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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?”

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.