DID YOU READ

A Venetian on Venice in “The Tourist”

A Venetian on Venice in “The Tourist” (photo)

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Alberto Zambenedetti is a film scholar and a critic originally from Venice, Italy. He has published many articles and book chapters on Italian cinema and writes regularly on spietati.it. Alberto and I went to see the new spy thriller “The Tourist” starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, which is set in Venice, and afterwards we had a conversation about the film’s depiction of his hometown.

Matt Singer: Putting aside your feelings about the movie as a whole, how did you feel about the portrayal of Venice?

Alberto Zambenedetti: It was a missed opportunity. The way the movie used the geography of the city on the whole was very jumbled. This film could have been set anywhere. It doesn’t have to be Venice. It could be Amsterdam. It could be any city, other than the fact that they’re always on boats. But they could have just been in cars.

There is that big boat-and-foot chase in the middle. Jolie is in a boat, pulling Depp who’s tied up in another boat, and meanwhile these goons with guns are running from bridge to bridge trying to shoot at them. Is that possible in Venice?

Yeah, it’s possible.

The boat seemed to be going very slowly. Is that a rule in Venice that boats can only go so fast or did she just get in a crappy boat?

[laughs]

I guess the only way for people on foot to keep up with a boat is for the boat to go very slowly.

Yeah.

I was wondering if there is maybe a speed limit for boats in Venice.

Yeah, but why would you obey it in a chase?

Good point.

That didn’t bother me as much. What really bothered me was the incoherent way they mapped out the space. You’ve got this place, one of the most interesting in the world when it comes to actually having to find your way around. It would be a perfect place to stage a good chase scene. And the chases were just very dull. What did you think? For someone who’s never been to Venice, did you feel like the movie showed you anything that you haven’t seen before?

Well I took note of the Hotel Danieli, where Depp and Jolie first stay when they arrive. That’s a real hotel?

It’s one of the top hotels in the world. It’s beautiful. They just put it in the wrong place in Venice.

It’s in the wrong spot?

That’s not where the hotel actually is. Everything you see from their window is wrong.

I also took note of how poor the roofing was everywhere around it. Depp sneaks out of the window of their suite to escape some bad guys and winds up on a rooftop where he keeps cracking and moving all the shingles. Are Venetians known for their poor roofing skills?

Not that I know of. That did look like a really bad roofing job.

You audibly groaned a few times in the movie. The first time was when they arrive in Venice at the train station.

Yeah. They filmed Johnny Depp walking out of the train station, which is on the Grand Canal. Then Angelina Jolie pulls up in her boat. When we get the reverse shot of them taking off together in her the boat, they’re in a completely different place.

So the boat pulls up to the dock at the Grand Canal. When it leaves it’s magically transported to a different location?

Right in front of St. Mark’s Square. That’s what made me cringe. In a movie set in New York, it would be like having two characters standing in Brooklyn Heights, looking at all of downtown Manhattan. Then in the reverse shot, the characters are in Central Park. Both are highlights of the city but they’re completely unrelated places.

You also made a noise when Angelina Jolie dropped Johnny Depp off at the airport later in the film.

Yeah, because she drops him off at the water taxi station at the airport. The airport is not on the main island of Venice. Then there’s a reverse shot, she’s pulling away in a boat already back on the main island. It doesn’t make any sense.

When this film plays in Venice, how do you think people will react to these mismatched locations?

They’ll laugh at it.

I’m sure this is not the first movie to do this sort of thing, though.

Well it’s happened before but this is really a low point.

It’s that bad?

This is terrible. Even “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was better, and that had Harrison Ford in the sewer system in Venice — and of course there is no sewer system in Venice. This just really uses the city as a backdrop. A flat backdrop.

So you thought this represented a low-point for Venice onscreen?

Absolutely.

It didn’t seem that bad to me. But I guess that’s what they’re counting on, people like me who don’t know anything about Venice. What non-Italian movie best evokes what the city is really like?

“Don’t Look Now” is good. “The Comfort of Strangers” is pretty good, although it has a dreamlike quality to it. Even the wacky Bond movies weren’t bad. [“Casino Royale” and “From Russia With Love”]

And have you seen any worse than this?

No, this was the lowest point.

What? Have you seen “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?” There’s a car chase in Venice!

I have not. But then again, that’s a fantasy. This is meant to be in the real world. It’s not like the city isn’t represented well by some of the beautiful helicopter establishing shots. But if you’re making a movie in Venice, why keep it in the background the whole time? When you make a spy movie in New York, you bring the city into the story because it has its own geography and character. Just compare “The Tourist” and its use of Venice to the “Bourne” films. This film could be something. But it isn’t.

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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…

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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. 

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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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.

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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.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

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.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.