“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.


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.