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Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth Undertaking

Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth Undertaking (photo)

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Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson burst onto the international film scene with 1998’s “Fucking Åmål” (or, as it was cowardly renamed in English-speaking countries, “Show Me Love”), a carefree, naturalistic drama about a reluctant romance between two small-town teenage girls. Just as ebullient is his 2000 period satire and popular favorite “Together,” which focuses on the dysfunctional relationships and values of ’70s left-wingers living in a commune, after which Moodysson began pursuing darker, moodier fare. 2002’s critical darling “Lilya 4-ever” couldn’t get much bleaker, tracing a Russian girl’s journey from drop-out to prostitute to kidnapped sex slave. Following that were two avant-garde experiments: 2004’s shockingly explicit take on amateur porn, “A Hole in My Heart,” and his 2006 stream-of-consciousness curiosity, “Container.”

Though American actress Jena Malone provided narration to that last film, Moodysson’s new drama is also his first English-language production, mostly. “Mammoth” splits between three related storylines in New York, the Philippines and Thailand. Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams star as a well-to-do, workaholic couple whose daughter is mostly cared for by their Filipino nanny (Marife Necesito), who also works hard to support her young boys back home. Bernal’s character, a savvy web guru, has boarded a flight to Thailand, where he strikes up an uneasy friendship with a local prostitute, while Williams’ surgeon wife becomes attached to a dying boy who isn’t her own. I spoke with Moodysson about whether he’d continue to work in English for the commercial benefits, if he sees similarities between “Mammoth” and “Babel,” and how he feels about the film’s unprofessional reception at the Berlin Film Festival.

You’ve said the film is about families and how we behave towards children, our own and other people’s. To me, though, it’s more about globalization and the dynamics between the haves and haves-not. Is that a fair interpretation?

Yes. It’s boring to make films about only one thing, so there are a lot of different layers. One is definitely about class struggle. I started with someone cleaning an apartment, and I was interested in the whole idea of who cleans our homes today in the Western world. They are mostly women, and very often they are from the poor parts of the world. I was interested in how it feels just to be someone who cleans someone else’s home and takes care of someone else’s children, the sacrifices she has to make, rather than just the political aspects of it.

But you’ve been more attracted to the political than the personal in your recent films, it seems. Do you prefer to keep your personal interests and your filmmaking goals separate?

I don’t, no. I try to combine as many as possible. The difficulty sometimes is that you have to separate things when it comes to storytelling, otherwise, it’s just chaos. And sometimes I want to portray chaos, but most of the time, I want to tell some kind of story. I try to weave a [tapestry]. If I wanted to make [“Mammoth”] a really political film, it would’ve been much angrier. I see it as a very sad film, quite warm, more of a meditation than an accusation.

You once said, “I’m not particularly interested in probing the depths of my soul; I’m more into probing the world around me.” Are those ideas mutually exclusive?

I’m not sure if I agree with myself there. [laughs] I think it was something I said in retrospect when talking about how I changed from being a poet to becoming a film director. I’m not sure if it’s true anymore because I feel that you have to dig really deep inside yourself and combine that. Otherwise, you’re talking to a journalist, and the journalist… I don’t have a problem with journalists. I couldn’t be a journalist, but as an artist, I have to let the world pass through me before I can turn it into something. I can’t only take a picture of the world and be happy with that. I have to filter it through me. My soul and the world, they combine.

11202009_moodysson1.jpgComparisons have been drawn between this film and “Babel,” another globe-hopping, multi-thread narrative co-starring Gael García Bernal. Is there any validity to that reference point?

Well, I haven’t seen “Babel.” I hadn’t seen it before [writing the story], and then someone read the script and said that there were some links. So I decided not to see the film because I try not to be inspired by films. I think Gael wouldn’t have liked to be in “Mammoth” if he had seen too many comparisons.

Do other art forms inspire your filmmaking?

Yeah. I read, listen to music and look at art much more than I see films. I don’t know if it’s a problem to make films and, at the same time, be able to appreciate films. I get a bit distracted by them all, and the fact that this is what I’m doing, it’s quite difficult for me. I used to be a [film buff]. I had a sort of bulimic period when I went to film school when I tried to see absolutely everything that was ever made. I didn’t succeed, but nowadays, I see very little.

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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.