DID YOU READ

Family Values

Family Values (photo)

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A chamber piece resolutely devoid of flash and glitter, “Summer Hours” isn’t a film one would have anticipated from the director of such disparate provocations as “Irma Vep,” “Clean,” Demonlover” and “Boarding Gate.” Then again, Olivier Assayas’ new release is subtly provocative in its own right. Its willingness to lay out ideas about art and life in the age of globalization makes it his biggest dare yet. What distinguishes this Assayas movie from the others is the manner with which it sustains an unspoiled blend of the intimately emotional with the unequivocally intellectual. The cumulative strengths of “Summer Hours” as a philosophic elegy and a generational saga are powerful enough to throw everything else Assayas has done in illuminated relief.

The movie’s first summer dream is an idyllic one, with children playing on the grounds of an old country house whose widowed owner Hélène (Edith Scob) is celebrating her 75th birthday with her brood of three accomplished 40-something offspring. The light surrounding the party is festive and bright, but shadows seep in from the edges. Hélène knows — or, at least, suspects — that this may be her last birthday, and she’s intent on making sure the house’s 19th century art treasures, most of which (lithographs, glassware, furniture, original Corot paintings) belonged to her distinguished uncle, will be cared for in her absence.

Eldest son Frédéric (Charles Berling), an economics professor, regards each artifact with the mildest impatience. He’s taking it for granted that the house and its contents will always be in the family, no matter what happens to his mother. But it becomes all too clear, after Hélène’s death, just how perishable those dreams are. His sister Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is a fashion designer with more at stake in America and Japan than in France, while younger brother Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) chooses to raise his family close to his shoe business in China. It’s left to Frédéric, the only one staying close to home, to decide what to do with Hélène’s stuff, and what he does is bring in appraisers and auctioneers to, piece by piece, yard by yard, disperse a rich family legacy.

05132009summerhours.jpgAssayas clearly shares Frédéric’s disdain for the economic forces that erode collective memories and transform art into commodity. But there’s nothing programmatic or (obviously) ideological in his approach. He doesn’t condemn Frédéric’s sibs for the life choices they make any more than he chastises their own children for all but bypassing the craftsmanship of their ancestors. Indeed, the writer/director’s melancholy resignation with culture’s casual dismantling arouses far deeper emotions than could be summoned with a more open attack on corporate culture; though a few zingers are fired here and there by Frédéric and Adrienne, mostly at Jérémie’s labor practices. But even they yield to what’s become the mantra of 21st century progress: It is what it is and what can you do, anyway? Making a movie about it all seems to be one answer — and Assayas has made one of the most haunting, probing, and (in the end) tentatively hopeful one could possibly imagine.

The world at large seems divided in two camps — those who dug Rian Johnson’s 2005 debut feature, “Brick,” for its cunning appropriation of ’20s pulp-magazine tropes for a contemporary teen crime thriller and those who thought the whole exercise was too coy and airless for its own good. I was — and remain — very much in the former constituency. Subletting Dashiell Hammett’s argot without sounding like a scratchy 78 RPM record is one thing, but using it to effectively bend the suburban high school subgenre without losing hold on plausibility is quite a larger thing. Risky, for sure, and you wouldn’t want to see it done again any time soon. But “Brick” had enough assurance going for it at the jump to make one wonder (avidly, avidly) what its writer/director would try next.

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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

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

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

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

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