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Cannes 08: “Tokyo!”

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05162008_tokyo.jpg“Tokyo!” is made up of three unrelated shorts directed by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho, all set, yes, in Tokyo.

Stop, you’re shrieking, how much hipness can one little omnibus film contain?

It turns out, as is often the case with these things, a swoopingly uneven amount. I liked the Gondry portion, found Carax’s a promising joke stretched too thin (though it attracted the most applause at the screening) and Bong’s pretty damn disappointing. None of these filmmakers is actually from the city in which the film is set, and their methods of approach to encapsulating it in a short vary. Gondry’s “Interior Design” kicks off as a plausible look at a young couple struggling with their move to the city that rapidly plunges into Gondrisms — aspiring auteur Akira (Ryo Kase) screens his low-budget sci-fi film in a porn theater and enthusiastically pumps a smoke machine until the audience spills out, coughing; Hiroko (Ayako Fujitani), not knowing what she wants from life, discovers a surreal ability to transform herself into something she considers truly useful. Gondry’s shown something of a fetish for tiny, cramped living spaces, and so he takes to Tokyo with ease, and the length limitation means “Interior Design” doesn’t exhaust its charm by spilling all over the place in the manner of the features he’s written.

Carax’s film, “Merde,” casts the director’s beloved Denis Lavant as a cock-eyed, red-bearded troll who emerges from the sewers to terrorize the Tokyo population by eating their flowers and cash, stealing their cigarettes and crutches and licking their armpits, all of which he does during an uproarious single-take stroll down the street — the world’s monster-magnet metropolis attacked by a combed-over, corporeal id. After that opening segment, there’s nowhere left to go but down — a trial, a fellow troll who’s a French lawyer, a scant appearance from Julie Dreyfus, and a line of Merde action figures.

Bong, whose closing segment “Shaking Tokyo” was probably the most anticipated, at least by anyone who’s seen “The Host,” zooms in on the life of a hikikomori, one suffering from the mediaadored Japanese disorder in which people retreat to their rooms or homes for what can be years. His nameless recluse (Teruyuki Kagawa) has been bunkered down in his apartment for over a decade, until a perfectly timed earthquake drops a pizza delivery girl (Yu Aoi) in her tracks in his entryway, and he finally finds something worth going outside for. But the hikikomori phenomenon is just too ripe a metaphor — from the beginning, the film lacks traction, with its central character reflecting on his condition in a manner almost anthropological until events drift into magical realism. From a director who delicately explored his own country’s insecurities and ills by way of a river-born mutant, “Shaking Tokyo” rings sadly false.

[Denis Lavant in “Tokyo!,” Comme des Cinémas, 2008]

+ “Tokyo!” (

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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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