On DVD: “Joy House,” “The Witman Boys”

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08052008_joyhouse.jpgBy Michael Atkinson

We’ve been trained nowadays to believe that if a mainstream movie is not a monstrous, definitive, top-heavy, eye-blasting, eardrum-bruising mega-event, it’s not worth seeing. Gone are the cultural aesthetics of the double bill (in which no one film was so commanding that it couldn’t stand to be immediately followed by another), the moviegoing habit (when diversion, charm and story were all moviegoers wanted, every weekend) and the notion of a film’s nature, like a person’s, being valued for modesty, lightweight pulpiness, empathic thrills in the moment and the pleasant company of beautiful and confident movie stars. Stuck in the summertime hell of superhero crapola and CGI migraines, it’s not hard from where I stand (which is, frankly, still a state of bedevilment about how the typically abbreviated and overwrought non-storyness of “The Dark Knight” has so many educated viewers bamboozled) to find relief in the forgotten matinee fodder of a less bombastic time. This week, it’s René Clément’s rather delightful 1964 suspenser “Les Félins” (The Felines), titled here (after the American pulp paperback it was based on, by prolific noiriste Day Keene) “Joy House.” There’s not much that’s earth-shaking about “Joy House” (except perhaps Lalo Schifrin’s pre-Jerry Goldsmith score). But it’s a movie in a way movies haven’t been in a long time: graceful, relaxed, fun-loving, unpretentious.

What you get is Alain Delon in his best persona — a ne’er-do-well playboy flitting around the Mediterranean looking for cash and ass, not unlike his Tom Ripley in Clément’s “Purple Noon” four years earlier. He’s targeted by a jealous American gangster — bring me the head of Alain Delon, literally — and escapes into the opulent Riviera clutches of icy widow Lola Albright (a stunning blonde from Akron whose résumé is otherwise comprised of cheap westerns and episodic TV) and her dewy, bubbly cousin-cum-maid, played by a pristine 26-year-old Jane Fonda at the onset of her French phase. Delon’s hired as a chauffeur — the kind whose driving is seriously impeded by his penchant for hiding under the steering wheel whenever gangsters walk by — but both the chateau-owning widow and the adorable but possibly unhinged kewpie doll have other cat-and-mouse plans for the wandering hunk, and it’s got to do with murder, swapped identities, set-ups, and so on.

It’s the kind of American pulp French filmmakers have always loved: the kind in which not one character has an iota of honesty or morality to them. This is my idea of escapism, hanging in an absurd vacation-France inhabited by nuns and sex kittens, digging the redoubtable chemistry between Fonda and Delon (honestly, Fonda’s so game and sexy here she’d muster chemistry with Fernandel), enjoying the stars’ indulgent wallow in the Riviera as I’m also casually and effortlessly following the not-too-fast narrative without the benefit of a single optical effect or a single moment where the film insists on “making” me “feel” the action. (When an on-the-run Delon hazardously flags down a passing truck, Clément hangs back and just watches the actor literally leaps on the grill.) “Joy House” is not a great film (it’s not as rich as the Patricia Highsmith-derived “Purple Noon”), but it is pure movieness, un-self-important and respectful and sweet, and I’d prefer watching it again to sitting through another $120 million comic book holocaust.

08052008_witmanboys.jpgOn another planet, and not one immune to a degree of pretension, the overlooked Hungarian film “The Witman Boys” (1997) grimly lays out the growth, like mold, of family psychopathy, and of its kind (think “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea,” any number of Claude Chabrol films, and the numerous movies based upon the Papin sisters) it’s an expert, reserved, thoughtful piece of work. There’s a predictability to it, of course, as we observe the titular brothers (Alpár Fogarasi and Szabalcs Gergely, both of whom could pass for John Lennon progeny) react to their tyrannical father’s death by not reacting at all, and then begin torturing and killing animals (mostly off screen), and then fall under the spell of a whore who encourages them to thieve from their mother (the always mesmerizing Maia Morgenstern) and eventually edge over into homicide. Still, the stars of the show are director János Szász and cinematographer Tibor Máthé (Ildikó Enyedi’s D.P. and maybe the best unemigrated shooter in Eastern Europe); “The Witman Boys” is set in a small turn-of-the-century Hungarian city, a chilly mess of snow, oil light, stray dogs and smoky air, and it’s breathtakingly shot, in glowing earth colors and magic-hour luminescence, like Wyeth meets Vermeer meets Sargent. The cold story may be familiar, but the place and time is evoked so clearly it becomes a sense memory.

[Photos: “Joy House,” MGM, 1964; “The Witman Boys,” Bunyik Entertainment, 1997]

>”Joy House” (Koch Lorber) is now available on DVD; “The Witman Boys” (Facets) will be available on DVD on August 26th.


Gigi Gets Wasted

5 Ways to Get Ready for Tonight’s Boozy Gigi Does It

Catch Gigi Does It Mondays at 10:30P ET/PT on IFC.

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On tonight’s Gigi Does It, everyone’s favorite yenta gets her drink on at a wine tasting. As the episode shows us, it is possible to have a nice drink with friends without too many tears. Here are five ways to get ready for tonight’s wine-soaked Gigi Does It before it airs at 10:30P ET/PT on IFC.

1.  Learn the proper wine tasting etiquette.

There’s nothing more fun than tasting some fine wine with friends. Just be sure to learn the spitting versus swallowing etiquette.

2. Keep the conversation light.

When chatting with friends over a nice relaxing glass of wine, it’s important to keep things light. Unless you’re Ricky and the very sight of alcohol brings up years of repressed childhood trauma.

3. Support your wasted pals.

Tonight on Gigi Does It, Gigi steps in for her drunken pal Tretchy during an important speech. Gigi truly is a Dionne Warwick song come to life.

3. Hire a makeup crew for all your party selfie needs.

Not everyone can wake up and walk out the door looking their best. So be like Gigi Does It star David Krumholtz and assemble a team of professional makeup artists to give you the attention to bald cap blending and neck fold realism that you deserve.

4. Get some “hot takes” for cocktail hour.

In today’s post-Twitter world, one doesn’t have time to hear “hot take” on the latest trends beyond 140 characters. As such, it’s important to condense your incredulous rants on everything from Trump on SNL to healthy eating into bite-sized, Andy Rooney-esque tidbits. Watch the video above to hear Gigi’s take on Trump’s “cotton candy hair” and get some talking points for your next cocktail party.

5. Crack open Gigi’s book with a nice Chardonnay.

Like most seniors, Gigi knows how little appreciation grandparents receive from their grandkids. Which is why the saucy old broad penned a children’s book reminding today’s youth to call their grandmother. Pop open a bottle of your favorite tasty beverage and give it a read.

Zoolander 2

Blue Steel Is Back

Watch the Ridiculously Funny Zoolander 2 Trailer

Portlandia returns January 21st at 10P ET/PT.

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Photo Credit: Red Hour Productions/YouTube

The Zoolander 2 trailer is finally here, and it appears that someone is trying to kill the world’s most beautiful people. (Even Justin Bieber isn’t safe!)

The film has a lot of familiar, hilarious faces like Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell, but the trailer also features a ton of new additions including a nearly unrecognizable Kristen Wiig, Kyle Mooney, Penelope Cruz, Fred Armisen, and Benedict Cumberbatch (but not his eyebrows).

While the Portlandia and Documentary Now! star isn’t in the new trailer, Fred has the Instagram shots to prove that he was on the set. When he was heading to Rome, where the highly anticipated (and very good looking) sequel was filmed, Fred also proved that he is very good at packing a bag. The how-to video was so impressive that Ben Stiller had no choice but to repost the announcement with the caption: “Excited @sordociego (Fred Armisen!!) is joining the #zoolander2 cast!”

Excited @sordociego (Fred Armisen!!) is joining the #zoolander2 cast!

A video posted by Derek Zoolander (@zoolander) on

As Fred told Conan O’Brien, he had a lot of fun working on the film and touring the sites of Rome with his selfie stick. Be sure to check back for more updates about Fred’s role in Zoolander 2 and the sixth season of Portlandia, which premieres January 21st at 10P ET/PT on IFC

Tenacious D Everett 1920

Festival Supreme

Amy Poehler, Kids in the Hall and More Are Heading to Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme 2015

Catch all the fun live in Los Angeles Saturday, October 10th.

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Get ready to get rowdy when Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme returns to Los Angeles for a third face-melting-ly awesome year.

The line-up is a who’s who of comedy and music talent with Amy Poehler, Die Antwoord, Aubrey Plaza, The Darkness, Kristen Schaal, Dan Deacon, Jenny Slate, Andrew W.K., Kyle Mooney, Dan Harmon, Nathan Fielder, and many more all performing. Of course, The D will be doing a mellow jazz set. Just kidding — they’re going to pummel the masses with the force of rock.

If that roster isn’t enough to convince you to go buy tickets right this second, there’s also a Kids In The Hall get-together with cast members Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson. Oh, and in case one cult comedy reunion wasn’t enough, the original cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will also be appearing.

The one-day comedy festival will be held on Saturday, October 10th at Los Angeles, California’s Shrine Expo Hall & Grounds. Tickets are $99 (a limited number are available at the discounted price of $75) for the whole day, and are on sale now. Special $250 VIP tickets are also available. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for more updates, and check out the awesome poster below. We’ll see you there!




David Cross Gets Busted

David Cross Fights For Your Rights in With Bob and David Sketch

Todd Margaret returns January 7th, 2016 at 10P.

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If you’re a fan of Todd Margaret star David Cross, then you know he isn’t afraid to stand up for the every day American’s rights. And in the latest sneak peek of  W/Bob and David, the Netflix series that reunites him with Bob Odenkirk, Cross plays a Constitutional rights enthusiast who does his part to document police abuse for his YouTube followers.

Key and Peele‘s Keegan-Michael Key plays a cop in the sketch based on the very real internut subculture of “Know Your Rights” videos.

For more David, be sure to catch the return of Todd Margaret on January 7th, 2016 at 10P. Todd is back and very, very different.

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