DID YOU READ

Out of Exile

Out of Exile (photo)

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The first vampire film to ever win a prize at Cannes, Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst” places the ethical questions of human-community parasitism front and center, as you’d expect from a man whose most famous films are slow-pig-sticking ordeals of retribution and moral poisoning. Park’s resume is also notorious for its merciless pop-movie extremism, and at times (as in the still rather spectacular “Oldboy”) you can’t help noticing a basic conflict between his Chandleresque exploration of life-or-death moral justice and his lurid sensationalism.

Going all genre in “Thirst” has obvious advantages for Park; the built-in conflicts are both familiar and as old as the hills. Still, few vampire narratives outside of, say, John Hayes’ “Grave of the Vampire” (1974) expressly take on the responsibility of the predator to the prey as Park does — his hero (Mr. Korean new wave Song Kang-ho) is an earnest priest who volunteers for an experiment with an Ebola-like virus and appears to die (after puking blood through his flute), except that the transfusion he got mysteriously resurrects him.

That’s where Park gets interesting — Song’s guileless holy man becomes sucked into an idiot boyhood friend’s weird family, which includes a controlling mega-mom and a “sister” (Kim Ok-vin) whom, we learn, was actually adopted as a child and then kept as her drooling “brother”‘s de facto sex toy and wife. In the meanwhile, the non-homicidal priest survives by sucking on the IVs of comatose patients (and, occasionally, pint bags of blood, sipped like a Capri Sun), a situation that changes, slowly and with serious growing pains, when he and Kim’s embittered, used waif align their outsider identities and begin a passionate affair.

There will be blood, and snapped necks, and roof-jumping, and puddles of more blood. Frankly, vampires are such an overworked cultural idea of late (who would’ve thought that they’d survive after 70 years of Lugosis, Hammers, Rollins, Anne Rices, “Lost Boys,” Coppolas and their uncountable ripoffs?) that Park’s first hour smells of boilerplate, guilt issues or no guilt issues. But then the film turns a subtle but savage corner, the narrative slides into the hair-raising dogfight of surreal irony and anxiety we always knew it would, and the image of the two lovers feeding from each others’ slit wrists is only the beginning of the struggle between devotion and predation.

11182009_Thirst2.jpgYes, the parallel to junkiehood is suggested, but not belabored, and I wish that Park hadn’t bought into all of the modern vampire iconography (in particular, the super-strength, another tired trope enabled everywhere by digital effects). But “Thirst” is also vintage Park, insofar as every shot has a wallop to it, and his layered imagery is always surprising. His joke shots turn out painful, and his serious art-film tableaux always have a sardonic gag buried in them; when, early on, Song’s priest suddenly jumps out of a window, Park obviates effects (indulged in later) by simply cutting to a roof perspective, looking down three or more stories at the street where our beleaguered hero lies atop a parked car, trying to pull his head out of the windshield.

Park’s movies have always been psychodrama-intensive marathons for actors, and Song cements his position as the reigning presence on Korean screens in a largely reactive way — his face is naturally structured as if it’s always caught in the middle of a catastrophic quandary (put to good use as well in Bong Joon-ho’s “Memories of Murder” and “The Host”). But the whirlwind here is Kim, whose twisted, surly, lonesome, power-drunk nowhere girl is an inspired and eye-gripping piece of work, a trod-upon victim of Eastern misogyny transformed into first, a homicidal-minded James M. Cain-style femme, and then a buzzed vampiress exacting her glorious revenge upon the world. The genre stuff is decidedly secondary to the characters’ agonizing evolutions, and their ordeals are suffered not so much for the sake of blood, but for love.

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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.