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Back from the Grave

Back from the Grave (photo)

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One of the world’s great film culture apostates, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg is mostly notorious for the seven-hour-plus 1977 film “Our Hitler,” and for Susan Sontag’s rocket-to-Mars essay, ambitiously praising it to the heavens, and for being the most recalcitrant of the New German Cinema’s unholy four (with Wenders, Fassbinder and Herzog).

Finally, two of his famous earlier films have been released on video to contextualize that later behemoth, “Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King” (1972) and “Karl May” (1974), the three of which supposedly comprise a “German trilogy.” Syberberg hardly seems disposed to ever make films about anything else, and it’s an unassailable career project, especially in light of the last decade or so of Holocaust movies produced in Germany and elsewhere, which have tried to straitjacket and even romanticize the horrifying mystery of German culture’s evolution.

Syberberg has always regarded it as a monstrous enigma, and his movies reflect his position in every frame. But the man does not make “movies” as we normally define them — Syberberg’s films are friezes, poised tableaux expressing German social anxiety with stockpiles of evidence. Syberberg makes movies the way Charles Foster Kane collected artwork. Forever roping in the poisoned spirit of Wagner and Nazism, the films are not dramatic but dissertative, dreamily and endlessly questioning and never daring to answer.

The two earlier films are not nearly as gigantic — “Ludwig” is, in fact, a solid hour-and-a-half shorter than Visconti’s “Ludwig,” and “Karl May” just pokes past three hours total. Still, neither is a breeze to confront — Syberberg comes at his historical inquisitions from an angle, and “Ludwig” dallies as much with the infamous monarch’s narcissistic biography as it does with Jarman-esque camp, Wagnerian kitsch, nude girls, 19th century graphics (projected as background sets), cabaret shtick, children with mustaches, stuffed swans, etc. — all of it assembled and explored on a proscenium stage that recalls Méliès in more ways than one. Fairly tongue-in-cheek, “Ludwig” is more like an epic carny sideshow orchestrated by a guilty Teutonic madman than a film, and stands as the definitive precedent of Syberberg’s exhausting Hitler film.

“Karl May” is different — its baroque warehouse-stage shenanigans are kept to a minimum, and instead, Syberberg ruminates on the legacy of the titular writer, a kind of hyper-popular, turn-of-the-century pulp mashup in Germany of Robert E. Howard and Jack London, who specialized in American Indian stories and pretended to have first-hand knowledge of primitive cultures. Inspired and emboldened by May his whole life, Hitler may’ve been the author’s biggest fan, and so May’s fate (here played out against and intertwined with a series of late-in-life lawsuits with which he struggled) appears permanently entangled with the fate of Germany as a whole.

10192009_KarlMay.jpgProbably the most conventional of Syberberg’s features, “Karl May” is almost an ordinary period film, shot in genuine locations. But there’s a dagger up its sleeve: the cast is almost entirely made up of German industry vets who worked on films for and under the Third Reich, including director Helmut Käutner (as May), “Caligari”‘s Lil Dagover, Kristina Söderbaum (star of, among other Nazi films, “Jud Süss”), Käthe Gold, Attila Hörbiger, Mady Rahl, et al. The movie plays out like an autumnal conference held between cigar-pumping codgers blessed with nothing but time, idly deciding on the cursed celebrity’s fate even as their own culpability in German history is ignored, but looms nonetheless.


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.