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Gondry vs. Carax: The Battle for “Tokyo!”

Gondry vs. Carax: The Battle for “Tokyo!” (photo)

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From “New York Stories” to “Paris je t’aime,” the geocentric omnibus film has become a popular blank canvas for directors to freely experiment in the short-form medium. In the titular-set triptych “Tokyo!”, director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) fashions “Interior Design,” about an ambitious young filmmaker and his listless girlfriend, who begins to sit around like a piece of furniture… literally. Leos Carax (“Pola X”) flings “Merde” at the screen, an absurdist paranoid comedy about a sewer-dwelling monster (Denis Lavant) who terrorizes the Japanese, and while we love Bong Joon-Ho (“The Host”), we won’t discuss his segment since he wasn’t around to talk about it. I took turns asking similar questions to the self-proclaimed “narcissist” Gondry and the self-proclaimed “pretentious” Carax with — like any anthology film, appropriately — wildly mixed results.


What was your first trip to Tokyo like?

I went there 12 years ago to do a commercial for Polaroid. It was very difficult to shoot there because the permit situation was complex, and I didn’t know the differences in communication. Japanese people don’t really say “no” — you have to understand by yourself it’s “no.” So you get confronted by impossibilities right until the last minute because nobody told you it would not be possible. I had a negative first impression, but as I went [there] again to promote my movies, I started to like it better. I felt a very warm welcome. They always give you a present, which you guys don’t do here.

Actually, I brought you these mix CDs.

Ah, that’s nice! My impression of Tokyo grew, and in the end, I spent a lot of time there. I was very anxious when we started to shoot because I asked to change the location to shoot. Basically, they don’t want to work hard to go through the trouble of shooting in Tokyo. [The location scout] suggested we shoot everything outside of Tokyo, but I’m sorry, this movie is called “Tokyo!” and “Interior Design” is not necessarily based on the city to start with, so, if on top of that, we had shot outside of Tokyo, it would have meant nothing. Because of the difficulty of [obtaining] the official permit, we had to play a little guerilla style. It’s funny, Spielberg is not a filmmaker I would quote generally. I remember him talking to an audience of young filmmakers, [saying] he takes a problem as an advantage. That’s some of the best advice I’ve heard.

According to posted street signs in Brooklyn, you were missing in action. Where were you?

I have nothing to do with that. Some people get mad at me for those, so I don’t want to comment about that. I think some people were trying to do a documentary on me, and it was flattering in the beginning, then it becomes annoying because people thought I was doing that. I advertise myself, but not in a silly way like that. I do something more serious like doing a Rubik’s Cube with my feet or my nose. I’m not going onto the milk cardboard.

03042009_gondry.jpgWhich third of “Tokyo!” is your favorite?

Gabrielle’s. [Graphic novelist Gabrielle Bell, who wrote the comic Gondry’s segment is based on, is practically sitting in his lap.] We should bring Gabrielle into this conversation. We directed it together, I would say. [Bell chimes in: “I wouldn’t go that far.”] She has a very sharp opinion, and reminded me of when I was working with Charlie Kaufman, only I would not kiss Charlie Kaufman. He has too much hair for my taste. She’s a very shy person, but very opinionated, which sounds like hell as a relationship. [Bell: “I was always on the set, whispering in his ear.”] Anyway, I don’t know what the question was, but that’s the answer.

I was asking about your favorite segment in the film.

It’s difficult. When I watch my film, I always feel self-conscious. I can’t see the thing as it is with an objective perspective because I remember all the pieces separately and all the pain I went through to achieve them. When I saw the film together, I didn’t feel the connection as strong as I would’ve liked to because we did the first one, and not the others. I couldn’t really judge, but there are parts in every film that I feel are better than mine, and some of the parts are not as good. I like the part I did the best because I did it, and I’m a narcissist. But that’s a stupid question, I have to say. If I asked you if you were good-looking, what would you say?

I’m okay.

Then I’m okay, too.

If you saw a woman transform into a chair, how would you react?

I would put her in a closet. [Bell laughs: “Would you?”] No, I would bring her to the doctor right away.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

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

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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.