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NYAFF 2005: Tanuki Goten wa…paradaisu!

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'Operetta Tanuki Goten'This is the first of our promised dispatches from the New York Asian Film Festival, and it’s a doozy (Good lord, when did such words creep into our vocabulary?). Securing "Operetta Tanuki Goten (Princess Raccoon)" was a real triumph for NYAFF — Seijun Suzuki pioneered the sort of visually brilliant, wondrously bizarre films the festival was created to showcase. He’s now 82, and apparently sometimes requires the use of an oxygen tank, but age has hardly tempered his vision — "Princess Raccoon" is joyously strange, goofy, stylized, and very much a Seijun Suzuki film.

Zhang Ziyi plays the princess in question, ruling over the tanuki in the tanuki castle in the tanuki forest. The fact that she speaks Mandarin for most of the film is explained away fairly effortlessly — she came to Japan from China. Why? Oh, humans can never understand why tanukis do what they do. The language barrier doesn’t really put a crimp in her eventual romance with the human prince Amechiyo (Odagiri Jo, rivaling Zhang in prettiness), because love transcends all languages. They do have plenty of other problems to deal with, like Amechiyo’s father, who, in true (if gender-reversed) fairy-tale fashion, is trying to kill Amechiyo because his blossoming good looks threaten to make him, rather than his father, the fairest of them all. Then there’s the Tanuki-hime’s obligations to her people, who live in jolly, musical bliss away from the humans who try to trick them and/or make them into soup. This is before we get into the bizarre Catholicism, the random Italian courtiers hanging about, the Frog of Paradise, a rock, paper, scissors battle, and a digital appearance from an enka singer.

Strangest of all, as always, is Suzuki’s distinct visual style. His love of color seeps richly into every shot, many of which play out against a green screened-in backdrop of a traditional painting or foil paper. Others are set on what is clearly a stage, or an artificial forest with a painted background, and in the closing scene, a minor character walks out of one of the few realistic(ish) locations directly onto a stage, where she deliver a final monologue. It is, after all, an operetta. Suzuki further departs from any sense of visual continuity with what we’d hesitate to call jump cuts (leap cuts? non sequitur cuts?) which pull characters wildly from one location to another (though really, we don’t know how else they get from the obviously outdoor field of flower that supposedly borders on the clearly indoor set of the tanuki forest).

Delirious, enjoyable fun, though certainly not for everyone. Festival head Grady Hendrix even pointed the doors out in the back as he introduced the film, should anyone feel the need to walk out.

Update: One more note — Hendrix also said that Chris Doyle might be making an appearance at the screening of "Three…Extremes" this Friday.

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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

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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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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

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