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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.

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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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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.


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.



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 and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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