DID YOU READ

Storming the Streets

Storming the Streets (photo)

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Somehow, there hardly seems a more pertinent time for a wide U.S. release of Patricio Guzmán’s epochal “The Battle of Chile” (1975-78), a massive, three-part vérité documentary about the rise of Salvador Allende’s socialist government and its subsequent usurpation by the country’s American-backed military junta.

The title of Part 1 — “The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie” — says it all: imagine, if you can, the heaven-sent Bizarro-world where a people-power government is successfully installed, triumphantly wresting control of the starving nation’s major industries and resources from corporations and multinationals, and thereby precipitating an overt and covert insurrection led by the business owners and bankers and moneyed class.

You know a truly democratic, for-the-people policy is working if you enrage the wealthy, a rare situation that smacks, lightly, of what’s happening in this country at the moment, as Republicans and corporations have gone berserk trying to stop Obama from poking holes in the pockets of the health insurance industry. It resembles as well the Satanic makeover Hugo Chavez gets in the American media, for essentially pulling an Allende on the multinationals coveting Venezuelan oil.

But, of course, what happened in Chile could never happen here, as Guzmán’s scathing work demonstrates — this movie documents a degree of active engagement you hardly see anymore: entire city populations storming the streets time and time again, first students, then suited businessmen, then tanks and trucks full of banner-waving workers and singing crowds and, eventually, armed troops, firing at will. But when it does happen nowadays, as it did earlier this year in Iran, it’s shut down almost immediately, and we see precious little of it in any case. Controlling the media message is controlling everything, but because the right-wing coup in Chile was caught in the process of happening, there was no control at all.

12082009_battleofchile5.jpgIn a broader sense, Guzmán was shooting his on-the-shoulder footage in a different day, on the final cusp of the Vietnam War protest era, when authorities public and private hadn’t yet learned exactly how vital disallowing on-location documentary filmmaking — or at least embedding it — was to their interests and their grip on power.

This freedom gives “Battle” an eye-scorching immediacy that docs just don’t have anymore, forced as they are lately to rely on library footage, interviews and news film already pressed through the censorship filters. Guzmán and his team were free to film, but of course they were also free to be shot on the spot (Part 1 ends, famously, with soldiers aiming directly at the lens filming them and shooting down the man behind the camera), and to be arrested, tortured and killed later by Pinochet’s death squads, which is how Guzmán’s main DP, Jorge Müller Silva, died.

Of course, Guzmán’s widely circulated film didn’t change anything anyway — Pinochet gained and retained control, history rolled forward without Allende, and the corpses of the disappeared accumulated in Chile. All of this is circumstantial in regards to “Battle,” and it ignores Guzmán’s achievement, which is not merely a fact of courage under fire, but of storytelling precision.

Over the course of almost five hours, the film scrupulously details every step in the political tangle, beginning with Allende’s successes and the business confederations’ subsequent strikes and embargoes, starving the country, to the final blitzing, on September 11, 1973, of the presidential palace, reducing it, Allende and the Chilean dream of social equity, to rubble.

12082009_battleofchile2.jpgThat the CIA and the Pentagon were behind the insurrection may still be an arguable and semi-classified matter here, but virtually every laborer Guzmán meets on the streets of Santiago in 1973 says as much, in no uncertain terms. (“[O]f course the newspapers are bleeding because a pro-Communist government has been overthrown…” Kissinger was recorded telling Nixon in 1973, in conversations declassified in 2004 and easily found online, “I mean, instead of celebrating… In the Eisenhower period we would be heroes.”)

Co-produced by Chris Marker, Guzmán’s historic epic creates a storm in the belly, even today. In the brick-thick Icarus set, it’s accompanied by Guzmán’s 1997 doc “Chile, Obstinate Memory,” which plays as merely another brick in the edifice Guzmán has devoted his career to building, a monument to the catastrophe of Chilean political life in the last half of the 20th century. As with all vital documentaries, one can only dream of a world where they are viewed and acted upon by a conscientious public.

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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.