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DID YOU READ

“The Science of Sleep,” “Vibrator”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “The Science of Sleep,” Warner Independent, 2006]

No one’s mentioned it in my earshot, but Freud seems to be hot again among restless filmmakers — amid the new post-Godardian wave of metafilmic strategies (I’m thinking of Todd Solondz, Wong Kar-wai, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Hong Sang-soo, Carlos Reygadas, Michael Haneke, Michael Winterbottom, Ilya Khrjanovsky’s infuriating debut “4,” and so on), the old-school demarcations of id, ego and super-ego are back, and the domain of the unconscious as a war-game field of symbolic trial and subjective flux is once again grist for movie narrative. Maybe it’s Charlie Kaufman’s fault, but there’s hardly any other way to look at “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Birth” (which, some astute wags have pointed out, is a remake of the Surrealist classic “Un Chien Andalou”), “Lemming,” “Mirrormask,” “A Scanner Darkly,” “Inland Empire,” a whole slew of J-horror entries and their Hollywood remakes, and, most tenderly of all, Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep.” It would seem that movies are inherently too much like dreams to escape the literal, subjective-perspective analogy for long. Gondry’s movie — his first without Kaufman’s script-guidance, not including the doc “Dave Chapelle’s Block Party” — is a love song to the developmentally arrested, mixing and matching levels of consciousness while adhering carefully to Freud’s faith in desire as a motivating force — desire for romance, for fame, for emotional justice, for a parent’s unconditional love.

Gael García Bernal plays Stephane, a Spanish twentysomething beckoned to Paris by his mother with promises of a job. The job turns out to be a tedious dead end (hilariously), but it hardly matters because Stephane’s life is a chaotic tug of war between reality and his extraordinarily rich and messy dream life — which intervenes so often and so matter-of-factly we often do not know whether or not what we’re watching is inside the hero’s lovable head. (All the same, every scene is either “real” or subconscious — there’s no meta-fictional slipperiness with Gondry, who seems completely disinterested in objectivity.) Naturally, the two realms bleed into each other, particularly once he meets Stephanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a somewhat prickly craft-artist living next door who shares Stephane’s passion for handmade toys, recycled junk and dedicated pretend-play.

Gondry’s style emerges whole-hog here, a savvy and affectionate high-tech/low-tech mix scrambling digital effects with cheap video, junkyard leftovers, folk-stitched totems and cotton clouds. There’s something preschoolish going on in the movie and in Stephane’s skull, and the film’s bric-a-brac style helps express Stephane’s needy, imaginative character in ways he could never articulate. “The Science of Sleep” is, I think, a romantic comedy, but its narrative arc is so infused with non sequiturs and flights of cheesecloth fancy that it can be hard to tell what it is. What could be better?

Just as tangled in subjective emotional worlds, Ryuichi Hiroki’s “Vibrator” (2003) traces the ersatz romance between a lonesome and unstable bulimic girl (Shinobu Terajima) and a slack but sweet-natured truck driver (Nao Omori). That’s all it does, but it happens from the inside out, with the heroine’s self-conscious narration manifesting as punctuative interior-voice intertitles, saying in effect what this wrecked, nervous modern girl can’t bring herself to utter in person. Hiroki is a master realist-humanist (two more of his earlier films are also coming out from Kino, and his 2005 film “It’s Only Talk” was the best film at 2006’s New York Asian Film Festival), and “Vibrator” plays it urban-cool and moment-to-moment, until it sneaks up to your soft side with a sledgehammer. Terajima, who might be the most galvanizing and convincing Asian actress of her generation, simply breaks your heart — not merely at the film’s end, but throughout. “Vibrator” was never distributed in the U.S. (neither was “It’s Only Talk,” a bruising portrait of manic-depressive life), making it already one of 2007’s best “releases,” and another point in the argument for acknowledging DVDs as the new and viable alternative-exhibition platform.

“The Science of Sleep” (Warner Home Video) and “Vibrator” (Kino) will both be available on DVD February 6th.

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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 IFC.com

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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.

Uncle-Buck

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…