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“The Wild Blue Yonder,” “Pandora’s Box”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “The Wild Blue Yonder,” 518 Media Inc./Subversive Cinema]

These days, to be a Herzogian — a devotee of and eager participant in German master Werner Herzog’s lifelong quest for the mythopoetic image experience — is like being a beer-lover during Oktoberfest. This year there were three new films released here (“Grizzly Man,” “The White Diamond,” “Wheel of Time”), revivals of “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” and “Kasper Hauser,” and now two more new movies, each dancing in that no man’s land between documentary and fiction: “Rescue Dawn,” a fictionalized remake of the Herzog doc “Little Dieter Needs to Fly” starring Christian Bale, and “The Wild Blue Yonder,” coming straight to DVD.

The latter film, which has been hitting festivals since last year, is the braver freak-out. A mock-doc in format, but a film that actually finds its strangest epiphanies in genuine non-fiction footage, “Yonder” is science fiction, and not all that different from Herzog’s apocalyptic tone poem “Fata Morgana,” filmed 35 years earlier. We meet Brad Dourif, aged and wild-eyed and pony-tailed, glaring directly into Herzog’s camera from a ghost-town streetcorner, and recounting in a fuming rant the story of his race — aliens from the edge of Andromeda who landed here years ago after their world had been ruined, and failed miserably to either establish a cooperative kingdom on Earth or even assimilate. “We suck,” he spits, as he also recounts the parallel story of a human space voyage sent to locate an inhabitable world as ours devolves into polluted chaos. Ironically, the humans locate the alien’s abandoned planet, and explore its murky depths.

The story obviously came second — what came first was the unseen, real-world footage illustrating the human sojourn: life aboard the NASA shuttle mission STS-34, sent into orbit in 1989 for purposes of launching the Galileo craft at Jupiter. Here’s Herzog at play in the fields of absurd physics, rapt as the astronauts float in no-gravity space, attend to personal hygiene with surreal difficulty, and sleep strapped to the wall. We’ve seen astronauts floating in spacecraft interiors before, and we’ve seen the epic emptiness of space, but we haven’t seen them until Herzog shows them to us. Along the way he invents alternate poetic stories for their bizarre behavior, all of it attending to the emotional tribulation of space-lost loneliness. The crowning flourish is the arrival at the alien planet: Herzog uses breathtaking footage shot in the waters of the Antarctic to depict a barren, blue world with a liquid atmosphere and a sky of ice. Vital to each of these visual orchestrations is the achingly mournful soundtrack mass, a fugue arranged by Herzog between Dutch jazz cellist Ernst Reijseger, Senegalese vocalist Mola Sylla and a five-man Sardinian shepherd choir. It’s a Herzog thing — if you’re fortunate, you’ll understand. The DVD has a making-of featurette and, naturally, a Herzog commentary track.

Another kind of German sine qua non — G.W. Pabst’s Expressionist landmark “Pandora’s Box” (1929), restored, retitled, polished and retooled for digital eternity in a Criterion package that’ll surely be a holiday-gift ubiquity. A brooding whorl of shadow, menace and sexual manipulation based on Wedekind’s stories, Pabst’s film introduced — and for the most part epitomized — Louise Brooks, who as a man-eating Berlin prostitute immediately became one of cinema’s most enduring icons. (That black bob wig still shows up in films, whenever a female character is masquerading as a demimondaine.) From society-skewering slut-triumph to bad date with Jack the Ripper, Brooks’ Lulu may be a femme fatale paradigm, but Brooks herself remains one of the most mesmerizing — not merely beautiful — actresses to ever meet celluloid. To see her is to experience movies almost on a chemical level. Criterion’s package includes four different musical scores, two documentaries about Brooks, interviews, commentaries and essays by Kenneth Tynan and J. Hoberman.

“The Wild Blue Yonder” (Subversive Cinema) was released on DVD November 14th; “Pandora’s Box” (Criterion) will be available on DVD on November 28th.

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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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