DID YOU READ

Tribeca 2011: “A Quiet Life,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “A Quiet Life,” Reviewed (photo)

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As loathe as I am to think of most American remakes of perfectly good foreign films, I couldn’t help but wonder while watching “A Quiet Life” whether Robert De Niro has had a chance to check out the film playing the festival he founded. Ironically, in this hypothetical remake De Niro would produce and star in, the actor would replace the one thing irreplaceable about this Italian thriller as currently constructed, which is a great performance from Toni Servillo, who continues with every role since his turn as Giulio Andreotti in “Il Divo” a few years to prove what a remarkable transformation he achieved.

In “A Quiet Life,” transformation isn’t only required of Servillo as an actor, but also as the character of Rosario Russo, an Italian chef living in a small German village where he’s been settled down for the past 13 years with a wife and young son. He has a temper; his kitchen etiquette suggests he’s gone through more than a few sous chefs over the near-decade-and-a-half, but otherwise, he’s content and even suspiciously encouraged when he sees two thuggish-looking men kicking around a soccer ball in front of his restaurant. Slowly, director Claudio Cupellini teases out why Rosario’s excited to see the more even-tempered of the two men and instantly offers to them both to “stay as long as you’d like” in his accompanying hotel.

Without spoiling what that reason is, it turns out to be a case where time opens more wounds than it heals and as the two younger men with crime connections begin to embarrass Rosario in public, it becomes obvious that the chef wouldn’t enjoy additional scrutiny. This is the point where Mr. De Niro’s ears should be burning because the crux of “A Quiet Life,” which follows the well-worn path of most films involving a character attempting to run from their past, depends on Rosario’s willingness to impose a cloistered existence that he chose specifically for himself onto those closest to him and how he deals with the problems that arise in a way that won’t affect his tenuous grip on the domestic life he’s come to enjoy.

If it sounds like a juicy part, it certainly is and while Servillo gets a chance to shine, the film isn’t nearly as exciting to watch despite its director’s attempts to spice things up aurally and visually with a soundtrack that sporadically spikes the film with a sharp cue or the scattered tracking shots that are impressive individually but feel out of sync in context. (A single take starting with a closeup of one of the younger men smoking that leads to a crane shot-overview of the entire neighborhood is well-done if completely unnecessary.) A case could be made that these occasional injections of cinematic bravado reflect Rosario’s suppressed natural inclinations, but I suspect that wasn’t the intention.

Ultimately, that uneven quality is what makes “A Quiet Life” feel slightly frustrating, even if it’s that rare thriller that derives its jolts from the twitch of an eyebrow since Cupellini gives Servillo an opportunity to play a more nuanced role than he’s typically allowed and obviously prizes character development above all else. When “A Quiet Life” stumbles towards its conclusion rather than glides in the way it deserves, like Rosario, the film seems as if it’s ever so close to perfection and yet falls just short of the standard it sets for itself, resulting in a film that’s good but could’ve been great.

“A Quiet Life” currently has no U.S. distribution, but will play at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23rd and 24th.

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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.