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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.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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