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“Green Chair,” “Cinema16”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “Green Chair,” ImaginAsian Pictures, 2006]

I could go on all week about the Korean “new wave” movies that deserved theatrical release in this country but didn’t get them, just starting with Hong Sang-soo’s “The Power of Kangwon Province” and “Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors,” Hur Jin-ho’s “Christmas in August” and “One Fine Spring Day,” Lee Seong-kang’s “My Beautiful Girl Mari,” Lee Chang-dong’s “Peppermint Candy,” Kwak Jae-young’s “My Sassy Girl,” Yim Soon-rye’s “Waikiki Brothers,” the sublime portmanteau collection “If You Were Me,” the “Whispering Corridors” trilogy, and so on. Some of these have seen life as DVDs here, more weight thrown toward the argument that an official video release is the legit B-movie-slash-“specialty” distribution stream of our time, and therefore such films should be eligible for awards and critics’ lists. (Last year saw only maybe two theatrical films, maybe, that could be said to beat out the overdue 2006 DVD’ization of “The Power of Kangwon Province.”) Park Cheol-su’s “Green Chair” (2005) is another gemstone on the overladen scale: a tempestuous, achingly lovely, slightly batty and overwhelmingly horny romance that makes intimacy palpable in ways no American film has ever tried.

The setup is news-story familiar: a thirtysomething woman caught having a sexual relationship with an underage teen. But the upshot is much more complex — the two energetic, vrooming lovers fit together like ragged puzzle pieces; they have fun, and gamble everything that society holds dear to be together, to test each other, to yank the most out of whatever time they can steal in each other’s naked company. Provocatively, we meet them as she, Mun-hee (Suh Jung, the infamous succubus from Kim Ki-duk’s “The Isle”), gets released from her prison stint, greeted in the jail parking lot by a scandal-mongering news crew and by Seo-hyun (Shim Ji-ho), now a strapping 17+ and heroically going public with his feelings, ready to whisk her away and pick up where they left off. It takes but one wary moment for Mun-hee to embrace him in full view of the cameras — we’re expecting the steamroller of law and propriety to once again roll over them as the film progresses, but something else magical happens. The couple do in fact vanish from the public eye and plunge into their mutual addiction for each other, flopping in the apartment of an artist friend and generally having more spirited, moving, realistic sex than I think I’ve ever seen in a movie before. This isn’t movie sex, nor is Park’s film “about” mere sexual obsession — Mun-hee and Seo-hyun talk in the middle of coitus, disappoint each other, get sidetracked, pause to eat, try to thrill each other with risk and sometimes fail. But the passion and generosity that lures them is always there, and always tangible to us, and so it never, ever gets boring.

Their romance is a sincere but rocky road, ending up in a semi-surreal, semi-theatrical dinner party in which everyone they know, including their families, philosophically argues out the couple’s moral situation and potential future. “Green Chair” dazzles because it is almost entirely unpredictable — the two protagonists leap into your lap, defiantly behaving in inexplicable ways — and because the conviction of the actors is unwavering. Shim is utterly convincing and lovable as the self-assured soon-to-be-18-year-old, but Suh is the movie’s motor; her default position in her lover’s presence is astonished, doubtful, heartbreaking joy, and the character’s honesty and desire makes most other romance heroines look like brainless fakers.

If great Asian imports have to rely on DVD to be “released” in the U.S., the world’s notable short films remain almost unseeable. A new and ambitious corrective is Cinema16’s European Short Films set, a beautifully designed collection of 16 of the continent’s greatest and most famous festival-award winners, reaching back as far as Ridley Scott’s 1958 art-school film “Boy and Bicycle,” and including several 2005 films, including Bálint Kenyeres’ breathtaking “Before Dawn.” Set entirely in a Hungarian field in the pre-sunrise moments and shot entirely in one stupefying, 35mm 13-minute take, Kenyeres’ film is a portrait of social conflicts and secrets — human traffickers, refugees, police, who knows what else? — that conveys such a thoroughgoing three-dimensional sense of the world beyond the frame, beyond our capacity for seeing, that it feels like a feature.

Anders Thomas Jensen’s pre-Dogme “Election Night”(1998), Matthieu Kassovitz’s “Pierrot le Pou” (1990) and Christopher Nolan’s “Doodlebug” (1997) are historically interesting, if revelatory of those filmmakers’ weaknesses, and the inclusion of Jan Švankmajer’s “Jabberwocky” (1971) is a boon to Švankmajer completists, since it hasn’t yet been included on any of the Kino collections. But the real prizes include Juan Solanas’ “The Man without a Head” (2003), a lavishly fabulistic French daydream that suggests that Solanas, son of Fernando, inherited the mantle of Caro/Jeunet and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”; Roy Andersson’s “World of Glory” (1991), a Kafkaesque study that begins with one of the most chilling three-minute shots in the history of movies; Lynne Ramsay’s “Gasman” (1997), the dour, low-class Glasgow short that led to the phenomenon of “Ratcatcher”; Lars von Trier’s moody, impressionistic student film “Nocturne” (1980); and Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-winning “Six Shooter” (2004), an all-Irish worst-day scenario — starring Brendan Gleeson as a bruised widower — that is as richly and sardonically written as any short film I’ve ever seen.

“Green Chair” (ImaginAsian) and “Cinema16: European Short Films” (Warp Films) are now available on DVD.


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.