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“Saved from the Flames,” “The Kingdom — Series Two”

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By Michael Atkinson

IFC News

[Photo: Chuck Jones’ “Hell-Bent For Election,” from “Saved from the Flames,” Flicker Alley, 2008]

There are movie lovers, and then there are cinephiles — the latter tribe can be discerned from the population by an ardor for cinema that runs beyond the requirements of mere entertainment. The average moviehead needs to be enthralled in a conventional, narrative way while cinephiles find the celluloid moving image itself, and its historical legacy, epiphany enough. If you know the names Mary Ellen Bute or Slavko Vorkapich, then you’re one of the anointed obsessives, and something such as the new three-disc set from Flicker Alley, “Saved from the Flames,” could be your idea of a gold mine. A scattershot collection of “orphans” — scatterings of film that, by definition, profit nobody, and so are therefore only salvaged and restored by cinephilic charities and archives — the set is distinguished from the magnificent “Treasures” series of DVDs put out by the National Film Preservation Foundation in that most of the films have not been “restored” via a laboratory, but are simply digitally spiffed-up prints of films residing in two collections: U.S. distributor Blackhawk Films (which used to be a public domain VHS factory) and France’s Lobster Films.

In the viewing, it hardly matters. Here in a case is the melancholy luster of cinema — the entering into a past at once captured as if in amber, and simultaneously forever lost to time. The substantial helping of French silents offers one surprise after another — the shocking chutzpah of Segundo de Chomón’s “An Excursion to the Moon” (1908), which steals every one of its images, sets and compositions from the Méliès film made six years earlier; the Bizarro World alternate versions of key Lumière films, including a reworking of “Card Party” that features working class chums sipping wine instead of stuffed shirts swilling beer; footage of serpentine dancer Mme. Ondine performing inside a cage full of angry lions from 1900; sound films from 1900 and 1907, a filmed 1939 performance by Django Reinhardt, and so on.

The American-made films also have plenty of historical juice — we get the Fox Movietone newsreel of Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 take-off; Ub Iwerks’ immortal “Balloonland” (1935); the infamous MGM-produced fake newsreel story “California Election News #2,” anonymously aimed at scotching Upton Sinclair’s 1934 bid for the governorship; a sampling of WWII-propaganda “soundies”; D.W. Griffith’s outlandish 1912 anti-cocaine melodrama “For His Son”; and a richly colored copy of Chuck Jones’ fiery, luridly surreal FDR campaign cartoon “Hell-Bent for Election,” which hit theaters in 1944 and makes contemporary campaigning seem mild-mannered, at least in terms of iconography.

But two preeminent eye-poppers are generally European. In 1938, stop-motion animator George Pal went to Holland to make a Philips Radio “broadcast” party film, which was intended to advertise the hardware, but instead packed more Spanish-flavored, rainbow-colored, cranked-puppet song & dance fun into five minutes than Disney did in a decade. Still, the climactic set piece of the program is a montage of censored silent film clips, kisses and hugs and amorous glances separated from their films à la “Cinema Paradiso” by an unknown projectionist in Brussels, the remnants of an old school habit of squeamish prudery that, just as in Tornatore’s film, is transformed by time into a bewitching suite of movie love.

For story, coming at you like a stampede of wildebeest, Lars von Trier’s “The Kingdom — Series Two” (1997) continues his 1994 saga with this nearly five-hour sequel (total of “Kingdom”-ness: almost 10 hours, for those sick days when already feeling sick is not quite enough), in which the titular Copenhagen hospital, still haunted by ghosts and omened by Downs syndrome dishwashers, is beset by (or still beset by) Satanic cults, suicide-sport interns, voodoo, homicidal medical experiments, badger obsessions, drugs, and, most nuttily, a giant mutant baby (the son of Udo Kier from the first “Kingdom”) played by… Udo Kier. One could only wish that American television shows would, or could, replicate Von Trier’s agenda here — to just keep ratcheting up the devilish invention and horrifically consequential story ideas — and do so with von Trier’s exhaustive measure of satirical intelligence. The squirrelly, dingy video look of the show may not seem as sui generis as it did in the ’90s, but here’s to being grateful for such a ridiculously generous helping of malevolent narrative nonsense, and to hoping someday for a “Kingdom — Series Three,” in which the cliffhangers can finally fall and the world can finally end.

“Saved from the Flames” (Flicker Alley) and “The Kingdom — Series Two” (Koch Lorber Films) will be available on DVD on January 22nd.

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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

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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.

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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

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