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“Tears of the Black Tiger.”

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"It seems that life is just great terrible sadness." Wisit Sasanatieng‘s "Tears of the Black Tiger" lavishly evokes the brightly colored Thai genre films of the 50s and 60s, particularly those of Rattana Pestonji — and if you’re unfamiliar with them, well, according to the press notes, so is the average moviegoer in Thailand, a country with no tradition of repertory screenings. There’s a cinematic koan for you: Is a pastiche a pastiche if no one in the audience has any idea what it’s referencing?

Not that you need footnotes to understand the plot of "Tears of the Black Tiger," which tells your average "poor boy and rich girl fall in love but are kept apart because of class differences; poor boy becomes a famous bandit" tale. Poised at the crossroads of cheesy melodrama and cheesy Western, the film makes gleeful use of abandoned vocabulary — when the lovers, grown-up and reunited, take a car ride together, the road unfurling behind them is not only clearly the product of rear projection, it’s also in black and white. Elsewhere, after a particularly wicked action sequence, the film pauses, then genially revisits the key moment in slow motion for anyone who might have missed it. A gunfight takes place in front of a painted backdrop, while a naively romantic scene is et on a lake among lotuses that are so far beyond Technicolor they could be irradiated. A villain’s mustache is literally penciled on; there is, for no reason other than as an over-the-top sight gag, a gun-toting bandit dwarf. Everything mimics a broad, old-fashioned crowd-pleaser, and yet "Tears of the Black Tiger" isn’t all that fun to watch. Sasanatieng takes clear delight in every stylized detail, from his beautiful, wooden leads to his consciously choppy continuity, but ultimately the experience is bewildering and about as engaging as the experience of watching someone else enjoy a nice-looking steak — you’re happy for them, but you’re also kind of hungry. Wavering between camp and dead-serious homage, the film doesn’t comes down on one side until the final third, when earnestness overwhelms kitsch and the drama becomes unexpectedly compelling, the strangeness of the intense stylization finally settling in in time for a gloriously tragic ending. "It seems that life is just great and terrible sadness," we’re informed. If only the rest of the film had been so clear about what it was going for.

Opens in New York on January 12th.

+ "Tears of the Black Tiger" (Magnolia Pictures)

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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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