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Going the Distance

Going the Distance (photo)

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The only authoritative voice of Israeli filmmaking prior to the recent influx of micro-masterpieces — let’s see if it constitutes a “wave” — Amos Gitai has had a rocky time of it. He’s dared to iron-maiden his audience with hyper-long one-shot sequences and elaborate camera roamings, he’s seduced Natalie Portman into doing an Israeli film right after “Closer” and the second “Star Wars” prequel, he’s made “Kippur” (2000), an indisputable home run that explored the soldier’s experience of the Yom Kippur War. On the other hand, and at the same time, many of his films have been broad, goonish and didactic, and for the most part, his approach toward the Palestinian question has been to not have one. His new film, “One Day You’ll Understand,” is an all-French probing of the Euro-legacy of the Holocaust, so Gitai has again avoided his own nation’s actions in a post-Holocaust world. But it is at the same time his best movie — it’s as if hanging with all of these French heavyweights (stars Jeanne Moreau, Hippolyte Girardot, Emmanuelle Devos, cinematographer Caroline Champetier) slowed him down and sobered him up. The movie is something of a haunting itself, deliberately as elusive and elliptical as the past, slipping away as it is with the last survivors of the ’40s.

The first shot is symptomatic: we track along with a raincoated businessman (Girardot) across a small urban square, a wall passes between us, then another, and this one is covered in carved names, too many to read, and then we meet him again in what is the new Holocaust Memorial in Paris, commemorating the Jews deported to the Nazi camps with the French government’s collusion. This sense of lingering guilt and rot pervades the film, and Gitai keeps his camera moving, constantly following characters but being separated from them by walls and partitions of all kinds. Girardot’s visit to the Parisian wall to touch a name is, we figure out much later, a flash-forward; next, we see it is 1987, the Klaus Barbie trial is enveloping the news in France, and Girardot’s brooding lawyer is trying to decipher a mystery: what exactly had happened to his maternal grandparents, Russian émigrés who disappeared into the camps, while all his life his mother has said nothing about it, and had in fact raised him and his sister (Dominique Blanc) Catholic.

07142009_OneDayYou'llUnderstand2.jpgThe mystery eventually gives way to consideration of the last days of Moreau’s elderly, evasive, cosmopolitan mother, and in the meantime, Gitai fashions a series of breathtaking one-shot set-pieces: a tour of a village hotel that harbored the lost grandparents, floor to floor, room to room, given by a local man who remembers the war; a wake gathering in which Girardot’s benumbed son paces and rehearses his eulogy with considerable ambivalence; a late patrol around an office in which Girardot distractedly explores with two Holocaust-compensation lawyers how much his dead family was worth materially; and so on.

The mise-en-scène is never ostentatious or unnecessary; the movement and framing provides a kind of ongoing color-commentary to the action. Gitai’s film (the French title of which translates simply to “Afterwards”) treats time like a dream — years pass in a cut, 1987 gives way to 1995 to 2005 — and though the characters’ lives are not divulged to us in detail, the acting is mesmerizing. Nobody explodes, which makes the pressurized control of Girardot and Blanc all the more affecting. Moreau, of course, is in an iconic class by herself, not acting so much as simply defining her place in the last half-century of international culture. Gitai’s expressive, restless camera all but steals the show, though, even in the final shot, a declarative j’accuse aimed at the heart of France that is undoubtedly justified but also suggests that Gitai has some homeward-looking work to do about the reality of his native land.


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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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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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.