Mads Mikkelsen’s Rites of Passage

Mads Mikkelsen’s Rites of Passage (photo)

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An unconventional, saturnine sex symbol in his native Denmark, actor Mads Mikkelsen has become an adored presence in international productions both indie and blockbuster-sized. He wept blood as the villainous Le Chiffre in the 007 reboot “Casino Royale,” assassinated Nazis as the latter half of the Danish Resistance duo “Flame & Citron,” managed an Indian orphanage in the Oscar-nominated “After the Wedding,” survived two-thirds of the “Pusher” crime trilogy, and fought alongside mythic Greek hero Perseus in the recent “Clash of the Titans” remake.

But for now, he tickles the ivories. In director Jan Kounen’s stylish biopic “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,” Mikkelsen plays the titular Russian pianist and composer to the famed French fashionista (Anna Mouglalis) who became his benefactor. Inspired by the 1920 Parisian love affair between these two titans of 20th century artistry, the film kicks off with an impressive restaging of the 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” a commissioned modernist ballet that left audiences both raving and booing. This detail was important later when Mikkelsen called me from Denmark to discuss his musical inclinations, what he smells like, the film that has influenced his entire career, and the animal he channeled to play a mute, one-eyed Viking in next month’s “Valhalla Rising.”

06082010_MadsMikkelsenCocoIgor6.jpgWhat did you discover while researching one of the world’s most influential composers?

The most interesting thing was reading Stravinsky’s own biography, because he barely mentioned anybody else but himself. It just tells the story of a gigantic ego, and that was an important thing to bring to the table. He was a complex man in many ways. A very “held” man, approaching life in a stiff manner. Orthodox Russian, all classical virtues. He’s a patriarch as well, and then all of a sudden, he’s leading this flamboyant Paris life with Coco, who’s doing the exact opposite of what a woman should in his world.

I don’t think he was especially attracted to her physically, but he was mentally. There was something about her he did not understand that fascinated him. At the same time, he was very crazy in his music. The world was divided into his letting-go energy when he was composing, and he was almost like a clerk when he was not. [laughs] He wasn’t a cliché of an artist, sitting in an attic, getting drunk and inspired. He got up every morning at 7 o’clock, did push-ups, ate eggs, started working, then finished at 5 o’clock in the evening. Coco managing to open him up, and to put some of his music into his own life.

06082010_MadsMikkelsenCocoIgor3.jpgWhat was more challenging to learn: speaking Russian or playing the piano?

Somebody else has to be the judge of that one. [laughs] I had to learn French as well, which was difficult because I was surrounded by French people. Every time I did something in Russian, they thought it was fantastic. Every time I did something in French, which I actually could speak, they thought I sounded terrible! [laughs] Maybe the music was more difficult because I’m playing. It’s not my sound, but I did insist on being able to hit the right keys so we could feel free with a camera, not the classic “cut from face, cut to hands.” That was tough, because he was crazier than I remembered when I first listened to the music. His rhythms are all over the place, but once you get it, you don’t forget.

You were a professional dancer for years. Have you had other musical inclinations?

Dancing is the only experience I have. I always wanted to play some kind of instrument — piano, saxophone, whatever. I took it up for a while, then forgot about it because I didn’t have the time. All of a sudden, I had the chance here to pick up piano in a serious manner.

06092010_chanel77.jpgI think that my background as a dancer helped me a lot because trying to count and be specific with [Stravinsky’s] music is impossible. I couldn’t learn music from scratch, so I had to dig into it more emotionally, and you often do that as a dancer as well. You listen to the music, start understanding it, and know exactly what’s happening where and when. That was my approach with the piano lessons.

As depicted in the film, the premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” causes an uproar among the crowds. Have you ever been booed by an audience?

Yeah, I did a crazy version of “Romeo and Juliet” once, and I played Romeo. I liked it, but I can see why it didn’t work all the way. There was always a young crowd in there, and one day when we went out holding hands [for the curtain call], 40 actors, the whole back row in this enormous place started booing like crazy. We all looked at each other: “Oh man, who is it they hate?”


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.