Cannes 08: “Tokyo!”

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05162008_tokyo.jpg“Tokyo!” is made up of three unrelated shorts directed by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho, all set, yes, in Tokyo.

Stop, you’re shrieking, how much hipness can one little omnibus film contain?

It turns out, as is often the case with these things, a swoopingly uneven amount. I liked the Gondry portion, found Carax’s a promising joke stretched too thin (though it attracted the most applause at the screening) and Bong’s pretty damn disappointing. None of these filmmakers is actually from the city in which the film is set, and their methods of approach to encapsulating it in a short vary. Gondry’s “Interior Design” kicks off as a plausible look at a young couple struggling with their move to the city that rapidly plunges into Gondrisms — aspiring auteur Akira (Ryo Kase) screens his low-budget sci-fi film in a porn theater and enthusiastically pumps a smoke machine until the audience spills out, coughing; Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani), not knowing what she wants from life, discovers a surreal ability to transform herself into something she considers truly useful. Gondry’s shown something of a fetish for tiny, cramped living spaces, and so he takes to Tokyo with ease, and the length limitation means “Interior Design” doesn’t exhaust its charm by spilling all over the place in the manner of the features he’s written.

Carax’s film, “Merde,” casts the director’s beloved Denis Lavant as a cock-eyed, red-bearded troll who emerges from the sewers to terrorize the Tokyo population by eating their flowers and cash, stealing their cigarettes and crutches and licking their armpits, all of which he does during an uproarious single-take stroll down the street — the world’s monster-magnet metropolis attacked by a combed-over, corporeal id. After that opening segment, there’s nowhere left to go but down — a trial, a fellow troll who’s a French lawyer, a scant appearance from Julie Dreyfus, and a line of Merde action figures.

Bong, whose closing segment “Shaking Tokyo” was probably the most anticipated, at least by anyone who’s seen “The Host,” zooms in on the life of a hikikomori, one suffering from the mediaadored Japanese disorder in which people retreat to their rooms or homes for what can be years. His nameless recluse (Teruyuki Kagawa) has been bunkered down in his apartment for over a decade, until a perfectly timed earthquake drops a pizza delivery girl (Yu Aoi) in her tracks in his entryway, and he finally finds something worth going outside for. But the hikikomori phenomenon is just too ripe a metaphor — from the beginning, the film lacks traction, with its central character reflecting on his condition in a manner almost anthropological until events drift into magical realism. From a director who delicately explored his own country’s insecurities and ills by way of a river-born mutant, “Shaking Tokyo” rings sadly false.

[Denis Lavant in “Tokyo!,” Comme des Cinémas, 2008]

+ “Tokyo!” (Festival-Cannes.fr)


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

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

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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.

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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.

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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.