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DID YOU READ

NYAFF 2005: Hana & Alice.

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Anne Suzuki and Yu AoiShunji Iwai‘s last film, the excellent "All About Lily Chou-Chou," was the bleakest, most emotionally devastating view of high school life we’ve ever witnessed. His latest endeavor, "Hana & Alice," is a fitting counterpoint to the earlier film — taking place at the same stage of life (the end of middle school and first year of high school) with many of the same actors (notably Yu Aoi, who played a girl bullied into prostitution in "Lily," here enchanting as Alice, one of the two leads), "Hana & Alice" is a sweet and weightless as spun sugar.

Hana (Anne Suzuki) and Alice are best friends who go to school and take ballet together. The quirky, wide-eyed Hana develops a crush on a boy she’s seen (and in a cute, if slightly bunny-boiling way, secretly photographing) on the train in the morning. The boy, Masashi Miyamoto (Tomohiro Kaku), turns out to be an upperclassman at the girls’ high school, a dreamy, slightly dazed member of the rakugo club who’s constantly reading. This habit proves to be his downfall: one day, on his way home, he smacks his head against a low overhang and is knocked out. Hana, who’s been following him, seizes this opportunity to inveigle herself into his life by informing him that they’re dating, and that he must have amnesia from the blow to the head if he doesn’t remember this. A muddled Masashi at first accepts this, but eventually asks increasingly difficult questions that force Hana to enlist Alice as her co-conspirator. Alice, against her will, begins to have feelings for Masashi herself.

No, come back! It’s actually a great film. Iwai, despite his immense popularity in Japan, has inexplicably never made much headway here. His films, unlike those of his more internationally known countrymen Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, are unabashedly populist, dealing with themes of love, friendship and youth. This is not to say they’re simplistic — "Lily" was a dead-on portrait of the failure of technology to assuage modern isolation, and 1995’s "Love Letter" was an epic, bittersweet alternative to the "eternal love" dramas so popular in Japan at the moment. The sitcomish hi-jinks of "Hana & Alice" unfold against a backdrop of less idyllic realities that only become clear as the film progresses. We learn that the ebullient Alice lives with her petulant, immature mother in a magnificently messy house, essentially being the parent in the relationship as her mother pursues sleazy men and lies about not having any children, and that Hana, before meeting Alice, had essentially dropped out of school, spending her days at home and refusing to interact with people. Alice gets scouted by a talent agent and begins going to auditions, and we glimpse a dispiriting, seedy world of low-budget photo shoots and script readings, and though she remains unjaded (and, in a joyous scene, impresses a cynical photographer and his crew by taping paper cups to her feet and dancing en pointe across the studio floor), it’s clear that the hazards of the industry will lurk in her future.

Iwai has a great ear for dialog, scripting funny, realistic, meandering conversations that nevertheless carry a great emotional weight. And the free-form pacing leads to lovely digressions — a friend arranges to photograph the ballet class, and shoots the girls outside at night. Dressed in "Swan Lake"-style white tutus, they glow under the flash, luminous, blurry, a Degas brought to life.

Previously:

+ NYAFF: Three…Extremes
+ NYAFF: Princess Raccoon

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…