DID YOU READ

Love and Marriage

Love and Marriage (photo)

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The new Chinese film “In Love We Trust” has an irresistible premise, one you can easily imagine being sucked up into the Hollywood processing plant and molded into a hectic piece of polystyrene, either hysterically melodramatic or slapstickily comic. Simply: a divorced couple, both now married to others, discover their six-year-old has leukemia (admittedly, not the potentially funny part), and realize that her only chance for survival — for a bone marrow match — is for them to have another child together, therein jeopardizing both of their marriages. I don’t want to picture either version of the American remake, but Wang Ziaoshuai’s film is deliberately temperate, pensive, observational, and of course comes loaded with specifically Chinese contexts: the still-in-effect one-child policy is a barely acknowledged punitive barrier, however it is in conflict (like so many official positions) with the rise of the Chinese urban middle class.

Unlike the other recent Chinese films worth seeing (Jia Zhang-ke’s), Wang’s is all about character: the mother, Mei Zhu (Liu Weiwei), is a watchful, brittle woman who works as a realtor, showing the same oversized apartment to reluctant renters; her husband (Chen Taisheng) is an unambitious freelance designer whose reflexive reaction to everything is a battery of embarrassed grins; the ex-husband/father, Xiao Lu (Zhang Jia-yi), is a self-centered man’s-man contractor building an unfunded apartment edifice (the fringes of the film are fraught with indications of emptiness and overdevelopment); and his wife (Nan Yu) is a vain but woundable stewardess wondering when it’ll be her turn to have a child. Wang doesn’t emphasize the foursome’s differences; they’re all equally at sea, suddenly caught in a conundrum where their middle-class equilibrium and happiness is considered expendable for the life of one little girl.

Wang leaks the information out so realistically that “In Love We Trust” (a dire title, but not much worse than the accurate translation, “Right Left”) ends up taking its sweet time, and thankfully never seizes the opportunities that arise to jerk tears. (“This scandal will get us on TV,” the husband says in the only line that comes close to being ironic.) The fuel is acting: Liu won Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival in 2008, and she’s a hypnotizing piece of work. Seriously beautiful, achingly vulnerable, Liu is one of those actors who, when they do nothing so much as simply look at a co-star, can freeze time. In fact, as Wang’s movie avoids a good deal of verbal drama, it capitalizes on what you could call optical drama: the silent tension of watching a character watch someone else, and understanding the plethora of ambiguities and conflicts brimming inside. (Nan Yu’s childless glam-girl stewardess has her moment, ready for a confrontation with her hubby’s ex but glued to the sick daughter when she’s brought into the room.) I regret a Spielberg-style gotcha plot-plant that gives the movie its final-act wallop (which hits the sweet spot nonetheless), and I worry about East Asia in general — Christ, how those people smoke. But Wang’s movie does everything it can with its loaded premise except play it cheap, and for that it’s one of the year’s best DVD releases.

06162009_UneFemmeMariee2.jpgExtramarital vodeo-o-do-do and parental doubt is the crucible at the heart, too, of Jean-Luc Godard’s “Une Femme Mariée” (A Married Woman) (1964). If you were asked to name the 15 features Godard made between 1960 and 1967 — still the most thunderous run in cinema history — this might be the one you’d forget. Subtitled “Fragments of a film shot in 1964… in black… and white,” “A Married Woman” has all the formal and attitudinal earmarks of classic-period Godard, but it also possesses a distinct narrative focus and a uniquely grim and despairing tone.

No hijinks here, and no Anna Karina — “Alphaville” and “Pierrot le Fou” were to follow quickly, but the filmmaker’s famous marriage was already dissolving. You can see the fresh scabs here, as his eighth full-length film considers in relentless detail the not-unsympathetic amoral faithlessness of a young French wife (Macha Méril, a piercingly lovely fleshpot of a girl who is still a busy actress, producer, writer and French culture gadfly), who bounces from lover to husband and back again. It’s fragmented: whispered interior narration, abstracted lovemaking sessions (thighs, back, belly; the censors made Godard cut the frontal nudity), logorrheic episodes in which all three characters, plus three bystanders (including the heroine’s young stepson) hold forth on the philosophies of love and personal meaning. Then the woman finds out she’s pregnant. Godard gets shockingly personal here, and infidelity isn’t a plot device, but the object of inquiry; of course there are no answers, just subjectivity.

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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.