DID YOU READ

In search of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

In search of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Lisbeth Salander, the heroine of Stieg Larsson’s internationally bestselling “Millennium” trilogy, is an impossible, irresistible figure of fiction. A tattooed, pierced, brilliant, bisexual hacker with Asperger syndrome and an eidetic memory, Salander is something between cyberpunk superhero and avenging feminist angel. Battered by life and, more pointedly, by flawed bureaucracy — Salander is a ward of the state, declared incompetent to manage her own affairs without the oversight of a guardian for reasons unexplained until the second installment — she never fails to have her revenge on anyone who sees her as a potential victim.

Those people are, invariably, men. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the first book in Larsson’s trilogy and the source material for Niels Arden Oplev’s workmanlike film adaptation, has a Swedish title that translates to the far blunter “Men Who Hate Women.” It’s technically a murder mystery, an investigation into the disappearance of 16-year-old Harriet Vanger 40 years ago from her wealthy family’s island compound, but it’s just as much the story of how the abused, asocial Salander is lured in like a gone-feral housecat by Mikael Blomkvist, disgraced journalist, the only man in her life who she can’t run circles around, and a fanciful character in his own right.

The popularity of Larsson’s trilogy — the final installment of which isn’t coming out until May 25 in the U.S. — explains why Swedish production company Yellow Bird Films adapted all three parts in one fell swoop, with Niels Arden Oplev directing this first installment and Daniel Alfredson the second two. It also explains why Oplev and screenwriters Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg take a cautious, “Harry Potter”-style approach to transferring their source material to the big screen, keeping close to the text, smoothing out a few extraneous narrative snarls and casting an able unknown, Noomi Rapace, as their beloved protagonist. The sinewy Rapace is able to get a lot out of her glare, which is good, because Salander isn’t much of a talker, and she doesn’t actually meet up with Blomkvist (played by an amused Michael Nyqvist) until the film’s halfway mark.

03012010_girlwithdragontattoo2.jpgThe reason is that, plotwise, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” still has way too much ground to cover. Crammed into that first hour (the film come in at just under two and a half) are the initial scandal that results in Blomkvist resigning from his magazine, Millennium, after being sued for libel; the reveal that he seems to have been set-up; the introduction to the Vangers, an aristocratic den of snakes; the background on Harriet, who turns out to have childhood tied to Blomkvist; Salander’s battles with a new, vicious guardian.

Really, these are just hurdles to be leaped on the way to uniting Salander and Blomkvist, the hacker punk and the boy detective grown up (as evoked by Blomkvist’s nickname, another of “Pippi Longstocking” creator Astrid Lindgren’s characters). Together, the pair have a funny, bemused crime-solving chemistry — their strengths are in research, which makes this the rare thriller content to have much of its drama involve someone hunched over a laptop. The film, thankfully, slows down to savor Salander and Blomkvist’s strange relationship, the side-effect of which is the feeling it would be a better pilot for a (non-existent) TV show than a stand-alone feature.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” takes place in what at times feels like a wintry alternate universe where every other person in a place of power is revealed to be a secret sadist, neo-Nazi, crook or serial killer beneath a respectable surface. Larsson, a radical journalist who devoted his career to battling right-wing extremism, and who died in 2004 at age 50 before any of his novels were published, has a mercilessly grim view of corporations, his country’s past and, in general, authority figures. Tempering that is a quixotic faith in the power of documentation — all it takes to vanquish a teeming substratum of corruption is exposure to the light of day in a feature in a magazine.

A final note — neither of the sequels “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” yet have U.S. distribution, possibly because of a planned American remake. Never mind — Music Box announced in late February that they’ll release the other two films in the trilogy this summer. Screenwriter Steven Zaillian is attached to work on the U.S. adaptation.

“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” will be released by Music Box Films on March 19th.

[Photos: “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” Music Box Films, 2010]

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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.