Mark Romanek Holds On To “Never Let Me Go”

Mark Romanek Holds On To “Never Let Me Go” (photo)

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It’s been a winding road to “Never Let Me Go” for Mark Romanek, who after years as a major music video director (his best know work includes the videos for Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”, Madonna’s “Bedtime Story” and Michael Jackson’s “Scream”) found his way back to the film world with 2002’s “One Hour Photo,” starring Robin Williams. A string of non-starter projects followed that release, among them adaptations of “A Cold Case” and “A Million Little Pieces” that never made it to production, and then “The Wolfman,” which he dropped out of in 2008 after creative disagreements with the studio — Joe Johnston replaced him. A longtime fan of author Kazuo Ishiguro, Romanek was brought on board to direct “Never Let Me Go” from a script by “The Beach”‘s Alex Garland, and the result is a thoughtful work of dystopian melancholy featuring the outstanding cast of up-and-comers Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, along with Keira Knightley in an unexpected role.

What is it about Ishiguro’s novel that made it seem like good source material for a film?

The thing that I’m always looking for is: “Is this moving me? Have I connected with it emotionally?” Not that films of ideas aren’t important, but movies are best when they really just engross you emotionally. This book did that quite strongly. The other thing I ask is: “Have I seen this a million times before, or is it something fresh?” And if you can get that combination of something that’s a sincere expression about the human predicament, and that feels new, even in a small way, then you maybe have a chance at doing something that has some reason for being.

I fell in love with the characters — they felt really dimensional and real to me — but I was a little scared of the idea of adapting it, because it’s so odd and original and delicate and beautiful. I worried — do I have the skill set to tackle something this nuanced? But when I read Alex Garland’s adaptation, I felt that he had really cracked it, as a film, and I felt more emboldened to tackle it.

09172010_neverletmego1.jpgThe novel seems slower in its reveal about the true nature of the world in which the story takes place.

It’s all condensed. The book’s broken into three parts. The reveal, so to speak, is revealed toward the end of the first act, and the same is true of the film. You have to cram it into 100 minutes.

There’s a really distinct voice to the book, which is told in the first person by Kathy (Mulligan’s character) — she’s a typical schoolgirl with a lot of typical adolescent experiences, and yet underlying all that is this extraordinary world. What were the challenges of bringing that voice to screen?

Capturing that voice was a matter of finding the perfect actress for Kathy — for all the characters. When we discovered Carey Mulligan — the head of the studio at the time saw “An Education” at Sundance. He knew we were struggling to find the perfect Kathy, and typed me a text in the middle of the film that said, “Hire the genius Mulligan. This is the girl to play that role.” That’s a big part of it — Carey brought her to life.

You’ve said that you’d initially considered some more traditional sci-fi elements, visually, and then discarded most of them. Can you tell me about that decision, and whether you feel like there are some sci-fi influences on the film?

Part of the appeal on the filmmaking side was that I felt we could create a world that you hadn’t quite seen before, and that was a style of science fiction that you don’t often get to see. But if people go to the movie expecting to see a science fiction film, they’ll be disappointed. It’s a love story, and the brilliant, strange alternate history that Kazuo concocted gives the whole film this discreet science fiction feel, but it’s not very up front.

Early on, we were toying with more obvious science fiction tropes. We kept trying to get them in there, because we thought maybe it would make the film more fun or visually appealing or punchy. And they never felt right. One day, a light bulb went off, and I said, “I don’t think we should do any of this. This should be the science fiction film with no science fiction in it.” And that felt absolutely right, because the science fiction is really just a clever delivery system for the bigger themes.

09172010_neverletmego4.jpgI saw the film with a colleague who remarked that she found the main character very passive. Does that seem fair to you? How do you portray someone who never challenges that awful path she’s set on?

Technically, she is passive in the sense that she doesn’t always drive the action and she’s an observer of her world. But I think Carey plays it brilliantly, because she comes at it from a position of such moral and spiritual strength. She exudes this quality of stoicism that becomes a form of emotional activity. It’s a predicament of a lot of 20th century movies — there’s a quality of alienation, the characters are not driving the action. There’s other things they’re dealing with that are more internal. I find it deeply compelling, the grace that she displays in the face of her predicament.

This notion that she doesn’t rail against her fate, that none of these characters struggles to escape — Kazuo speaks really eloquently about this. He never set out to write the book about the brave slaves that rebel. There are lots of good stories like that, and that’s not what he was interested in. In almost all of his books, he’s simply more interested in how people don’t tend to escape.


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.