Cannes 08: “The Chaser.”

Posted by on

05192008_thechaser.jpgA few ways to cut in line at Cannes: Get there late and drift in with the crowd at the front, looking lost or bewildered. Pretend to only be walking over to get a magazine off the table conveniently by the theater entrance, then glide in through the doors. Shove. Most often, though, someone will just wriggle into a line near the front, and then stoically pretend not to understand the people standing nearby telling him or her to fuck off in various languages. There’s a lot of press at the festival, divided into the strata of white, pink with a dot, pink without a dot, blue and yellow, and trying to get into screenings can be a brutal game. The other morning’s screening of Jia Zhang-ke’s “24 City” was preceded by a struggle resembling a meat run in the supermarket of a crumbling Eastern Bloc country, and when the doors closed and the smoke cleared I was still outside. Instead, I headed to Na Hong-jin’s “The Chaser,” a thriller about a serial killer and missing prostitutes that’s cruel in a way that’s pretty much unique to South Korean cinema. The antihero, with extra dashes of “anti,” is Joong-ho, a disgraced cop now running a call girl ring that’s faltering because two girls have, he believes, run away. He presses another into service despite her being sick, and the client she goes to meet turns out to be a boyish, handsome serial killer (“Time”‘s Ha Jung-woo) who’s got the corpses of her compatriots stored in the basement and buried in the backyard.

“The Chaser” overturns genre conventions like tables in a saloon brawl — for one, the killer’s nabbed in the first half of the film and, unprompted, quickly confesses. Most of the suspense comes from whether or not the astronomically incompetent police force will be able to come up with evidence to actually arrest him — since he was brought in without a warrant, they have to prove he did the things he claims within 12 hours, or he walks. “The Chaser”‘s condemnation of the police makes 2005’s “Memories of Murder” look marshmallow soft — its cops are lazy, careless, quick-tempered, deaf to what they don’t want to hear, more concerned with image than with results and therefore always in search of a way to shift blame. They ignore the killer’s inconvenient claim that one of the girls may still be alive, and achieve a sense of urgency only when it becomes clear that they have to close the case in order to take attention off the fact that earlier in the evening they allowed a protester to throw shit at the mayor during a public appearance. Joong-ho, carrying out his own more violent, though only slightly more competent, investigation, has the more compelling motivation of money to be retrieved, though he also prefers to believe that the girls were merely sold until the disturbing evidence otherwise becomes impossible to ignore.

From all of this, first-time director Na teases out some pitch-dark comedy that’s made even more uncomfortable by the fact that we, at least, know there is a victim in dire need of rescue. But there’s an unexpected third-act incident of such brutality that I was knocked clear out of the film. For all of “The Chaser”‘s bracingly unforgiving views on law enforcement and on life in the city in general, the development I’ll let you guess at pushes too far and too hard; it wasn’t necessary, merely manipulative. There are plenty of others who haven’t minded, though — the film’s this year’s biggest success to date at the Korean box office, and it’s in line for a U.S. remake.

[Photo: “The Chaser,” Fine Cut Films, 2008]

+ “The Chaser” (Festival-Cannes.fr)


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.