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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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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.