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“Bibliotheque Pascal,” Reviewed

“Bibliotheque Pascal,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at Fantastic Fest 2010.

How in the world did director Szabolcs Hajdu convince investors to give him the money to make his new film, “Bibliotheque Pascal?” Given its highly unconventional style and incredibly horrific subject matter, I can only assume Hajdu is one of the most charming and persuasive salesmen in the entire world. Oh to be a fly on the wall of that pitch meeting:

Investors: So what do you have for us?

Szabolcs Hajdu: I want to make a film about people who can project their dreams into other people’s minds.

I: Oh great. That’s interesting. So where does the story go?

SH: To an underground sex club in England where women are kept as slaves.

I: Um, wow. Ok. I don’t know that I see the connection to the dream projection but —

SH: And there’s also some fairy tale stuff in there as well.

I: That’s fine. Can we just go back for a second to the sex slaves?

SH: Literary themed sex slaves.

I: Literary themed sex slaves?

SH: The women are given names like Joan of Arc and Desdemona. Then they have to read excerpts from classical literature while they’re raped and maybe killed.

[Awkward silence]

This all ties in to the subtext about the nature of roleplaying and self-deception as well as to ideas about storytelling, which relates to one of the sex slaves and her former life in Romania with her daughter, who’s one of the people who can project her dreams.

[Awkwarder silence]

I: Well, it does have sex in it…

And scene. Somehow this conversation ends with the phrase “Here’s a whole bunch of money. Go make your movie.” And that fact, to me, is almost as insane as the movie itself.

All those crazy elements — the dream projection, the sex slavery, the fairy tales, the exploration into the nature of storytelling — coexist in this one surreal film. It tells the story of Mona (Orsolya Török-Illyés), a Romanian woman who, through a extremely convoluted series of events, winds up as a sex slave in a “classy” English brothel named Bibliotheque Pascal. Story is the key word here, since Mona is describing these events to a case worker who must decide whether or not Mona, back home after her ordeal, is fit to care for her daughter again. The story she tells also includes numerous additional nods to the art of storytelling, as when Mona makes her living as a street performer giving puppet shows. That’s before her own father convinces her to accompany him on a trip abroad and sells her into slavery.

The most interesting moments take place in the repulsive Bibliotheque Pascal. The ringleader of this sadistic circus is Pascal (Shamgar Amram), first seen delighting a well-dressed audience with a charming and witty display of magic. Then he visits an underground slave market and selects Mona as his new Joan of Arc. Not so charming anymore.

Mona’s locked into a room, dressed in army fatigues, forced to memorize some of Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” and regularly assaulted. These scenes are deeply, deeply upsetting, largely because of Amram’s memorable performance as Pascal, a master showman and sadist who tells Mona that she is better off locked away in his dungeon and genuinely seems to believe it. The film has a perfectly rational explanation for its fantastical elements, including the fact that Mona’s lover and daughter, possess the ability to share their dreams with the people around them, but to discuss it in detail would spoil a major part of an ending that is, like the rest of the film, equally fascinating and frustrating.

”Bibliotheque Pascal” takes risks. Many of them do not pay off. But at least it takes them. The number one complaint of critics — and I’ll lump myself in with this group — is that there are no original movies, that one film after another is just another float in an unending parade of homogeneity. “Bibliotheque Pascal” is put up or shut up time for that kind of thinking. The characters are flat, the ending, which redefines everything that’s come before it in the picture, will anger many viewers, and the plot is such a slow burn that the embers threaten to stop smoldering altogether on a couple of occasions. But “Pascal” also doesn’t look like any movie you’ll see in a theater this year. If we really value originality, then this movie deserves some amount of credit. So does the director. I still don’t know how he got this thing made.

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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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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 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….


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.


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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