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Gaspar Noé’s Trip Into the “Void”

Gaspar Noé’s Trip Into the “Void” (photo)

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Gaspar Noé is no stranger to controversy, as 2002’s “Irreversible” — and, specifically, its nine-minute single-take depiction of violent rape — firmly established his reputation as a boundary-pushing provocateur. Almost a decade later, he returns to feature filmmaking with this week’s extravagant “Enter the Void,” a similarly audacious work about a teenage drug dealer’s (Nathaniel Brown) post-death experiences as a ghost watching over his stripper sister (Paz de la Huerta) in neon-lit Tokyo.

Utilizing multiple points of view, immersing itself in extended “2001”-style drug hallucinations, and offering up a mélange of sex, violence, spirituality, philosophy and one unbearably harrowing car crash sequence, it’s a film that risks being silly in search of the sublime, and thus provokes unlike anything else this cinematic awards season will have to offer. Shortly after introducing the longer original version of the film at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, Noé spoke about the reasons for creating different cuts, the project’s film noir ancestry, and the illicit substances that most inspired him.

Why the extended layoff between “Enter the Void” and “Irreversible”?

In the case of this one, it was because the movie is quite expensive (as you might have guessed), and because it took a long time to shoot it — there are many, many scenes in the movie, and many things that required a crane and/or visual effects. And also because the movie was not only sexually explicit and very experimental, but also because it’s so full of visual effects that it could not be done for cheap. All these things, plus the fact that we didn’t have famous actors, made the movie kind of hard to finance. Of course, after “Irreversible,” I was proposed many scripts by different producers, but I was really waiting to do this feature, which I had in my mind before “Irreversible.” So I was saying no to many other proposals. I was sticking to my original will.

At the end, Wild Bunch, who had been taking care of the world sales of “Irreversible,” decided to put the money in, and they introduced me to Fidélité, the other company that produced the movie. And also BUF, who did the visual effects, decided to co-produce the movie. So after a few years of waiting, I had the greenlight. Since that moment until now, for four years, I’ve been working almost every day on the movie, and now I’m working on the DVD extras, and I’ve been doing the promotion since last year.

The movie was finished for the first time just before Sundance. The copy that was shown in Cannes last year was a work-in-progress on high-definition, but at the time it was not finished at all.

09202010_EntertheVoid3.jpgA 137-minute cut of the film will be released theatrically here in the States, but there’s a longer version (which I saw at Lincoln Center in August) which clocks in at 160 minutes. What compelled you to also assemble a director’s cut?

Actually, it’s nothing like a director’s cut. There’s one cut that was my original cut — that’s the version that has been released in France and now in Germany, and almost all over Europe. But I signed a contract saying that if the movie went over 2 hours and 20 minutes, I had to deliver a shorter version. So I found a solution that we could pull out a whole 17-minute segment toward the end of the movie, and the movie would still work. I reedited the negative lab rolls in a way that the movie was made up of nine reels, but you could pull out reel number seven, and go directly from reel six to reel eight. Actually, that particular reel doesn’t have anything controversial. It starts just after the abortion scene, and ends when the sister is throwing the ashes in the sink. Mainly what you miss is that whole part of the movie where he [Nathaniel Brown’s Oscar] wakes up at the morgue and thinks he’s alive, but they tell him no, you’re just dreaming.

I reconnect with both versions. The shorter version was just a request from the American distributor. And in England, they’re going to release both. They think it’s maybe going to be more commercial, and also people might enjoy the reduced version and then might want to see the extended version, which is the original version, on VOD or on DVD. Sometimes having two versions makes it even more commercial because people who like it want to see both.

I know in France, they proposed to me, “Why don’t we release the shorter version in France and then put the director’s cut on DVD?” I said no, it’s not the director’s cut. But I want the two versions to come to DVD. And in France, it’s the opposite. On the DVD, we’re going to add the shorter version as a bonus.

Did “Irreversible”‘s controversial reputation, and the fact that “Enter the Void” also features explicit material, make it easier or harder to get the new film made?

The fact is that “Irreversible” was a commercial success. And today, the only reason I could start “Enter the Void” was because of the commercial success of “Irreversible.” I don’t know how this one is going to do in the long term. What people like and some other people don’t like about this one is that it’s more conceptual and more experimental. But I don’t think it’s controversial at all. The controversy that comes from this movie deals mostly with some visual effects or sound effects that put you in an altered state of perception. It’s not so much about the images that are contained, but how they play with your senses.

The best and worst response I got from the movie is that when you come out, you feel stoned. And people who like being stoned enjoy the movie, and people who don’t do drugs or don’t drink alcohol dislike the movie because they feel like someone has been playing with their mind.

09202010_EnterTheVoid5.jpgWere there any particular drugs that influenced the film’s hallucinogenic sequences?

Most movies created with drugs are mostly conceived with cocaine, speed or opiates. Then there are a few movies that have been trying hard to reproduce what an altered state of consciousness under mushrooms is like. But I’d say 99.9% of the movies fail because it’s really hard. Since I’ve been thinking about the project, each time I would see a psychedelic movie, or each time I would smoke or whatever, I would try to think about how it could be done in a better way, and how it could be done in a more accurate way. To transcribe those experiences into a flat screen.

Some people who’ve been doing DMT complained to me that the DMT scenes are getting close [to the actual experience], but at the same time very far, because the actual patterns one sees are more geometrical, and that they move much faster than those in the film. But it’s hard, it’s really hard. I’ve tried my best, but I guess in many ways Kenneth Anger got closer to an LSD experience with “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome” or Jordan Belson with his short films than I got with this one. This one is more of a narrative movie trying to play with the senses.

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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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