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Possessed by Unreason

Possessed by Unreason (photo)

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By far the biggest brat to sneak his way through Eastern Bloc culture during the New Wave era, Yugoslav bomb-thrower Dušan Makavejev wasn’t someone who took on his vocation with a somber air; I don’t know for sure how much fun he had making movies, but he seems to have been locked into a constant euphoria of half-soused, giggling movie love. He comprised a kind of one-man Yugoslav film movement at a time when the tense Communist nation barely had a global cultural identity of its own, and his filmography reads like a litany of post-Godardian social felonies, scattered with torched taboos and sly indictments of Soviet influence.

He’s most famous for “W.R. – Mysteries of the Organism” (1971), which sent him into exile, and “Sweet Movie” (1974), which was nothing if not a petulant apostate’s hocked loogie of revenge. But his earlier features, though just as disrespectful and fragmented with documentary asides, are gentler affairs and, I think, better movies. There’s no vomiting or papier-mâché penises, at least. Packaged together by Criterion in a set titled “Dušan Makavejev: Free Radical” for their Eclipse series and all blissfully brief, Makavejev’s first three features are dizzy with free love and romantic gravity, reflected in his spontaneous potpourri style of shooting and editing. Still, the absurd specter of totalitarianism, the love-me face of Lenin or Stalin, is always nearby, waiting for a cutaway joke. No filmmaker ever had so much high sport with the prevarications of Iron Curtain communism while the dictators were still striding the ramparts.

The first, “Man Is Not a Bird” (1965), established the template: working-class romance (a young hairdresser and a middle-aged engineer in town on assignment) begins, is tickled out for its suggestive relationship to modern life as Makavejev sees it (a hypnotist’s presentation is a detour, as are digressions into mock workers-unite agitprop), and then it ends. New Wave movies like this retain an awful lot of amperage from their newfound giddiness over sexual freedom, and it helps that Makavejev has a zesty eye for actresses — here, the saucy Milena Dravić holds the whole movie in her hands, on her way to being the closest thing Yugoslavia ever had to an Anna Karina. “Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator” (1967), arguably Makavejev’s most satisfying film, follows suit, this time pairing a Hungarian operator (the lusciously grinning Eva Ras) with a Muslim Turk rat-extermination manager, and ramping up the metafiction (thus, the history of rat infestations gets a detour, and clinical sex experts are given lecture time). It’s more of an active fugue than Godard managed in the ’60s, mixing educational films, news footage, bits of Vertov’s “Enthusiasm,” etc., and blithely collages up an irreverent portrait of what is, finally, a mundane and modern tragedy.

10122009_InnocenceUnprotected.jpg“Innocence Unprotected” (1968) is at once Makavejev’s most self-apparent movie, and his most complicated — it’s essentially a nonfiction visitation with a landmark Yugoslavic film of the same name, released in 1942 while the nation was occupied by the Germans, and the country’s first talkie. Still, you’d be hard pressed to call Makavejev’s “remake” a documentary — there are too many layers of mystery and duplicity being folded in on each other. Scrambled with the bones of this creaking and heretofore unseen landmark is ironically placed news footage from WWII, implicitly noting the stiff melodrama’s relationship with the problems of occupation and collaborationism, and new footage of the film’s surviving cast and crew performing vaudeville for us, having picnics on a co-star’s tombstone, and so on.

The history of both films’ star, the diminutive-yet-notorious acrobat/stuntman Dragoljub Aleksic, is caught up in the film’s reverb: the director and writer of the old film as well, Aleksic was considered pro-Nazi after the war, and lived under a cloud for decades. (Old stunt footage of the performer hanging from high wires is employed in both films, as is Aleksic’s human cannonball routine, which got at least one person killed and may be another reason for his infamy at home.) Makavejev has the guy here happily declaring his own innocence and insisting that this ludicrous, howlingly acted film was made secretly under Nazi noses, and considering how the shadow of collaboration poisoned the nation and incited the tribal slaughter of the early ’90s, the second “Innocence Unprotected” echoes with peculiar and chilling questions.


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.