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Going the Distance

Going the Distance (photo)

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The only authoritative voice of Israeli filmmaking prior to the recent influx of micro-masterpieces — let’s see if it constitutes a “wave” — Amos Gitai has had a rocky time of it. He’s dared to iron-maiden his audience with hyper-long one-shot sequences and elaborate camera roamings, he’s seduced Natalie Portman into doing an Israeli film right after “Closer” and the second “Star Wars” prequel, he’s made “Kippur” (2000), an indisputable home run that explored the soldier’s experience of the Yom Kippur War. On the other hand, and at the same time, many of his films have been broad, goonish and didactic, and for the most part, his approach toward the Palestinian question has been to not have one. His new film, “One Day You’ll Understand,” is an all-French probing of the Euro-legacy of the Holocaust, so Gitai has again avoided his own nation’s actions in a post-Holocaust world. But it is at the same time his best movie — it’s as if hanging with all of these French heavyweights (stars Jeanne Moreau, Hippolyte Girardot, Emmanuelle Devos, cinematographer Caroline Champetier) slowed him down and sobered him up. The movie is something of a haunting itself, deliberately as elusive and elliptical as the past, slipping away as it is with the last survivors of the ’40s.

The first shot is symptomatic: we track along with a raincoated businessman (Girardot) across a small urban square, a wall passes between us, then another, and this one is covered in carved names, too many to read, and then we meet him again in what is the new Holocaust Memorial in Paris, commemorating the Jews deported to the Nazi camps with the French government’s collusion. This sense of lingering guilt and rot pervades the film, and Gitai keeps his camera moving, constantly following characters but being separated from them by walls and partitions of all kinds. Girardot’s visit to the Parisian wall to touch a name is, we figure out much later, a flash-forward; next, we see it is 1987, the Klaus Barbie trial is enveloping the news in France, and Girardot’s brooding lawyer is trying to decipher a mystery: what exactly had happened to his maternal grandparents, Russian émigrés who disappeared into the camps, while all his life his mother has said nothing about it, and had in fact raised him and his sister (Dominique Blanc) Catholic.

07142009_OneDayYou'llUnderstand2.jpgThe mystery eventually gives way to consideration of the last days of Moreau’s elderly, evasive, cosmopolitan mother, and in the meantime, Gitai fashions a series of breathtaking one-shot set-pieces: a tour of a village hotel that harbored the lost grandparents, floor to floor, room to room, given by a local man who remembers the war; a wake gathering in which Girardot’s benumbed son paces and rehearses his eulogy with considerable ambivalence; a late patrol around an office in which Girardot distractedly explores with two Holocaust-compensation lawyers how much his dead family was worth materially; and so on.

The mise-en-scène is never ostentatious or unnecessary; the movement and framing provides a kind of ongoing color-commentary to the action. Gitai’s film (the French title of which translates simply to “Afterwards”) treats time like a dream — years pass in a cut, 1987 gives way to 1995 to 2005 — and though the characters’ lives are not divulged to us in detail, the acting is mesmerizing. Nobody explodes, which makes the pressurized control of Girardot and Blanc all the more affecting. Moreau, of course, is in an iconic class by herself, not acting so much as simply defining her place in the last half-century of international culture. Gitai’s expressive, restless camera all but steals the show, though, even in the final shot, a declarative j’accuse aimed at the heart of France that is undoubtedly justified but also suggests that Gitai has some homeward-looking work to do about the reality of his native land.

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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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