role), the humor broad, but the premise is transcendent. Every day Henry has to find new ways to make this woman with no memory of him love her — and his efforts are truly inspirational and touching.

“Next Stop Wonderland” (Brad Anderson): This Boston-based indie that was not seen by enough people takes on philosophical territory, the role of fate and destiny, that was mined by the late Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski in his brilliant “Red.” Recently dumped by a loser (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Erin (Hope Davis), holes up at home focusing on herself rather than looking for love. Meanwhile, we follow the life of hapless Alan (Alan Gelfant), a would-be marine biologist whom the film leads us to believe is Erin’s soulmate. The two lives crisscross, never quite making contact, while other potential lovers risk preventing the encounter. When a series of serendipitous events finally land Erin quite literally into the arms of Alan, it is quite simply a perfect cinematic moment. Just try to hold back the tears.

For more on “Three Times,” see the official site.

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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.