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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.


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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GIFs via Giphy

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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GIFs via Giphy

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.