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Corneliu Porumboiu Gets the Last Word

Corneliu Porumboiu Gets the Last Word (photo)

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“Police, Adjective” is one of the year’s most striking films, the type that will be embraced by some and derided by others for its bone dry humor, its solemnly long takes (including scrolling down hand-written police reports) and the fact that its climax pivots on the dictionary definition of “conscience.” It is, in some ways, an extension of Corneliu Porumboiu’s first film, “12:08 East of Bucharest,” which dazzled as much with its debate over the hazy recollections of the Romanian Revolution as with its startling final image of snow falling over the city of Vaslui. “Adjective” is similarly wintry, following the daily grind of a policeman (Dragos Bucur) assigned to follow a student suspected of dealing marijuana to his friends and arriving at a conclusion that leads his boss to pull out the Merriam-Webster’s to convince him otherwise. While at the Toronto Film Festival, Porumboiu took some time to talk about the film’s origins, its mixed reception (including two prizes from this year’s Cannes) and why he needs to start playing sports again. [Spoilers ahead.]

How did “Police, Adjective” come about?

After “12:08,” I started four different stories, but at the end, a friend of mine, a policeman, told me a story, a small case of conscience. And he told me he had a case like [the one in the film], and he didn’t want to solve it. I was touched by a story like that because usually you see the movie and it’s very big cases and all the time, it is possible that policemen can save the world. I [also] heard another story about a brother who betrayed his brother. So these were the two stories that I started with.

12292009_policeadj3.jpg This film suggests that many things are in decay in contemporary Romanian society, but do you feel language in particular has been a catalyst?

No, I think we’re living in a world [where] each [person] has his own individuality, more and more in how we communicate, what are our values. At the same time, there’s a lot of loneliness in my movies; the characters I construct, they are living in a bubble. The starting point [for “Police, Adjective] was how we understand each other, what is the background, what is their representation of the world for each one of us. It’s a world that’s very fragmented and each one has his own truth. For me, it’s a quite absurd if we follow a dictionary because sometimes we can use words to speak to each other and after that, we reuse words and there are so many [words] used, they lose their meaning.

It requires a certain confidence to shoot such long scenes, and it’s been a point of contention among audiences — why did you feel it was necessary for this film?

When I’m making the movie, I don’t think about the audience. I’m interested in finding the spirit of my character. So [in doing research], I saw that the policeman spent so much time waiting and following and at the end, it’s a movie of meanings and sense. It’s real time there, but in my [film], it becomes absurd time – watching, waiting, watching, waiting — that could [demonstrate] a certain psychology that’s unexplainable.

I’ve spoken with a lot of people and [some of them] don’t believe that at the end [the main character is] convinced by his chief [to make the arrest] because his chief gives him the meaning, gives him the sense. A lot of people like to think that he was forced. But I think maybe this kind of audience didn’t enter into the first part of the movie. It’s weird because yeah, the people need the explanation, but for me, it was more important to show character — he’s like a hunter, you see that he’s born for this, he likes what he’s doing, but at the same time, he has this conscience problem and he’s in between and how could he do this.

Much has been made of a Romanian New Wave that includes Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days”) and Cristi Puiu (“The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu”), but as a filmmaker, what do you make of that label?

As a director, you choose your own way, you choose your own cinema. Of course, cinema is an art, it’s been around 100 years, so you have a lot of forms, you have a lot of types of cinema. I’m quite strict and I have a point of view of cinema, but at the same time, I’m not feeling that this is the ultimate truth. For me, it’s important to have all these kind of movies. At the same time, I want to find my own voice.

12292009_Corneliu1.jpgHow did you actually get interested in cinema?

First, I was studying management in Bucharest [at the Academy of Economic Studies] and after that, I started to go to the cinematheque and there I discovered Chaplin, Antonioni and after that, Polish cinema and Nouvelle Vague Français and after that, I said I want to do this.

You’re the son of a football referee and I was wondering whether that contributed to your interest in language and rules.

No, I think this obsession is coming more from my mother because she was a Romanian teacher – she’s now retired. And [from] my father, I [played] sports when I was a teenager and this helped in my development. Now, I’m smoking too much and drinking too much coffee, so for me, it was very important I [played] sports when I was a teenager. [laughs] That keeps me alive, even now.

“Police, Adjective” is now open in limited release and available on VOD.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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