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Clash of the (indie) titans.

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"I don't want you to ask me for anything ever again."
This was quite a weekend for film if you were in New York, what with Cristi Puiu‘s critically adored "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" at the Film Forum (our New York Film Festival review is here) along with "Army of Shadows," and of course, you could pick your version of cinematic Asian femininity: demure Korean revenge-obsessive, languid Taiwanese pseudo-Bardot, or waifish Cantonese recovering addict (all of these films being strategically released together and during the first weekend of the Tribeca Film Festival to insure minimal attendance: "Lazarescu" apparently pulled in a fat opening weekend haul of…$5880).

We’ve seen "Lady Vengeance" twice since the New York Film Festival (review here), not because we like it so much (though we do like it) as much as that we’re still trying to sort out what we think of Park Chan-wook. Two years after "Oldboy" picked up the Grand Jury prize at Cannes, Tartan Films seems content to aim "Lady Vengeance" at the fanboy crowd, smacking a Harry Knowles quote there at the top of the poster. Have we already wiped our hands of Park as a quality director? That seems to be the point of Nathan Lee‘s review in the New York Times, which is so devoted to bashing Park that it scarcely has space to actually tackle the film at hand.

We’re of the opinion that "Oldboy" is studded with scenes that are undeniably virtuoso, but is also based on what turns out to be such a ludicrous plotline that we feel like smacking upside the forehead anyone who tries to argue that the film manages any kind of grand statement about revenge. "Lady Vengeance" is better than "Oldboy" — it’s less silly, more pointed, and yes, we can buy that it has something to say about the foolishness of convincing oneself that revenge is for anything other than personal satisfaction. But…what of it? We still love the gleaming pop quality of the first 45 minutes, but once Park settles in for the grim, messagey slog of the rest of the film we could care less. It’s the end that really sticks in our mind; done with all his gothic revenge sequences, Park indulges in a moment of weary, well, sympathy for his heroine that’s worth more than a dozen bloody pairs of scissors lodging between someone’s vertebrae.

And "Three Times" (review here) is simply as lush a slice of pure cinema as you can imagine. Which is probably why people have walked out of or fallen asleep at it at both of the screenings we’ve attended. We can understand — Hou Hsiao Hsien‘s film are far from audience-friendly in their pacing. But for fuck’s sake, suck it up — some of those scenes are what movies were invented for.

We’re in the minority in loving Olivier Assayas‘ frustrating, fascinating last film, "Demonlover," which "Clean" is pretty much nothing like. Briskly straightforward, "Clean" is the story of a former rock star girlfriend/hanger-on Emily Wang, whose drifting life of bouncing from low-rent gig to cheap hotel room to next heroin fix with her once-famous boyfriend is interrupted when he dies of an overdose and she’s jailed for possession. Out after six months, she weans herself off the drugs and tries to get her life back in order enough to be allowed to see her son, who lives with his grandparents in Vancouver.

Assayas wrote the part of Emily with his ex-wife Maggie Cheung in mind, and it’s a bit of a loaded gift. Emily is a role any actress would kill for: She swans around in fabulous rocker-chick outfits, she has occasional breakdowns, fiends for pills, is alternately selfish and snobbish and vulnerable, and hell, even gets to sing. But she’s also past her prime, and the film’s most cutting moments have nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with the humiliation of being too old for the role in life you’ve set aside for yourself.

Cheung is very good, but if the film was written to both dirty her up and bring her down to earth, it fails. Cheung, who seems to have become more beautiful and more remote as she’s rounded 40, may have been the subject of one of the most memorable aestheticizations of a female ever committed to celluloid in "In the Mood for Love." But even stripped of makeup and working tables at a Chinese restaurant in Paris, she never seems less coolly iconic, her striking, luminous looks never believably slipping by unnoticed in the background. It’s by no means a terribly quality for a star to have, but, in the context of this, Assayas’ attempt to offer Cheung up to the world as a Serious Actress, it’s almost a detriment — her Emily may be a drug-addled wreck who’s lost anything, but it’s hard to truly believe that oceans wouldn’t still part for her if she asked.

Open in limited release.

+ Clean (IMDb)

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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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