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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.

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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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