“Dogtooth,” a Different Kind of Greek Tragedy

“Dogtooth,” a Different Kind of Greek Tragedy (photo)

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Bright and attractive, ceaselessly curious about their world and about the words, emotions and sensations connecting them to it, the three unnamed siblings in Greek director and co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos’ remarkable new film “Dogtooth” would be the picture of healthy development — were they on the threshold of puberty.

But the oldest daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia), the son (Christos Passalis) and the younger daughter (Mary Tsoni) are all full-grown adult subjects of an unexplained sinister psychological experiment cum lifelong guerrilla theater piece orchestrated by their father (Christos Stergioglou) and mother (Michele Valley).

From oldest to youngest, the offspring believe they’re confined behind the hedged wall of their home for their own protection from an outside world whose farcical and totally fictional rules they have been spoon-fed from infancy by their parents.

06232010_Dogtooth2.jpgIntentionally or not, Dad and Mom have succeeded in creating an environment in which the infantile ideas, associations and assumptions of pre-adolescence have gained in relevance and accuracy as the kids have, physically at least, matured.

The parental view on such topics as where both babies and puppies come from, the possible fate of jetliners flying overhead, and what the words to Sinatra’s recording of “Fly Me to the Moon” translate to in Greek are totally bizarre and yet seem perfectly logical if one were to artificially extend a sun-dazzled pre-teen summer in a sprawling garden estate indefinitely and guilelessly take what parents say as gospel.

Pent up together, the three siblings go about the business of justifying and sorting out father and mother’s litany of do’s and don’ts, rewards and punishments, and slanted history the same as we all do in childhood, except that almost nothing their parents say is true. Very little of what they do (particularly the punishments) appears to be for anyone’s good.

The inevitable threat to this crackpot Eden arrives in the form of Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), a security guard from the father’s real-life factory job moonlighting as a sex partner for the son. Christina soon develops designs on other members of the family and improvises a barter system to receive certain intimate ministrations that eventually has world-shaking (this household’s world, anyway) consequences.

06232010_Dogtooth3.jpgLanthimos initially presents glimpses of the family’s inscrutable but believably banal rituals in a jagged assembly of off-kilter frames and truncated scenes. For a movie built on a conceptual conceit as provocative as this one’s, there is barely a syllable of on-the-nose explanation as to what on earth has motivated these parents to force their family to live the way that they do.

If “Dogtooth” were a science fiction movie — I’m almost positive it’s not, though the family’s fortress-like stockade, the father’s austere workplace and other details do lend the film a post-apocalyptic quality — there would likely be explanation aplenty. But in lieu of tight close-ups of faces authoritatively reminding us what’s at risk and how things got the way that they are, we get widescreen frames that often cut off characters’ heads entirely.

What initially plays like self-consciously cultivated Euro-creepy art movie remove in the Michael Haneke (“Funny Games”), Ulrich Seidl (“Dog Days’), and Gaspar Noé (“Irreversible”) style, has the effect of putting the cast in the emotional driver’s seat instead of the camera, and each actor in “Dogtooth” does yeoman’s work constructing characters that live more or less comfortably in a genuinely discomforting milieu.


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.