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Point of No Return

Point of No Return (photo)

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Philippe Garrel, now in his 60s, is semi-famous for being semi-obscure, even in France, though he remains one of the last stragglers to have fallen under the New Wave umbrella. (When he was 20, he trailed Godard, who in Jonathan Rosenbaum’s phrase “virtually adopted him in May ’68, when both were cruising the Latin Quarter student demonstrations with their cameras.”) Here, Garrel had to wait until “Regular Lovers” (2005) for a film of his to find stateside distribution. But it’s a small wonder: Garrel’s career project is resolutely personal and self-examining, to a degree that makes Cassavetes and even Godard look like rangy entertainers. His approach is observational and so intimate you begin to sweat the bell jar effect of the locations. Garrel’s life has been tumultuous — including a decade spent with Nico, making impromptu experimental films and doing heroin, on and off Ibiza — and it’s his life that’s onscreen, for better or worse. (“Regular Lovers,” his most embraceable film, has the extra-creamy benefit of ’68 nostalgia.)

There could hardly be a more concise example than “Emergency Kisses” (1989), in which Garrel stars as essentially himself — an egoistic, philandering mega-afro-ed filmmaker trying to juggle art and home and make a film about his own life and marriage — and then-wife Brigitte Sy as essentially herself, the actress/wife who concludes that if he does not let her play herself, their life is a hollow disaster. Louis Garrel, now a star but then a burbling blonde five-year-old, plays himself as well, as does Maurice Garrel, Philippe’s movie-legend father, to the extent that they’re not really acting. Anémone — a French cinema stalwart who got her start in a Garrel film years earlier — stars as the actress taking the wife’s part. Of course, Sy, with her glaring eyes, confrontational jaw and untamed silky tresses, did get the role of the wife, just not of the actress who gets the role of the wife, in the movie as yet to be made but which we’re watching anyway. This Charlie Kaufman-esque knot of meta-ness (made when Kaufman still clerked for a newspaper in Minneapolis) takes a backseat to Garrel’s real focus, the minute-by-minute emotional struggle of marriage as it’s compromised by artistic necessity.

Garrel is not a sophisticated moviemaker, but because his films are elliptical and hyperreal, they always suggest mysteries and unanswered questions. In “Kisses,” a context-free shot of Anémone is interrupted by Garrel coming into the frame and admonishing her: “Mind being in the film?” On one level, her controlled and charming reaction demonstrates why she “got the role” (even if she actually didn’t) — is Garrel suggesting that she’s the better actress (better than his own wife?), but life overrules art regardless?

05252009_icannolongerhearth.jpgIn the other offering in Zeitgeist’s new twofer, “I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar” (1991), Garrel returns to his Nico years, with puppydog-ish Benoît Régent standing in for the director, and Dutch actress Johanna ter Steege playing the bipolar Nordic junkie with whom life crashes and burns, and who haunts the Garrel avatar even after he finds a stable married life (with Sy, playing herself again). Since Garrel’s later features are only and entirely about him and the individuals in his orbit, the same stylistic choices show up over and over; a treatise could be written on the aesthetics of massively unruly hair in the Garrel oeuvre (all of it bewitching, and suggestive of the central conflicts). But rarely has a filmmaker taken his own maturation and middle-aged growth as his career subject, in film after film, without distraction or compromise. It seems clear that Garrel’s messy, incorruptible, wide-eyed precedent far outweighed the other New Wavers in influencing the new French cineastes of the ’90s (Carax, Desplechin, Assayas, Jacquot, etc.), even if the Garrel file is still, as always, a work in progress.

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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.