Tilda Swinton’s Love to Offer

Tilda Swinton’s Love to Offer (photo)

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If Tilda Swinton didn’t already exist, a novelist with a truly Baroque imagination would have to invent her. She’s a true original, a mercurial medley of unlikely traits. Nearly six feet tall, with the androgynous allure of a changeling and a fondness for David Bowie-style hairdos, she’s sometimes taken for a man. She’s descended from a posh Scottish family that can trace its roots back to the 9th century and went to school with Princess Diana. At the same, Swinton’s sympathies are markedly left-wing.

A fiercely talented fixture of indie cinema, she’s notorious for choosing gender-bending roles. In the soon-to-be-reissued “Orlando,” she channeled an Elizabethan nobleman who morphs into a woman, and in “Constantine,” played the archangel Gabriel. In “Julia,” the chameleonic actress played a boozer who tested the sympathy of many viewers. With an aristocrat’s disdain, Swinton is less interested in standard notions of success than in personal artistic challenges. Yet she’s also found fame in Hollywood as the White Witch in the “Narnia” movies; and snagged an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “Michael Clayton,” which, in typical Swinton style, she gave to her agent.

The super-articulate, Cambridge-educated actress has also explored installation art and cutting edge fashion. To further confound observers, Swinton has expressed a desire to give acting the heave to pursue her ambitions as a writer. Not surprisingly, in her personal life, she’s flouted convention, too, spurring gossip in her hometown of Nairn in the Highlands about a ménage à trois. Scottish writer John Byrne is the father of Swinton’s 12-year-old twins Xavier and Honor, while she’s romantically linked to painter Sandro Kopp, 18 years her junior, with whom she travels when filming.

06182010_IAmLove11.jpgIn the ravishing “I Am Love,” which Swinton co-produced with director Luca Guadagnino, she adds a richly drawn new figure to her portraits of women engaged in recalibrating their identity. The film foregrounds Swinton as Emma Recchi, a Russian-born Milanese matron married to an über-rich industrialist who lives in apparent contentment in a sumptuous Deco palazzo. A mother of three who’s devoted herself to the happiness of others, Emma’s life is thrown off balance when the family patriarch passes the reins of the business to her husband and eldest son. Then Emma’s daughter comes out to her, opening her eyes to possibilities of love she’s never considered. When Emma falls for Antonio, a charismatic young chef and close friend of her eldest son, their passionate affair unleashes a domestic tragedy. She recently spoke to me about the film, the power of love and her love life in real life. [Spoilers follow]

Is there a unifying theme to the film roles you take on?

The thread between everything I do is an interest in transformation. The characters have the opportunity to metamorphose into something else. In “Orlando,” he changes gender and lives for four centuries. In “I Am Love,” Emma changes from the wife of a super-wealthy industrialist to a woman who lives for love. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” [her forthcoming film with “Ratcatcher” director Lynne Ramsay] is another installment in these Euripidean, Greek-tragic mother stories. I’m interested in the whole predicament around motherhood and the place that a woman finds herself in when she’s encountering and negotiating the maternal instinct.

06182010_iamlove45.jpgWhich aspect of the character of Emma did you respond to on the most visceral level and which aspects of yourself did you draw on?

You see, I so don’t work that way. This is revealing, that I don’t work like a real actor. I don’t draw things out of myself or get viscerally involved, to be honest. We wanted to tell a story about someone who had a really developed inner life but didn’t have much company. And we were drawing on fantasies of silent cinema and classic cinema and also the kind of classic novel — Tolstoy, Flaubert — where you have a female protagonist who is very often a mother, who has given a whole part of her life to loving and supporting other people, but hasn’t necessarily been paying much attention to herself.

We wanted this person to be very interior, very quiet, not very verbal, not particularly communicative. Self-sufficient, but unawoken. She’s not suppressed or repressed or anything, but not really fully alive when we first meet her. Though she’d certainly say she’s content. She lives a life that she’s pretty settled into. We wanted to look at a woman re-approaching the idea of being not just a mother.

Were you thinking of Madame de Rênal in “The Red and the Black?”

I don’t know “The Red and the Black,” I’m glad you thought of it. We were thinking of Emma in “Madame Bovary,” “Buddenbrooks,” “Anna Karenina,” and of so many women in cinema who have the sense of untapped inner life.

06182010_IAmLove12.jpgThe film’s mystifying final shot, which appears while the credits are still rolling, shows Emma and Antonio in a cave, suggesting a further development in their life. Is there any way to explain that?

No. It’s not there to be explained. It’s not there even to invite explanation. It’s entirely a gift to the audience, like a little goody bag for the audience to go home with.

On some level, “I Am Love” seems to be a fantasy. As a viewer, it’s hard not to fantasize about where this romance can possibly go, considering all Emma has given up and the big age difference between her and Antonio.

You’re absolutely right; it’s a fantasy. It’s a fairy story, in fact, as much a fable as “Beauty and the Beast” by Cocteau. But it’s not about happily-ever-after. It’s about awakening and transformation. Yes, we see them in the cave. But it’s entirely up to everybody to decide whether the cave is in the present tense, or whether it’s a memory or a fantasy. What we do know is that this part of Emma’s life comes to a close and she either leaves the house or disappears.


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.