Adventures in First-Person Camera

Adventures in First-Person Camera (photo)

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In Nick Schager’s interview with madman/visionary Gaspar Noé, the director notes that one of his inspirations for the POV shots in “Enter the Void” was a 1947 Raymond Chandler adaptation:

One day many years ago, maybe when I was in my late teens or early 20s, I took some mushrooms with friends, and then I went back home and they were playing “Lady in the Lake” on TV. That’s when I decided that the first part of the movie should be shot in first-person perspective.

“Lady in the Lake” is a film that claimed to represent “a startling and daring new method of storytellng, a milestone in moviemaking” but is in actuality mainly a novelty (if a personal favorite of mine). The majority of it is shot from the point of view of the main character, private detective Philip Marlowe (played, when he appears on screen, by Robert Montgomery, who also directed the film). The result is both compelling and deeply silly, with a lot of glancing at reflections (a must for any first-person camera scene), hands reaching out from the bottom of the frame to open doors and Audrey Totter kissing the lens.

With one major exception, having any significant portion of a film be in first-person camera is a difficult proposition — if it doesn’t instantly read as gimmicky, it can still be unbearably disorienting, and it naturally limits what can be shown to what’s within the range of the character. The first part of “Enter the Void,” which is shot from the POV of the drug-addled Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), is deliberately claustrophobic — you’re locked into the character’s head, his actions, his thoughts, his blinks, which blacken the screen every few seconds. It’s effective, but also dizzying and almost intolerable — it’s a relief when the camera’s released.

That sense of suffocation, of being boxed in that comes with the first-person POV is memorably invoked in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which is all about being trapped in one’s own head — in that case, the first person camera adds instant empathy to the situation in which Jean-Dominique Bauby finds himself, and in both his and the audience’s case, his richly colored memories provide an escape.

In Sokurov’s “Russian Ark,” what we see is from the viewpoint of the narrator, voiced by the director, who may or may not be dead or dreaming — he’s visible to some, and just an observer to others, drifting halfway between a participant and a disembodied perspective.

These days, a first-person perspective can instantly call to mind video games. “Doom” has a lengthy Karl Urban POV sequence as a gesture towards its source material that is, unlike the rest of the movie, goofily fun, while “Kick-Ass” also evokes a first-person shooter with a scene in which Hit-Girl uses night vision to take out a group of thugs.

But what’s becomes the true place of the first-person camera, the aforementioned major exception, are films supposedly shot by a character or series of characters documenting the action from within the midst of it, like “The Blair Witch Project,” “Cloverfield,” “Diary of the Dead” and “[REC].” That these are all genre films is fitting to the strengths and weaknesses of the choice — shaky camerawork is better explained away when it’s the work of people who are running from something, and a deliberately limited POV both puts you in the place of the character, and limits what you can see — and scary things are always best kept in the dark.


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.