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Lamentation for a Grand Romance

Lamentation for a Grand Romance (photo)

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For American cinephiles of a certain age (under 50 or so, babies during the ’60s if alive at all), the last year and a half has been a neo-Godardian lavishment — month after month, there came a new sterling DVDization, or a new rarity screening (like Light Industry‘s showing of “Far from Vietnam” in Manhattan), or a new biography or brace of incidental footage (The Believer‘s “JLG in USA”), or even, as in this past January, a full-fledged American release: 1966’s “Made in U.S.A.,” only shown at festivals in its day before getting stalled and closeted by the producer’s legal woes and messy rights trouble with the Donald Westlake novel it barely references. It’s one of the 15 essential rockets Godard launched that made the decade his and his alone, and if you don’t find it a privilege to be able to discover it in 2009, you don’t care about movies.

“Made in U.S.A.” fits perfectly into Godard’s evolutionary passage from metafilm messiah to Marxist didact, from the buoyant gamesmanship of “Alphaville,” “Pierrot le Fou” and “Masculin Féminin” to the narrative-fuckup radicalism of “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her” (also a new Criterion DVD), “La Chinoise” and “Week-End.” Riffing impishly on noir clichés, composing life as if it were a comic strip, fracturing his ersatz story into slivery mirror shards, lollygagging through dramatic confrontations, cutting in splats of audio and advertising and visual punctuation, tossing off movie-movie allusions, indulging in irrational jokes, lacerating Americanization and the crassness of modern culture — it’s all there, all stewed together into a feverish, mysterious brew that’s less a traditional masterpiece than an open-source exploration of the cinema-life interface. Godardians will recognize the reflexes and disjunctures, and will likely get most of the moviehead references (the names tossed off include Goodis, Widmark, Siegel, Mizoguchi and “Ruby Gentry”).

But what’s revelatory about the film begins and ends with the central figure of Anna Karina, and I’m not talking about her acting or even her celluloid image. The romance between Karina and Godard is one of the most impassioned on-screen cataracts of feeling that 20th century cinema produced, and “Made in U.S.A.” is its requiem. The couple were already divorced in 1966, and aside from a larky omnibus short — 1967’s “The Oldest Profession” — this would be their final film together. It shows: every inch of the movie is saturated with sorrow, bitterness and ambivalence.

07222009_madeinusa1.jpgPerhaps because Godard’s approach has always seemed to me to be less analytical than poetic, the relationship “Made in U.S.A.” has with its maker’s heart suggest the double-coded meanings in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” a roaring, secretive wail of modern existentialist despair that’s also, not incidentally, just as much about Eliot’s failed and crumbling union with his unbalanced wife Vivienne. Godard’s film has the same seething layers in it: on the surface, it’s all voguing nonsense, noir fun and bristling politics (the story is actually a contemplation of the disappearance/assassination of radical Medhi Ben Barka, which is just one contextual matter the Criterion’s supplements explicate beautifully). But underneath, we’re watching the art form’s most spellbinding love story crash and burn. Every close-up of Karina (who is lit flatly and often shot too close, as if to reveal her flaws) aches with woe, and almost all of the dialogue has second meanings. “Loneliness isn’t the cause of death,” Karina’s impromptu girl-detective says, interrogating a doctor while searching for her lost lover. “How can you not see the link between loneliness and illness?” he replies. “Why tell me stories?” she answers in what could be Godard’s growing aesthetic philosophy boiled down to a kernel. “I just want the truth.”

The crowning moment where the real meaning of “Made in U.S.A.” blossoms is in the first half, when Karina hangs out in a brasserie with her shady noirish pursuers. As they all evade each others’ eyes, Marianne Faithfull, as herself, sits in a booth and lets loose with a plaintive a cappella version of the Stones’ “As Tears Go By.” It’s the saddest scene in Godard’s oeuvre, and as precious as a real memory. Given the context of this film, Godard’s descent (if that’s not an unfair word to use) into icy political screed and anonymity with the Dziga Vertov Group wasn’t merely an ideological transformation but an escape from heartbreak.


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.