DID YOU READ

Review: “My Queen Karo,” a commune coming-of-age.

Review: “My Queen Karo,” a commune coming-of-age. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Like those pictures that can be interpreted as either a vase or the silhouettes of two lovers, “My Queen Karo” might be a young girl’s coming of age story set in a squatters commune, or it might be the tale of the disintegration of a squatters commune as seen through the eyes of a child. It’s a far better, if uneasier, film for this fluctuation in focus than if it settled for a more conventional route down only one of those paths.

For instance: There’s a scene in which Karo’s mother Dalia, who’s been struggling with how to deal with the new lover that Raven, Karo’s father, has taken, approaches the couple as they’re getting frisky on a large shared mattress. She disrobes, and they cautiously welcome her into their embrace. And then Karo, through whose point of view everything unfolds, loses interest and, though we might crane our necks trying to keep watching the bohemian threesome, trots off to entertain herself with the constellation pattern made when she shines a flashlight through the fabric of her ratty bathing suit. She understands that her parents have been fighting, and that this moment represents a tentative, temporary truce. She doesn’t know that the very arrangement, not to mention the fact that a ten-year-old girl is witnessing it, would be enough to give some people heart palpitations.

04062010_myqueenkaro5.jpgIt’s the ’70s, and Karo, Dalia and Raven move to Amsterdam from Belgium, a uprooting echoing a similar one in director Dorothée Van Den Berghe’s childhood. Dalia (“L’enfant”‘s Déborah François), young and a little fragile, is in love with Raven. Raven (Matthias Schoenaerts), a handsome, charismatic artist, is in love with the whirling ideals of the era. They and their friends set up a utopian living arrangement in which everything — including sleeping, squabbles, sex, childcare and drug use — takes place in the open, in one giant communal room. This idealistic casting off of the bounds of convention begins causing problems almost instantly, when Raven meets the free-spirited Alice (Maria Kraakman) and welcomes her into the fold despite Dalia’s objections.

Raven’s a knotty character, someone who likes to use his own enthusiastic embrace of countercultural objectives as a bludgeon in his personal life. “We came here to be free, and already you’re laying down rules?” he sniffs at a devastated Dalia when she requests monogamy. And yet he is a true believer, a genuine activist and a magnetic one — he’s even able to pull Karo, who feels very protective over Dalia, to his side. Karo, played by the boyish Anna Franziska Jaeger, is realistically childlike in not always charming ways — she’s capricious and half-feral, runs away, throws tantrums and acts out. In a place where every potential authority figure has already tossed out all the rules, there’s a disquieting amount of room for her to roam unattended.

04062010_myqueenkaro2.jpgAnd yet… while “My Queen Karo” doesn’t offer anything like a seal of approval for the rickety lifestyle it portrays, it refuses to condemn the whole doomed, starry-eyed enterprise either. There are many moments of unfettered joy, from the arrivals tossing down their giant mattress in their new squat and bounding onto it, home at last, to the camera that stays with Karo as she’s on the swing, keeping on her happy face as the world swirls behind her. Maybe the film’s best read as a universal coming of age after all: Karo’s forced, earlier than most, to deal with the realization that her parents are flawed and far from infallible, while her parents and their compatriots have to face the fact that people come up with rules and build walls for a reason.

“My Queen Karo” is currently without 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.