“Gesher,” Reviewed

“Gesher,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

In the Q&A after our screening of “Gesher,” a man demanded to know what the director’s intentions were with the film — “I was not entertained,” he announced. Another audience member fought back at the inappropriateness of making that observation in such a forum, and thing dissolved into an excellently combative discussion. It was entirely appropriate for the movie, which is a comedy in the primarily theoretical way that, for instance, David Gordon Green’s “Undertow” is an action flick. Director Vahid Vakilifar was inspired to make “Gesher,” his first feature, after he saw migrant workers living in unused pipes by the side of a refinery in southern Iran, where the Pars Special Energy/Economic Zone — the PSEEZ — encompasses an array of natural gas and petrochemical refineries and almost nothing else.

Jahan (Hossein Farzi-Zadeh), Qobad (Ghobad Rahmanissab) and Nezam (Abdolrassoul Daryapeyma) have come to the area for work, though the jobs they find are crushing. While Qobad is employed at a refinery, climbing through the pipes like a chimney sweep, Jahan serves as a driver for businessmen and engineers who barely register his presence and who complain about his car. Nezam is the worst off, reporting to a man who sends out workers to unclog and clean blocked bathrooms. The action stays with each in long, wordless stretches, as, for instance, Nezam pulls on his gloves and boots and primes the tool he uses to clear the pipes, only to have it not work and to be forced to reach into the filthiest toilet in Asalouyeh with his bare hands to find the stoppage. Afterward, he floats in the ocean, trying to get clean and to regain some sense of human dignity.

“Gesher” spends as much of it runtime, if not more, on the off hours of the three friends, who share a pipe facing the ocean (they have neighbors a few pipes down, and sometimes stop by to borrow bread). They run electricity off the battery of Jahan’s car at night, listen to music, call home, figure out ways to send cash to their wives by sewing it into stuffed animals, take dressing room pictures of themselves in clothes they can’t afford and compete in a race across the desert for money. And sometimes they just sit and look out at the ocean, and discuss, idly, what might be going on on the giant ships that have been parked out there for weeks.

“Gesher”‘s still camera, extreme deadpan and minimalist rhythms (the editing was supervised by Jafar Panahi) are manifestly art house, but its setting of small dramas against dwarfing backdrops recalls specifically, to me, the films of Jia Zhang-ke, which can similarly contrast the deeply human struggles of its characters against looming new world landscapes in which they seem destined to get lost. “Gesher” frequently poses its three protagonists against vast, monochromatic deserts or the glimmer of the lit refinery at night, flames belching out of burnoff vents like the Los Angeles cityscape of “Blade Runner.” There’s little narrative forward motion in the film — there’s little forward motion in these characters’ lives — and a dramatic incident involving the trio picking up a prostitute is shot in such an obscured way that it’s difficult to understand what’s transpiring. But as a spare portrait of an expanding world in which laborers are treated as interchangeably as machine parts, it packs a punch.

“Gesher” does not yet have U.S. distribution.


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.