DID YOU READ

“Climates,” “Isolation”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Climates,” Zeitgeist Films, 2007]

I love ultra-minimalist international art films, the kind heralded at global film festivals and most famously exemplified by Hou Hsiao-hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, Tsai Ming-liang, Carlos Reygadas, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Šarūnas Bartas, Bruno Dumont, Nuri Bilge Ceylan — you know the drill, the long static shots, the non-communicative acting, the oblique narratives, the attention to passing time and natural phenomena and what exactly we don’t know about what’s going on. But I sometimes grow suspicious; it seems so easy, doesn’t it? Do we respect these movies merely for what they aren’t? Personally, I’d make a pulpitarian’s full-throated case for the filmmakers listed above, but when watching films by pretenders to this bandwagon (for instance, Vimukthi Jayasundara’s “The Forsaken Land,” from Sri Lanka, and Portugese ennui-specialist Pedro Costa’s “Colossal Youth”), I grow to sympathize with the ticket-buying hoi polloi who generally demand a little clarity and propulsion along with their cinematographic visual blitz.

On the other hand, of course, we all hope in our hearts that if we plopped our middlebrow parents or neighbors or hockey-fan pals down in front of the right art film (someone, please, muster a better meta-genre title than this one), they’d see the truthfulness and wisdom and hidden beauty as we do. Ceylan’s newest film, “Climates,” is a good choice for the experiment — it couldn’t be clearer in its essaying the ordinary collapse of a long-term relationship, and yet the film communicates its emotional weather to us in ways that shock us with its secrets. A couple — an older but worldly architecture professor and his younger designer mate, played by Ceylan and his real wife, Ebru Ceylan — are vacationing in Greece, photographing the ruins. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but then we discover it’s already happening: the camera unceremoniously lingers, and lingers, on a closeup of the woman’s face as she watches her man, and we see her forget her life, and then remember it, and then mourn it, crying.

From there, sorrow comes to town. The relationship dissolves the way they do in reality, and in Raymond Carver stories — with a derisive chuckle, with an unanswered question, with a secret nobody knows who knows. Because the characters behave like real people, we participate emotionally in their scenes as if we were present, exploring on our own what may’ve happened in the past and what’s going on behind their eyes now. Ceylan’s camera favors observant angles, but it’s mostly a character study of the man, a charming, sophisticated academic lost in his own life. Shot, rapturously, on digital video, “Climates” limns palpable human territory, but it’s a great film because of Ceylan’s subtle and restrained eloquence — eloquence? Can you name a recent American film that could be lauded for its visual eloquence? Rather than a one-man Turkish new wave, Ceylan seems to be the Turkish representative in a global trend, inspired by Antonioni and guided by Kiarostami and Hou, and meant not just for local audiences but for the Earthly citizens of Cannes-istan. It’s a demographic that could grow — sit your “Knocked-Up”-focused friends down to Ceylan’s portrait of discontent, and see if they don’t catch their breaths.

Or show them the newest, or rather, only Irish cow farm horror movie, Billy O’Brien’s minimalist-in-its-own-way film “Isolation,” which stands as some kind of crafty demonstration that with effective filmmaking and a headful of uncomfortable ideas, a delirious horror experience can be built from any locale, and with any amount of money. (Actually, the film cost around $5 million, but it looks like it could’ve been made for a fraction of that.) Suffice it to say that the cows on star John Lynch’s remote County Wicklow farm have been test-subjected to a little genetic engineering, which only appears to be a potential problem when a lovely bovine vet (Ruth Negga) routinely slides her entire arm into a pregnant cow’s uterus and gets bitten for her troubles. It’s a slow burn to major yuck from there, with low-budget (and non-digital) effects having to do little of the genre work because O’Brien’s moviemaking by itself so expertly creates a sense of natural menace. The DVD’s extras include O’Brien’s fabulous award-winning short, “The Tale of the Rat that Wrote” (1999), which also eschews CGIs for puppetry and a winning way with antiquated-storybook raw materials.

“Climates” (Zeitgeist) and “Isolation” (First Look) are now available on DVD.

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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.