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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.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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