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Dustin Hoffman antagonizes Italy.

Dustin Hoffman antagonizes Italy. (photo)

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It’s a time-honored practice for actors to go abroad to get paid to appear in ads they be much too ashamed to support at home. And so it was, presumably, that Dustin Hoffman came to Italy in search of some hard-earned euros, his cameo in “Little Fockers” having fallen apart.

Like Bill Murray in “Lost In Translation” — and numerous real people — Hoffman arrived in pursuit of a paycheck more honest than most: he was to recite Giacomo Leopardi’s poem “The Infinite” and walk through Le Marche, the whole ordeal to be filmed as a tourist spot for the region.

“The Infinite” is a melancholy work, in which the speaker describes a beloved landscape that leads him to muse on mortality: “in this immensity / my thoughts are drowned, and shipwreck seems sweet / to me in this sea.” This, perhaps, is a gloomy way to promote tourism — come to Le Marche to experience despair in the vastness! — but one that seems oddly appropriate, at least if all the stereotypes about voluble and melancholy Italians are true.

You can watch Hoffman in a rough cut of the ad on YouTube. It doesn’t take an expert’s ear to hear that he’s butchering the language, causing considerable controversy in Italy. I’m not Italian, but I’ve seen their movies, and it’s clear that the commercial is the sound of an exceptionally conscientious actor not pretending to have mastered an accent but doing his best to say “pensiere” and “dolce” without drawing embarrassment to himself.

01042010_hoffman4.jpgHe did, and it was interesting to read that — in a presumably slow news week in Berlusconi’s Italy, which really should never be short on scandal — the populace (or at least their newspapers) were outraged. “The commitment is there,” Reuters reports one Corriere della Sera critic wrote, but said commitment “cannot fill up the astronomical distance from the Italian ear.” The mayor of the area had an admittedly imaginative response: “The difficulty that Hoffman finds in the recitation could symbolize the more universal one of coming closer to an unknown culture.”

I’ve always associated Hoffman with the ’70s Method wonder duo of De Niro and Pacino, even though he shot out of the gate earlier than either, lasted longer as a hitmaker and wasn’t Italian-American. Which begs the question of why he was invited to come out as the best spokesman for an Italian region being marketed to Italians.

One answer, I suppose, is that Hoffman’s no stranger to Italian advertising (see below). Another might be that the ad — in frankly perverse ways — dramatizes his struggle with the Italian language (“No no no!” he yells at one point), possibly as a way of emphasizing that once one struggles with Le Marche, then one achieves transcendence.

Foreign commercials with actors are a dime a dozen, but — at 72 — Hoffman doesn’t need this kind of pain and criticism (I hope, anyway). Does Hoffman have some kind of cult following left over from 1972’s “Alfredo, Alfredo” I don’t know about?

Here’s Dustin Hoffman shilling, self-deprecatingly, for Italian coffee, with his struggles with Italian culture once again foregrounded:

[Photos: Dustin Hoffman’s Italian ad, Marche Region Tourism Department, 2010]

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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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