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DID YOU READ

Guy Ritchie on “Revolver”

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By Aaron Hillis

IFC News

[Photos: Jason Statham in Guy Ritchie’s “Revolver,” Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2007]

Strutting his pomo plumage with 1998’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and 2000’s “Snatch,” English writer-director Guy Ritchie proved then that Quentin Tarantino wasn’t the only player on the field who could kick out a witty, whizz-bang crime flick. And because two out of three ain’t ever bad, you can almost forgivingly laugh off his “Swept Away” remake in anticipation of what could’ve been a welcome rebound, until high expectations felled the rising fanboy giant. Finally seeing a U.S. release, Ritchie’s hyper-kitschy return to Gangsterville, “Revolver,” unloaded upon the 2005 Toronto Film Festival to a notoriously damning critical reception, and the British theatrical run didn’t fare much smoother. (Rather than read the hometown reviews, check out this curious investigation into the film’s poster-campaign controversy.) “Revolver” stars frequent Ritchie collaborator Jason Statham as a greasy-haired con artist who — after seven years in jail for a crime he didn’t, well, you know — has come to exact revenge on Speedo-wearing casino boss Ray Liotta and his quirkily named henchmen. Slather that with countless quotes from the likes of Julius Caesar and Macchiavelli, Kabbalahist symbolism, three days to live from a rare blood disease, sphinx-like thugs André 3000 and Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore, monologuing over chess, an anime interlude, a metaphysical rug-pull of a climax, and well… it’s probably better to let Madge’s hubby do the explaining.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to cut to the chase. What took so long to get “Revolver” to the U.S.?

Well, I don’t think anyone understood it. I don’t think it’s any more complex than that. I mean, one of the cons of the movie is that your mind won’t accept a game this big, [nor] accept the simplicity of the concept. But your mind’s sort of geared up, that’s what the film’s about. It’s geared up not to understand the premise that you are your own con man, or the con man is hiding in your own head. The reason that we fall for adverts and so forth is that our mind is conditioned to understand illusions. It doesn’t understand truth. In fact, it’s repulsed by truth.

But tangibly, what do you think wasn’t being understood? There are plenty of successful art-house films that deal in abstracts.

Absolutely, and incidentally, once you understand something about this film, it’s sort of dramatically simple. I can’t remember [its title], but there was a movie that I saw recently that I thought was so fucking complex and I thought, “Hold on, I’m having a hard time thinking mine’s complex, and this…” I mean, you’re right. There are so many movies that are so abstract. There was a line in the previous [version of “Revolver”] that is “If you try to save them to destroy him, they’ll destroy you to save him,” which is the idea that you’re protecting your own pain. So in proportion to how close you are to exposing your pain, that’s proportionate to how much you’ll be despised for it. I mean, I don’t know what I can tell you. It’s the movie that I made, and it’s a niche movie. It was never made to be massively accessible. I wanted it to be sort of an intellectual gangster movie. There’s not many of them.

That’s a bit different from what you say in the press notes interview, where you joked that you never expected to “end up talking about high-flatulent concepts” and that you got into filmmaking because you were “interested in making entertaining movies.” How do you find that balance?

Ironically, the premise behind this movie is the most exciting of all premises, but it’s hard to see it. I mean, if you speak to Jason [Statham] about this, he’ll tell you that it took a while for it to dawn. But when it does, it’s “the” premise. It’s what all other movies are about. The last three movies I saw are about the same thing. You feed your demons at some point. They start off as infants, and they grow into fucking great dragons in the case of “Beowulf.” Or in “Michael Clayton,” the corporation got consumed by its own consumption and then tried to deny that someone would do all sorts of nefarious activities in order to deny that it was a nefarious institution initially. So what was all that? The mind was playing tricks, both individually and collectively. The mind’s a fucking trickster, man. That’s not news, but there’s some ambiguity about it. I didn’t want to be ambiguous. I wanted to be very specific about the fact that we’re at war with our own fucking minds. There’s no beating around the bush, that’s the reality of the situation. I just want to be really clear about that. [laughs] So that’s why it’s entertaining, because all narratives are based on that premise. We’re all hard-wired to be interested in that.

So who do you see as most guilty of not acknowledging that, general audiences or critics?

There were two things: One, I think the film was marketed in the wrong way, in the respect that it looked like it was just going to be an accessible gangster movie. It looked like we were advertising oranges and really selling apples. I don’t think that was too smart. Secondly, you have to be really specific about this movie. From my point of view, let it do what it says on the tin. If it says this movie is gonna fuckin’ tax you intellectually, be prepared for that. And in that way, I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed. It’s important that you do know what it is that you’re getting into, don’t you think?

Sure. But I have to admit, I don’t know what I’m getting into because I haven’t actually seen this new U.S. cut. I’ve only experienced the original version that screened at Toronto two years ago. How different is the re-edited film?

It’s about ten minutes shorter, maybe a little bit more. We’ve just made a few points clearer. I mean, we’ve deliberately made it more complex than the first one because we wanted people to have a hard time working it out. But we found that, once you fuckin’ spell it out, people still have a hard enough time trying to piece it all together, even when you tell them what it is in the first three lines. I think there’s a line in there now, which is: “There really is no such as an external enemy,” which is from the first page of some book on suicide. It just tells you, but people still say, “What’s the movie about?” So there’s no question that the mind doesn’t want to understand. There’s a gang of psychiatrists at the end of this, as well, sort of telling you what it’s about.

Had you taken this universal premise you speak of and put it into a genre you’re not regularly recognized for, do you think maybe the reactions might’ve been different?

No, I don’t think so. It would’ve been good that “the Guy Ritchie thing” — which in the U.K. is kind of a brand, right? — if that hadn’t gotten in the way, it would’ve made life easier. But you’re not going to get around the fact that it’s a square hole and a round peg, you know? Either people will suddenly get into that and like it for that, or they won’t, and there’s nothing really I can do about that. If a film’s good, I think it comes through in the end. I can’t be the judge of that; it’ll percolate or it won’t. It’s out of my hands.

“Revolver” opens in limited release December 7th.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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