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Cillian Murphy Takes to “The Water”

Cillian Murphy Takes to “The Water” (photo)

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Cillian Murphy is the kind of guy who can call himself Kitten, put on a dress, make you believe he’s a girl, then make you forget everything else. His repertoire’s impressive and he is, like his characters, unquestionably memorable. Maybe it’s the eyes, maybe it’s the voice, but even his sinister roles are strangely comforting — something very genuine always comes through Mr. Murphy, a welcome exception in an era of green screens and Ponzi schemes.

His latest role is an unusual one, in a semi-experimental short film called “The Water,” inspired by the Feist song of the same name. It was directed by Kevin Drew, best known for his band/collective Broken Social Scene (of which Feist is also a member). “The Water”‘s a beautiful, nearly wordless piece that weaves a fixation on a wintry landscape with Feist’s song and a sad sort of fairytale. I called Murphy in Ireland to talk about the film and learned his family was mourning the loss of a loved one. Still, he set aside time to talk about the project, about conveying emotion through silence, and the ineffable mysteries of the human mind.

I read that you’re tight with Kevin Drew and Leslie Feist — is that how you became involved in the film, or were you approached before, and the friendship grew out of it?

Basically, I’ve been a fan of both Broken Social Scene and Feist’s music for a number of years now. I went to see Broken Social Scene play in London three years ago, maybe a bit longer, and met Kevin afterwards, briefly, and we kind of got on. A year or so later, he interviewed me for Under The Radar magazine, and we just stayed on the line after the interview. He said “Listen, I’d love to send you this thing I’ve been thinking about.” It was just before [Feist’s solo album] “The Reminder” had come out, I still hadn’t heard the record, and when I did, I thought it was just incredible. He told me about that song and said he had this idea. With the producer, Jannie [McInnes], they managed to pull the whole thing together very quickly, and all of the sudden it was “We’re gonna do it, can you come to Toronto in two weeks?” And I was like, sure, let’s do it. We shot it in like two days. There was never a script [laughs]. It just came about and I’m really proud of it.

Your character is interesting, clearly troubled by the goings on, stepping out for smokes, reluctant, anxious. Tell me about him.

I don’t really want to talk too much about it because I think it’s nicer when people take what they want from the piece. Without sounding too artsy fartsy, it’s a musical poem and you can take from it what you want, so I’m loathe to kind of give away my interpretation of it. But I think he’s very close to his dad, and his dad has had this loss in his life and so he’s trying to facilitate his dad reconciling himself to that loss, and unusual things happen! The way Kevin spoke about it — everything is very musical, the way he talks about it — and it was all about emotion. And I love that. It wasn’t at all intellectual, it was just about feelings.

04072009_thewater2.jpgYeah, the union of the music with the film is interesting to me…so you were highly aware of the song, stepping into the mood of the performance?

What appealed to me most about it when he told me about the idea [was that he said] this is going to be for all intents and purposes a silent movie. I think there are like four words of dialogue in the film, and I love that, the fact that you’ve got to act or convey emotion, just silently. It’s the hardest test of any actor, I think. Obviously, music then combined with that — that’s why music works so effectively in film when it’s done right. It can really just magnify emotions, and people feel or can identify more clearly [with] what’s happening with the characters.

Speaking of this and given the title, “The Water,” it’s interesting you actually see no water in the piece.

[laughs] No, it’s all frozen.

It’s often called ice. [laughter] What’s your take on the notion that water is often used to represent life, and ice its absence?

There are lots of things you can draw from it, because life [has been] suspended, shall we say, in my mother’s character [played by Feist]. When stuff is frozen, it’s suspended and frozen in time and all that. But again, I think people can take from it what they will, they may take nothing or they may take innumerable things. You’ve got to be very careful with something like this because it’s so delicate really.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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