This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


“Able Edwards,” “Black Test Car “

Posted by on

By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “Able Edwards,” Heretic Films, 2007]

Once upon a time, cinema was — whatever else it may have been — a factory that manufactured dreams out of the raw materials of reality. 99.99% of the time, the basic lumber for movies consisted of human beings, physical places, physical laws, gravity, weather, real light and shadow, all caught chemically on thermoplastic. The only notable exception — cel animations, or cartoons — were intended largely for children, and have only been very occasionally palatable to adults. On the whole, we’ve required the form to traffic in the tangible and the earthly, for better or worse, even if the movies in question involve unicorns, ghosts, the Wizard of Oz, Wookies or Stan Brakhage’s baby.

That was then: we’re on the verge, like it or not, of a new sub-subgenre of techno-movie, and if you’ve seen “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Sin City” or “300,” you’ve done time on Planet Greenscreen, where absolutely everything but the actors is a make-believe, crazed-art-department blitz of pixels and bits. Even if you were thrilled by these films, you have to admit there’s something missing in each of them — specifically, a convincing middle ground, a believable relationship between the foreground actors and the lovingly rendered background hijinks. No wonder the movies all retreat into the idealized past for their stories — they already inhabit a disembodied, self-conscious non-world into which viewers have a tough time entering. Which feature film actually hit the starting gate first (all in the spring of 2004) is still subject to debate — some say it was Enki Bilal’s Frenchified fantasy “Immortel (ad vitam),” some say it was the Japanese “live anime” “Casshern.” (It sure wasn’t “Sky Captain.”) But most agree it was Graham Robertson’s “Able Edwards,” a modest, L.A.-shot indie filmed with a mini-DV camera on 12-square-foot patch of studio floor, in front of an optical effects screen. Robertson’s movie also has another advantage over the competition: it’s a thoughtful, thematically adventurous piece of work, a virtual remake of “Citizen Kane” that scrambles in Walt Disney’s bio (the hero is a cartoon tycoon branching out into visionary theme parks) and then launches into a claustrophobic future of cryogenics, orbital colonies, cloning and environmental devastation.

Robertson’s movie cost less than a week of catering on “Spider-Man 3,” and so you don’t get that style orgasm you get in the bigger-budgeted films. (The acting, too, is roundly unaccomplished, but as Gwyneth Paltrow and Bruce Willis can attest, fluid performances are not easy under the circumstances.) The weird distance inherent in this kind of movie actually serves “Able Edwards” well: it creates an expressive visual context for the story, which is all about the lost authenticity of the modern human. Tangible sets and locations wouldn’t’ve added nothing.

Then again, the wide-screen cinematography and no-holds-barred ratpit drama of a Yasuzo Masumura movie makes a staunch case for the tangible and the verities of real light and shadow. Running neck and neck with notorious auteur maudit Seijun Suzuki as the most outrageous and breakneck Japanese pulp force of the ’60s, Masumura is an all but unknown figure here. The two men, both in their own ways suggesting samurai Samuel Fullers with crank habits, had careers that ran roughly parallel from the mid-’50s; whereas rock ‘n roll gangsta Suzuki has survived into eccentric lionhood, nihilistic sex fiend Masumura died, after scrounging for TV work, in 1986. In the DVD epoch, no geyser of movie love is kept secret for long, and cult-specialty house Fantoma has been busy sending Masumura’s best films — 1958’s “Giants & Toys,” 1964’s “Manji,” 1966’s “Red Angel,” 1969’s “Blind Beast,” etc. — out into the hungry void. The newest entry is “Black Test Car” (1962), a ridiculously feverish thriller about industrial espionage — automobile makers trying to fuck each other over in the run up to releasing a new sports car. As cynical as any American noir, the film has nothing nice to say about the ways postwar Japanese culture does business, and it says it in baroque black-&-white compositions that makes the film look like a bastard child of Kurosawa’s “High and Low” and Welles’s “Touch of Evil.” The best of the extras include an essay by — who else? — critic/wordsmith/Asian film maven Chuck Stephens.

“Able Edwards” (Heretic) will be available on DVD May 29th; “Black Test Car” (Fantoma) is now available on DVD.

Watch More

Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

Posted by on
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…

Watch More

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
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.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

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

Posted by on

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

Watch More