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“Essential” Moviegoing

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By R. Emmet Sweeney

IFC News

[Photo: “Cléo From 5 to 7,” Janus Films]

Seeing the Janus icon before a movie builds the same kind of anticipation for the art-house crowd that the hopping lamp of the Pixar logo elicits from amped-up children (and some adults). Janus has acquired the cream of the world’s art cinema for 50 years, cultivating a large library while adapting to each advancement in viewing technology, from 16mm to laserdiscs to DVD. The repertory houses in NYC have filled their schedules with Janus gems this autumn, from the Walter Reade’s comprehensive series that ran alongside the New York Film Festival to the IFC Center’s upcoming year-long Weekend Classics tribute. For those of you in the rest of the world, Criterion has released a handsome 50-film set entitled “Essential Art House,” the discs nestled alongside a 240-page book of comprehensive background notes. The ideal way to view these masterworks, though, is on the big screen. These are films to lose oneself in — pausing them to eat dinner or scold the kids could easily disrupt their subtle rhythms.

The IFC Center begins their series on November 22 with a new 35mm print of Agnès Varda’s “Cléo From 5 to 7,” a French New Wave wonder from 1961 — also the year of Francois Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim” and Alain Resnais’ “Last Year at Marienbad.” “Cléo” hasn’t established a foothold in the pantheon like those two, but it should. Corinne Marchand plays Cléo, a vain Yé-Yé pop singer (like Chantal Goya in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Masculin Féminin”), who impatiently wanders the Paris streets for two hours until she calls upon her doctor for the results of an unnamed medical test. She believes she has inoperable cancer. Taking place in an approximation of real time (it runs a little over an hour and a half), the film follows her encounters with friends, lovers and strangers as the clock winds down until she discovers the result. Considering the subject matter, it is improbably buoyant, as Varda expertly employs the language of the New Wave, from location shooting to jump cuts to multiple narrative digressions (most famously, Godard and Anna Karina act in a silent comedy short that Cléo watches at a theater).

Early on it’s not clear if she’s simply being dramatic — Varda packs the early scenes with mirrors: Cléo eyes herself at every diner, haberdasher, and shop window. This illness could be a childish ploy for attention — a conclusion her composer and lyricist come to when they crash her place, donning fake hospital attire complete with oversized syringe. Their arrival marks the first tonal shift, from mournful soul-searching to a light-hearted musical comedy. Scored by the great Michel Legrand, it soars with clever wordplay, hummable tunes, and an elegantly tracking camera. Then the lyricist suggests she sing his latest work, “Cry of Love,” whose opening piano trills foreshadow the swooping melodrama of Legrand’s work on Jacques Demy’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (Demy would marry Varda in 1962). The camera pans past the two guests and tilts up towards Cleo, framing her against a black background as she laments the death of a relationship. It’s a stunning moment — for me and for Cléo, as afterward she rips off her wig and stalks out, hiding her moment of self-realization underneath a tantrum. Her façade is breaking down.

The final third of the film completes her transformation, as she bends her will for the love of another — and there’s no more romantic meet-cute scene in history than when the hyper-articulate Antoine seals their fate over a bridge. The test result comes in — but by then it’s beside the point — the final shot of euphoric union could make any hardened pseudo-intellectual’s heart go pitter pat.

After “Cléo,” the IFC Center offers up the Japanese horror story “Kwaidan” (1964), Carlos Saura’s “Cria Cuervos” (1976), Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal” (1957), and Jean Cocteau’s enchanting version of “Beauty and the Beast” (1946). More is promised, so happy viewing.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.