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DID YOU READ

“Green Chair,” “Cinema16”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: “Green Chair,” ImaginAsian Pictures, 2006]

I could go on all week about the Korean “new wave” movies that deserved theatrical release in this country but didn’t get them, just starting with Hong Sang-soo’s “The Power of Kangwon Province” and “Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors,” Hur Jin-ho’s “Christmas in August” and “One Fine Spring Day,” Lee Seong-kang’s “My Beautiful Girl Mari,” Lee Chang-dong’s “Peppermint Candy,” Kwak Jae-young’s “My Sassy Girl,” Yim Soon-rye’s “Waikiki Brothers,” the sublime portmanteau collection “If You Were Me,” the “Whispering Corridors” trilogy, and so on. Some of these have seen life as DVDs here, more weight thrown toward the argument that an official video release is the legit B-movie-slash-“specialty” distribution stream of our time, and therefore such films should be eligible for awards and critics’ lists. (Last year saw only maybe two theatrical films, maybe, that could be said to beat out the overdue 2006 DVD’ization of “The Power of Kangwon Province.”) Park Cheol-su’s “Green Chair” (2005) is another gemstone on the overladen scale: a tempestuous, achingly lovely, slightly batty and overwhelmingly horny romance that makes intimacy palpable in ways no American film has ever tried.

The setup is news-story familiar: a thirtysomething woman caught having a sexual relationship with an underage teen. But the upshot is much more complex — the two energetic, vrooming lovers fit together like ragged puzzle pieces; they have fun, and gamble everything that society holds dear to be together, to test each other, to yank the most out of whatever time they can steal in each other’s naked company. Provocatively, we meet them as she, Mun-hee (Suh Jung, the infamous succubus from Kim Ki-duk’s “The Isle”), gets released from her prison stint, greeted in the jail parking lot by a scandal-mongering news crew and by Seo-hyun (Shim Ji-ho), now a strapping 17+ and heroically going public with his feelings, ready to whisk her away and pick up where they left off. It takes but one wary moment for Mun-hee to embrace him in full view of the cameras — we’re expecting the steamroller of law and propriety to once again roll over them as the film progresses, but something else magical happens. The couple do in fact vanish from the public eye and plunge into their mutual addiction for each other, flopping in the apartment of an artist friend and generally having more spirited, moving, realistic sex than I think I’ve ever seen in a movie before. This isn’t movie sex, nor is Park’s film “about” mere sexual obsession — Mun-hee and Seo-hyun talk in the middle of coitus, disappoint each other, get sidetracked, pause to eat, try to thrill each other with risk and sometimes fail. But the passion and generosity that lures them is always there, and always tangible to us, and so it never, ever gets boring.

Their romance is a sincere but rocky road, ending up in a semi-surreal, semi-theatrical dinner party in which everyone they know, including their families, philosophically argues out the couple’s moral situation and potential future. “Green Chair” dazzles because it is almost entirely unpredictable — the two protagonists leap into your lap, defiantly behaving in inexplicable ways — and because the conviction of the actors is unwavering. Shim is utterly convincing and lovable as the self-assured soon-to-be-18-year-old, but Suh is the movie’s motor; her default position in her lover’s presence is astonished, doubtful, heartbreaking joy, and the character’s honesty and desire makes most other romance heroines look like brainless fakers.

If great Asian imports have to rely on DVD to be “released” in the U.S., the world’s notable short films remain almost unseeable. A new and ambitious corrective is Cinema16’s European Short Films set, a beautifully designed collection of 16 of the continent’s greatest and most famous festival-award winners, reaching back as far as Ridley Scott’s 1958 art-school film “Boy and Bicycle,” and including several 2005 films, including Bálint Kenyeres’ breathtaking “Before Dawn.” Set entirely in a Hungarian field in the pre-sunrise moments and shot entirely in one stupefying, 35mm 13-minute take, Kenyeres’ film is a portrait of social conflicts and secrets — human traffickers, refugees, police, who knows what else? — that conveys such a thoroughgoing three-dimensional sense of the world beyond the frame, beyond our capacity for seeing, that it feels like a feature.

Anders Thomas Jensen’s pre-Dogme “Election Night”(1998), Matthieu Kassovitz’s “Pierrot le Pou” (1990) and Christopher Nolan’s “Doodlebug” (1997) are historically interesting, if revelatory of those filmmakers’ weaknesses, and the inclusion of Jan Švankmajer’s “Jabberwocky” (1971) is a boon to Švankmajer completists, since it hasn’t yet been included on any of the Kino collections. But the real prizes include Juan Solanas’ “The Man without a Head” (2003), a lavishly fabulistic French daydream that suggests that Solanas, son of Fernando, inherited the mantle of Caro/Jeunet and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”; Roy Andersson’s “World of Glory” (1991), a Kafkaesque study that begins with one of the most chilling three-minute shots in the history of movies; Lynne Ramsay’s “Gasman” (1997), the dour, low-class Glasgow short that led to the phenomenon of “Ratcatcher”; Lars von Trier’s moody, impressionistic student film “Nocturne” (1980); and Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-winning “Six Shooter” (2004), an all-Irish worst-day scenario — starring Brendan Gleeson as a bruised widower — that is as richly and sardonically written as any short film I’ve ever seen.

“Green Chair” (ImaginAsian) and “Cinema16: European Short Films” (Warp Films) are now available on DVD.

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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…