DID YOU READ

“Serbian Film”: Giving new meaning to the term “torture porn.”

“Serbian Film”: Giving new meaning to the term “torture porn.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

When introducing the world premiere of “Serbian Film,” the directorial debut of Srdjan Spasojevic, the filmmakers suggested that the screening might result in Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, who had programmed it, getting arrested. That’s pretty big talk in a theater that’s become the country’s primary conduit for the most weird, wild, challenging or just plain fucked-up international cinema. But around the time that Milos (Srdjan Todorovic), a retired porn star who’s lured in for one last (inevitably ill-advised) gig, is shown a tape in which a man attends a nude pregnant woman through labor, and then unzips and rapes the still-bloody infant, I thought that maybe they weren’t kidding.

That “Serbian Film” is the new frontrunner in the extreme cinema rat race, there’s no question. Charlotte Gainsbourg whipping out the scissors or Monica Bellucci in the underpass don’t quite compare to someone getting fucked to death via their eye socket. And they also shouldn’t be compared — while “Serbian Film” absolutely has aspirations beyond exploitation, they feel applied after the fact. Most of the graphic sequences, which are grouped near the end, don’t come across as specific to the commentary on the Serbian national mindset toward which the film makes occasional gestures. They’re more like live-action recreations of guro’s greatest hits (if you’re unfamiliar with term, may I direct you to this NSFW link at the always-tactful Encyclopedia Dramatica).

03152010_serbianfilm2.jpgSo Milos has been whittling away the nest egg he’d saved up over his porn star years, before he left the business to get married and raise a son. He’s approached by a mysterious millionaire named Vukmir who pitches him on a plan to make pornographic high art, but refuses to give him a script ahead of time. The shoot starts getting weird, and Milos tries to quit, but instead wakes up groggy and covered in blood four days later, heading off on an extremely disturbing variation on “Dude, Where’s My Car?” set to throbbing techno and flashes of grotesque imagery as how he spent that missing time starts coming back to him. The film’s a slow build, and that build-up can be clunky (the constant talk of Milos’ artistry as a porn leading man seems awfully silly, especially given the glimpses we’re shown of his past work), though technically the production is well put together, making full (if familiar) use of the warren of dark hallways, industrial rooms and spotlit, shadow-shrouded spaces in which the Vukmir’s film is being shot.

Movies can use transgressive topics and imagery toward great artistic resonance — “Dogtooth,” also here at SXSW, manages that nicely. They can also just use them for pure shock/novelty/boundary-pushing, which is where I’d group “Serbian Film.” That it comes from a country that’s spent decades deep in violent conflict, civil unrest, corruption and ethnic tensions makes it tempting to read more into the film than I think it actually offers — ultimately, it has as much to say about its country of origin as “Hostel” does about America, which is a little, but nothing on the scale its title suggests.

As is, it’s impossible to imagine “Serbian Film” getting a theatrical release, though I’m sure it’ll be a major cult item on DVD someday.

“Serbian Film” currently has no U.S. distribution.

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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.