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DID YOU READ

“12:08 East of Bucharest,” “The Kenneth Anger Collection Vol. 2”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “12:08 East of Bucharest,” Tartan, 2007]

The emergence of “new waves” may well be a matter of Newton’s Third Law — fatuous, homogenized blockbuster “action” produces an oppositive reaction, from the otherwise optionless cultural industries of nations the New Globalism forgot, be they Iran or Malaysia or Mexico or Romania. The reaction is not just the filmmakers’; discriminating audiences around the globe gobble up the proto-new-wave syntax of hyperrealism, open-ended narratives and daring art-film ethos, as they have recently with the Romanians, represented for the most part by Cristi Puiu’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (which won Best Film from the nation’s most expansive critics’ poll, on IndieWire.com), Cristian Mungiu’s upcoming “Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days” and Corneliu Porumboiu’s “12:08 East of Bucharest.” (All three landed trophies at Cannes.) Of course, 95 out of a hundred Americans couldn’t find Romania on an unmarked map if their mothers’ lives depended upon it, and the films remain the quizzical film-year prizes for the anointed minority, for whom cinema is a challenge and a blessing and a mystery, not a mouth-breathing weekend-night distraction.

So, suddenly, a poor ex-totalitarian Balkan nation that had little visible film culture at all for decades (outside of Lucien Pintille, something of the new generation’s granddaddy) is now the hotbed of what the world’s film festivals perceive as new-millennium cool, fresh, expressive and pertinent. “12:08 East of Bucharest” is a key film in the movement, because it explicitly addresses the 1989 revolution that ended the Ceauşescu regime, a pivotal moment in the country’s sense of itself — during which the filmmakers of Porumboiu’s herd were still teenagers and film students. (Indeed, the best primer for “12:08” and all of modern Romanian film is Harun Farocki’s found-footage doc “Videograms of a Revolution,” available from Facets, which assembles all of the broadcast material from the week of the revolution, which was, thanks to the seizure of the nationalized TV network, televised from beginning to end.) Porumboiu’s movie, like its contemporaries, possesses a Slavic-style death-rattle humor, and is set in a muddy, worn-down post-Communist Bloc village of newly capitalist predators and broken losers. On the 15th anniversary of the overthrow, we meet three of the trashy little town’s men: a smug, upwardly mobile local-station anchorman (Ion Sapdaru), a cynical history teacher completely wrecked from epic alcoholism (Teodor Corban) and an eccentric codger focused on playing Santa Claus for the local kids (Mircea Andreescu). The TV host’s show that afternoon will address the anniversary, and the resonant question, did the revolution happen in the town, or not? The comedy slowly leaks out of the inability to rope in anyone but the drunk and the old man as guests; once it begins, with the three men seated before the camera as if on a tribunal, half of Porumboiu’s film is consumed with the program and its collapse, as neighbors call in and rabidly dispute the teacher’s assertion of having participated in the historical moment, by (as he claims) heroically rallying in the town’s square at the moment (12:08, December 22) that Ceauşescu surrendered power.

Porumboiu’s actual title translates to “Was There or Was There Not?”; beneath the film’s head-on simplicity and deadpan wit lies an effortless docket of expressed ideas about memory, national pride, community politics and the new Romania, enduring as so many quasi-Third World states do on the outskirts of legality, poverty and social order. But unlike “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu,” also shopped by Tartan in this country as a comedy, “12:08 East of Bucharest” is authentically funny, in a boozy-Renoirian kind of way — the laughs drip organically from the characters. Porumboiu’s camera allows us to observe them in real time (as liberating a strategy as it is eventually brutally claustrophobic), and there’s no need for jokes.

A far more hermetic experience, Kenneth Anger’s rarefied avant-garde film output exists nowhere except inside his stormy skull — which by the looks of it is a lava pit of Satanist iconography, homoerotic kitsch, Tinseltown detritus and mythomania. Fantoma’s new Vol. II of Anger’s collected films, following up the juvenilia and precious early films of Vol. I, includes the opuses that made him famous: “Scorpio Rising” (1964), the landmark free-form portrait of rough-trade, James Dean-loving, leather-wearing, cycle-driving gay culture; “Invocation of My Demon Brother” (1969), the assaultive black mass montage featuring an unbearable synthesizer score written and performed by Mick Jagger; and “Lucifer Rising” (1972/1981), Anger’s vivid, semi-Egyptian “magick” epic (which had to be reshot from scratch after Manson cohort Bobby Beausoleil buried the first negative in Death Valley; as penance, apparently, Beausoleil recorded a score for the film from his prison cell). For several generations of American youth, this is what the real counter-culture looked like, and Anger’s crazed, fringy, non-linear syntax gave birth to thousands of idiosyncrat underground imitators, music video collages, nightmarish dream sequences, and even the new breed of post-“Se7en” credit-roll montages. The Fantoma package is practically genuflective, stocked with extras, including Anger’s full-on commentary, a rarely-seen 2002 short by Anger about his “magus” Aleister Crowley, restoration demonstrations and an artfully illustrated 48-page booklet featuring new essays by Martin Scorsese, Gus Van Sant, Guy Maddin and Beausoleil himself, all of 60 and still locked up.

“12:08 East of Bucharest” (Tartan) will be released on October 9th; “The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. II” (Fantoma) is now available on DVD.

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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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