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DID YOU READ

Michael Haneke Makes It Hurt So Good

Michael Haneke Makes It Hurt So Good (photo)

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I love black and white, and I use it every chance I can, but there were a number of technical difficulties. We had to start from scratch because no one has any experience working with it anymore. On top of that, we had to shoot using color film stock because black and white stock isn’t sensitive enough to film by candlelight and gaslight. We shot in color, and then transferred it to digital. There was an incredible amount of work involved, but I think the results made it worth it. In terms of visual models, we used as references the photographs of August Sander, who was the photographer in Germany during this period.

Were you pressured by investors or distributors to shoot in color?

Of course. [laughs] Our co-financiers in television demanded that we provide them with a color print. They didn’t want to show the film in black and white. It was only after we won the Palme d’Or that they finally reneged on their demand.

At the New York Film Festival press conference last fall, you said that the old cursive subtitle below the title translates to “A German children’s tale,” but you left it untranslated because it made the film too specific to German audiences.

We say that, in Germany, the audiences should see the film as about Germany. Whereas in America, people should see the film as about America, and in France, people should see it as about France. That’s why we didn’t translate that subtitle. It was meant as an ironic nudge at the German audience. Interestingly, even in Germany, over half the spectators won’t be able to understand it because it’s written in an old form of handwriting that my grandmother used, but even my parents can’t read.

What about the other part of the subtitle. Did you think the tongue-in-cheekiness of “a children’s tale” couldn’t be appreciated in other cultures?

The title is always the last thing you determine about a film. There were a number of titles that we were playing with through the years while I was working on this script. Until we made that decision, the film was called “A Children’s Tale.” It’s not so ironic. In both German and English, the title has an ambiguous meaning. It could mean both a tale about children, and a tale for children.

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I like that the film is narrated after the fact by a minor character who only appears in the margins of the story.

For dramaturgical reasons, the teacher and the nanny Eva are the only people who come from outside. An external viewpoint allowed me an objectifying perspective.

Since he’s an unreliable narrator, you’re able to play with the ideas of memory and mythology, by depicting exchanges between characters that he’d never have been privy to.

That’s the narrative irony. It’s also present in the classic novels, where the novelist claims to describe things that there’s no way he or she could know. That’s why the narrator begins the tale as he does. He says, “I’m not sure if the tale I’m about to describe to you actually took place in this way. My memory is vague and a lot of things I’ve heard only from hearsay.” The beginning is meant to stress for the audience that the reality they’re seeing onscreen shouldn’t be taken as reality, but as memories and artifact. The black and white stresses this artificial aspect, too.

This is your first film shot in Germany in a decade. How different is it working in other countries, especially outside of your native language?

It’s easier in Germany because I understand everything. [laughs] It’s not a question of how to explain myself. Even when I explain in a very childish way, the actors are forced to listen to me, so it’s not so terrible. I’m a control freak. I have to know what’s going on. If it’s in another country — even in France, I speak not-too-bad French — I’m a little bit out of control because they’re talking and I don’t understand everything. There’s more stress.

There are wonderful actors all around the world. By shooting in different languages, you have the opportunity to work with them as well. What’s important is, when you’re listening to your actors, to be able to tell whether the emotions are true or not. When it’s not my mother tongue, I can see if a reading is correct or not. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Working in different languages has allowed me to be able to shoot continuously without long pauses in between because I’ve been in different territories.

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There are a quite a few roles for children in all your films, and you always snag great performances out of them. Good child actors are hard to come by, as is. What’s your trick?

There’s no trick! You have to find the right casting, that’s all. If you have talented children, it’s better than an actor because they’re not playing. Actors are always playing another person. With a child, if it’s a lion, he is a lion.

Speaking of casting, I noticed “Everyone Else” co-star Birgit Minichmayr in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her cameo. That other film is a part of the “Berlin School” filmmaking scene, and I’m curious what you think of it.

I know and admire the Berlin School of filmmakers, but Birgit really doesn’t belong to them. She’s an Austrian who works in Vienna, but I know her personally. That was as a favor to me that this huge theater star accepted this small role.

Your films are always so depressing and intense. Have you ever thought about directing something lighter, warmer, maybe a comedy?

Even my aunt would chide me and ask, “You’re such a nice young man. Why don’t you ever make comedies?” My answer to her was that you can’t ask a cobbler to make a hat.

“The White Ribbon” is now open in New York and Los Angeles before expanding into limited release on January 15th.

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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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