This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Tribeca ’08: “Fermat’s Room”

Posted by on

04242008_fermatsroom1.jpgBy Matt Singer

[For complete coverage of the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, check out IFC’s Tribeca page.]

Four Spanish mathematicians convene for an evening of puzzle-solving at the house of a man named Fermat. But almost as soon as they arrive, their mysterious host is called away to attend to his ailing daughter. A PDA rings, giving the group a question they’re told they must solve in just one minute. When they don’t, the walls of Fermat’s room inch towards one another. Now, they must answer the riddles while trying to find an escape before they’re all squeezed to death. In other words, “Fermat’s Room” is sort of “Saw” for arithmetic dorks.

The characters are all supposed to be geniuses, but the problems they have to solve require less advanced calculus than your average brain teaser from “Die Hard With a Vengeance” — lots of trick questions and doors you have to choose between or vessels of different sizes. That’s probably beneath what these sort of people normally do with their brains, but it’s a decision that makes sense from an audience perspective; if writer/directors Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña were really to put four math professors to work solving hardcore theorems, viewers would probably die out of sheer boredom well before the characters on screen do.

The characters all act pleasant and innocent enough at first, but impending doom in these sorts of movies has a habit of revealing people’s darkest secrets. So while there might not seem to be a reason for Fermat (Federico Luppi) to want to destroy Pascal (Santi Millán), Galois (Alejo Sauras), Oliva (Elena Ballesteros) or Hilbert (Lluís Hobar), revelations that they’re all some combination of liars, thieves, adulterers or murderers are inevitable. Three out of four are also remarkably good-looking as far as mathematicians go. Heck, three out of four of them are remarkably good-looking as far as models go. But, hey, that’s moviemaking for you.

04242008_fermatsroom2.jpgFrom the moment the four walls begin closing in with the aid of “Poseidon hydraulic presses,” “Fermat’s Room” unfolds roughly in real time, and we only leave the location occasionally to check in on Fermat’s journey to a hospital. Co-directors Piedrahita and Sopeña rely on the puzzles, the arguments between the prisoners, the deceptions and revelations to keep you on edge, though visually, the movie suffers from a lack of establishing shots. Piedrahita and Sopeña use tighter and tighter close-ups to convey the claustrophobia, and there’s lots of cutaways to the corners of the room as they grind ever closer, breaking light fixtures or knocking pictures off the wall, but after the room starts to shrink, there’s only a handful of shots wide enough to give us a full sense of its diminishing size. More images of that ilk would give us a better grasp of how small the room is and how little time the hottie nerds have left at any given point, which would greatly improved “Fermat’s” tension.

Like most movies about people stuck in inescapable death traps, the ultimate solution to “Fermat’s Room” is, frankly, a little dopey, a particularly egregious problem for a movie about people who are allegedly really, really smart. But for most of its run, it moves briskly as a fun whodunit (and, I suppose, as a howdoit) and Piedrahita and Sopeña’s work manages to be sinister without being grisly — which should please audiences weary of overly gory horror movies — and the film is dotted with little touches that encourage careful viewing (dig the cheeky pattern of the wallpaper). It could still be a little smarter though. The movie doesn’t insult your intelligence, but it doesn’t exactly tax it either.

[Photos: “Fermat’s Room,” Notro Films, 2007]

For more on “Fermat’s Room” (albeit in Spanish), check out the official site here.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

Posted by on
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.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

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…


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.


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 ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

Posted by on
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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.