Álex de la Iglesia Isn’t Clowning Around at Fantastic Fest

Álex de la Iglesia Isn’t Clowning Around at Fantastic Fest (photo)

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“I really hate clowns,” Álex de la Iglesia admitted mere moments into his introduction for “The Last Circus” (or “Balada Triste de Trompeta,” which translates to “Ballad of the Sad Trumpet”) his epic, darkly comic story of two clowns who fight for the love of an acrobat during the tumultuous era of fascism that followed the Spanish Civil War. Joined by Carolina Bang who plays the object of the clowns’ affection, de la Iglesia made the rare trip to the States for Fantastic Fest co-founder Harry Knowles, who geeked out while telling how he was first introduced to the director’s work when someone slipped him a sixth generation VHS copy of de la Iglesia’s “Day of the Beast.” He even added that de la Iglesia had an inadvertent hand in creating Fantastic Fest since it was after a screening of “800 Bullets” in Sitges that he and Tim League first discussed the idea of a genre festival in Austin.

Greeting Knowles with a hug, de la Iglesia was far less gracious when discussing clowns, to the delight of the audience. “My father took me to the circus in some dirty place. It always smelled bad,” de la Iglesia said. “[I would wonder] why are these guys so desperate? The red nose in the middle of the face? He’s a fucking alcoholic. The big shoes, why?” He went on to wonder aloud why there was always a sad clown — “why is he there if he’s not funny?”

09302010_AlexdelaIglesiaLastCircus.jpgIn “The Last Circus,” the sad clown Javier (Carlos Areces) has a purpose, assigned to his lot in life after coming from a long line of funny clowns that ends when his father explains to him that he’s seen too much tragedy in his life to be funny, only minutes before his execution at the hands of a general in Franco’s army. Next thing you know, it’s 1973 in Madrid and Javier is putting on bushy eyebrows and a single black teardrop down his face to perform in circus where he meets the beautiful and dangerous Natalia (Bang), who descends from the heavens twirling on a red ribbon and winds up being Javier’s one-way ticket to hell when the two strike up an easy friendship and her jealous, abusive boyfriend Sergio (Antonio de la Torre) turns out to be the funny clown to his sad one. Upon their introduction, Sergio tells Javier if he weren’t a clown, “I’d be a murderer.”

De la Iglesia has been down this road of violent one-upsmanship before with 1999’s “Dying of Laughter,” but in weaving in actual historical events like the assassination of Blanco during the counter-cultural revolution, “The Last Circus” is one of his broadest films to date, both in terms of scope and its humor, which pulls no punches in showing a nude Javier stripping the bones of a dead deer carcass clean while hiding from Sergio in the forest or basking in the grandeur of a war sequence involving circus performers that is usually reserved for a Spielberg-Hanks World War II miniseries. Fans of de la Iglesia will appreciate that his wild streak is back after the more serious-minded “The Oxford Murders,” and while some might not spark to his occasionally outrageous sensibilities and asides, I found “The Last Circus” benefitted from a second viewing where I wasn’t quite as caught up in his always clever visuals (he is shooting in and around a circus, after all), which allowed the story and political subtext to shine through.

“I don’t want to transplant my life onto my country’s experience,” said de la Iglesia, during the post-screening Q & A in a rare moment of seriousness. “But I believe everyone in Spain has some pain and we need to talk about it. That’s why I made the movie.”

09302010_AlexdelaIglesiaCarolinaBang.jpgThe mood was considerably lighter during his introduction to the film when he explained the inspiration for the story that pitted a sad clown against a funny one — “With age, I’ve learned one cannot laugh if somebody else is not suffering” — and subsequently put the onus on the audience: “The only way we can have fun here is if we know others are suffering.” (He plunged the dagger in when he added, “With the money that was spent making this movie, lives could’ve been saved.”)

Following the screening, Knowles pressed him on a variety of subjects and was joined by the audience in asking about his next project (“a small drama in Spain about a man who is immobilized by an accident and cannot be moved”), his and Knowles’ shared obsession with the death of Gwen Stacy in the “Spider-Man” comic books that served as a template for a scene in “The Last Circus” (“It is something that traumatized me my whole life,” said de la Iglesia) and his reaction to people who felt his English-language diversion “The Oxford Murders” was a departure from his previous work (“People say it’s not like you. Well, who am I?”).

Knowles wasted no time in asking de la Iglesia for a return visit to Austin for a career retrospective, to which the director was at least publicly noncommittal, but it was clearly a good night for de la Iglesia, who was only weeks removed from winning the Silver Lion and an Osella for best screenplay in Venice for the film. As he growled before the curtains raised on the film, “Let’s enjoy being bad.”

“The Last Circus” will be distributed next year in the U.S. by Magnolia Pictures.


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.