Michel Gondry’s Family Portrait

Michel Gondry’s Family Portrait (photo)

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Music video artist-turned-auteur Michel Gondry, the French fabulist director behind “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Be Kind Rewind,” has reinvented his organic style yet again by ditching the wild visuals and iconic performers he’s typically associated with for the deeply intimate vérité doc “The Thorn in the Heart” (or for those don’t need the subtitles, “L’Épine dans le Coeur”).

Gondry modestly turns the camera on his own clan, specifically focusing on his then-septuagenarian aunt and family matriarch Suzette. A former schoolteacher with an easy laugh and sometimes brutal candor, Suzette allows her renowned nephew to investigate the knotty relationship between her and Jean-Yves, the adult son she sometimes victimizes. I chatted with Gondry about his earliest memories of his aunt, sharing his sex life with the elderly, and his other film opening later this year, “The Green Hornet.”

Your aunt is obviously precious to you, so what did you want to share about her with us?

In general, we watch movies about people who are extraordinary or already famous for something. Some people could complain that one should not do a movie about real people. I think there’s a lack of that in entertainment, seeing normal lives… well, nobody is normal. Everybody’s different. I always find it more challenging, but interesting, to find something special in the normal things. I watch this type of documentary all the time. I find them more entertaining than fiction.

03312010_ThornintheHeart4.jpgSo again, why specifically her?

Well, she’s 84 and has most of her life behind her. Her life has been difficult, and in some regard, it reflects an important part of the French history of the second half of the 20th century. It’s important to record her story. Maybe it’s not so important to share it, but once it’s recorded, it would be bad not to share it. She’s been a teacher in places that are dying and closing down because of people leaving the countryside to go to the city. She taught children of different ages in very small schools.

Shooting happened over the course of five years, and it took a turn when we started to interview her son about his mother as a teacher. It’s where the real drama came from. To me, it becomes engaging, sad and deep. Of course it’s my family, but if it was not, I think I would be willing to watch it unfold.

What is your earliest memory of Suzette?

Walking with her in nature. I remember I was always asking her, “What’s this?” She’d say, “This flower is called the primavera. It can poison the horses, so if you ride a horse, you have to make sure he’s not going to eat these.” What’s this rock? “This is granite, made when the ocean was covering this part of the planet. It’s caused by sentiment of all the dead crustaceans.” What’s this, Suzette? It was a big lizard, and she’d say, “I don’t know, let’s go away!” We were both scared of this lizard, looking like a big chameleon.

What is the most potent wisdom she’s ever imparted upon you?

Oh, lots of things. She has a way of saying things that are very profound, and in a way that’s simple, not polluted by trended psychoanalysis. I could read you her last e-mail, for instance. She writes on paper and then her son copies it later because she can’t see very well, so she can write, but can’t read. I’m going to read you the e-mail, hold on…

03312010_ThornintheHeart3.jpgSee, it didn’t work out with my previous girlfriend, so I shared a theory with her. I had been trying to find a girlfriend who looks like my mother, but I was mistaken. I should find a girlfriend who looks like my auntie. She said, “Yes, you need a schoolteacher who will serve you with all her generosity and a lot of imagination [so you’ll] be captivated by her. I told you love is an enterprise that demands time and present attention, especially when the sex bank gets eroded.” It’s weird, she never went so far into talking about sex, but since we talk so much [in the film] about her son being a homosexual, and she had to confess how it was difficult for her, she feels more in a position to talk about my sex problem. It’s very interesting to speak about your sex life with a woman who is 84 years old.

Was it strange to document this relationship with her son since he’s also your cousin? Did you ever feel like you were intruding with the camera?

Well, the camera is sort of a shield to intrude. You become a little bit removed from reality because of the presence of the camera, because of the technicality of it. I didn’t want to hurt them too much, but the story was leading me to this problem. Tthe first time [we shot them], we saw we couldn’t keep them in the same frame, Jean-Yves [and Suzette]. The D.P. asked to walk back because they were getting away from each other. It was clear that they had a lot of passivity in their relationship that had to be dealt with.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

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.


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.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



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.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.