Michael Winterbottom’s Psycho “Killer”

Michael Winterbottom’s Psycho “Killer” (photo)

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Michael Winterbottom is a fast talker. Which seems in character — he’s also a quick, prolific filmmaker, tirelessly turning out a movie a year in genres ranging wide, from meta-literary adaptation “A Cock and Bull Story” to hardcore romance “9 Songs” to 2008’s Colin Firth-led family drama “Genova,” still without a distributor. His newest — for now — is “The Killer Inside Me,” itself one of two films (along with Naomi Klein-based documentary “The Shock Doctrine”) he had showing at Sundance this year.

It can be hard to imagine people getting incensed about on-screen violence in our hardened times, but “The Killer Inside Me” has the dubious distinction of managing just that. Adapted from a Jim Thompson novel, the film’s an exhilarating, nihilistic kick-to-the-teeth of a noir tale with a star-filled cast, centered on and narrated by small-town sheriff Lou Ford (played by Casey Affleck) whose explosive affair with local prostitute Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba) brings out a hidden dark streak a few miles wide.

A scene in which a woman is savagely, graphically beaten has made the film a hotly discussed point of controversy since that first Park City screening, during which there were reportedly more than a few walk-outs. I got a chance to talk with Winterbottom before the film played at the Tribeca Film Festival, where, perhaps better warned, the audience mostly stayed put. [SPOILERS follow]

06172010_killerinsideme12.jpgJim Thompson is one of those writers people tend to say is very difficult to put on screen. Do you agree? Did you have any sense of that before going in to this adaptation?

When I read “Killer Inside Me” — and I think it’s a great book — what interested me was that you could actually make the film as literal as possible. You could almost use the book as a script. So in that sense, it wasn’t difficult. The plot kicks in right at the beginning, about five pages [in].

Lou Ford has met Joyce Lakeland. He’s hit by her, hits her back, has sex with her, falls in love with her. It’s a good, fast start to the story, and Thompson keeps that pace going all the way through, and also writes great dialogue. So actually, one of the attractions of Jim Thompson was that it seemed easy to make a film of his book.

06152010_killerinsideme01.jpgWe’re told by Lou how he’s perceived by the town, but from our perspective, he takes a dive into the dark side, as you say, very quickly. How internal is the film supposed to be?

It’s difficult. When you read the book, obviously it’s Lou Ford telling the story, and as it goes on, you become more and more aware of how unreliable a narrator he is. We tried to keep that element in the film, so it starts off with his voiceover. You’re aware that this is Lou’s point of view. He’s in every scene — you never really see what’s going on when he’s not there, so that reinforces that it’s his version of what happened.

Film obviously feels more objective than a book does. You’re less aware of the unreliable nature of what you’re seeing in a film. Within the film, there are a few moments, like Lou looking to camera, where we try to give a slightly uneasy possibility about him and his awareness of this being a story.

I wanted to keep the idea that this is a fiction, very closely based on a book that has a lot of fictional elements to it. And this is a story being told within that book, by someone who’s not necessarily telling absolutely the truth. I hope people see this as Lou’s version of the story, but I didn’t want to push it to the extent to which it’s a post-modern “it’s all a story, it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to worry about it.”

06152010_killerinsideme05.jpgYou’ve made films that play with unreliable narrators and levels of storytelling before, and I didn’t feel this was in that realm — but at the same time, it’s so rich with noir tropes, noir characters, that there does seem to be a sense of remove, of occasional air quotes, maybe?

By the end of the book, when it all goes into flames, you’re very aware that the person telling you the story is dead — that is a noir convention. But, especially in the book, you feel [all along] you’re going to get some outside perspective on Lou, or realize this is where Lou is now and he’s repented, he’s writing this from his cell… Instead it just keeps going and going. One of the great things about the ending is you’re expecting it to come to some other sort of conclusion and he just carries on and does even bigger things.

There’s also a wish fulfillment element about the end — he wants to be caught, he wants to die, he wants to bring everyone down with him. Setting fire to his dad’s house is symbolically cathartic because he’s been living in the shadow of his dad, the pillar of the community.

So there’s a sense that it’s a fantasy ending, but it’s not as though there’s a real story that’s different from that. I did an adaptation of “Tristram Shandy” which was very playful — I didn’t want to do that again. In this case, I wanted to be as literal and straightforward and unplayful as possible in terms of trying to just film the book.


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.