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NYAFF 2007: “Memories of Matsuko.”

NYAFF 2007: “Memories of Matsuko.” (photo)

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A middle-aged woman is murdered by the river. There’s no one to mourn her — she lived alone in squalor, barely removed from homelessness. Her neighbors knew only that she smelled bad and sometimes screamed to herself at night. Her 20-year-old nephew Sho (Eita), who had no idea she even existed, is enlisted by his father to clear out her apartment, where, sorting through the remnants of her life, he learns that the woman, Matsuko (Miki Nakatani), bounced from terrible relationship to terrible relationship, was disowned by their family, worked as a prostitute and served time for murder.

All in all a pretty wretched life, but what makes the self-proclaimed “fairy tale tragedy” “Memories of Matsuko” so good, even a little great, is that Matsuko refused to accept so, and accordingly, the film is both a musical and a brilliant whirl of stylized, candy-colored visuals, “The Life of Oharu” by way of a neon “Amelie.”

Like Mizoguchi‘s miserable heroine, Matsuko was once ensconced in a respectable life. In flashbacks, we see her first in her early 20s, working as a middle-school teacher and being wooed by a handsome coworker. She’s thrilled by the promise of romance, but the love she really yearns for is paternal — her solemn father has always favored her sweet, invalid sister and scarcely given Matsuko any attention.

07142007_memoriesofmatsuko3.jpgWhen she’s forced to quit her job after a misunderstanding when one of her students steals some money on a field trip, her troubles at home come to a head, and in shame and rage she leaves, forever, as it turns out.

From there, she falls into a relationship with an abusive, alcoholic writer, and then on to one with his married rival, whose attacks turn out to be emotional. Then on to a soapland, and, more degradingly, out of the soapland, no longer in fashion and unwanted, and into the arms of a pimp, and onwards toward an ending we already know.

This is, under its giddy appearance, unrelentingly grim melodrama — every fresh start arrives hand in hand with dread at what will come next. Matsuko’s no martyr; she has no sense of self-worth, she makes awful decisions, is more than a bit pathetic, and embraces her role as a human punching bag, but she maintains an unwavering faith in the belief that happiness can and must lie only in other people, and when each tragedy has her declaring her life is surely at an end, each new man has her singing again.

She’s is a holy fool — she can’t not love completely and selflessly without judgment or discrimination. Her devotion is so total that it’s frightening, even ultimately repellent to the men she’s involved with, and it leads her to believe that no one will ever love her back, because no one is willing to love with her reckless total commitment.

07142007_memoriesofmatsuko2.jpgDirector Tetsuya Nakashima last chronicled suburban subculture malaise in the enjoyable trifle “Kamikaze Girls,” and here that fanciful visual style kaleidoscopes out to encompass an entire world of magic in the mundane and the woeful. The film’s most indelible image is one of an amusement park on the roof of a city department store, a setting of impossible wonder when first glimpsed in a childhood memory, and later the more prosaic, bittersweet backdrop to a grown-up confrontation framed by a Greek chorus of stage performers. Almost as memorable is the dreamlike, starlit grassy field in which Matsuko meets her end, and in which the film finds in its foreordained tragedy an unexpected and well-earned moment of grace.

“Memories of Matsuko” will play at the Japan Society July 7 at 8:45pm and July 8 at 1:00pm. It has no US distribution.

+ “Memories of Matsuko” (SubwayCinema.com)
+ “Memories of Matsuko” (IMDb)

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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.

via GIPHY

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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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