DID YOU READ

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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.