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DID YOU READ

To Be Human

To Be Human (photo)

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Unarguably one of the world’s most demanding “ascetist” auteurs, and certainly North America’s most dedicated “art film” provocateur, Carlos Reygadas makes movies that slow your heart rate and raise your anxiety levels at the same time. His observational gaze isn’t just patient rigor, but a brand of glacial, creepy stillness, chilled further by occasional moments of graphic sex, slow exploratory camera moves that seem to perform the impossible, and a colossal sense of unspoken crisis. “Japón” (2002), “Battle in Heaven” (2005) and “Silent Light” (2007) are, most of all, living mysteries, existing scene by scene several left steps away from their own “real” stories, filled with spooky signs of cosmic ruin, and focused on guilt so epic it threatens to crack the sky.

Reygadas hasn’t found much of an audience in the U.S. yet, and “Silent Light” didn’t help win him one — after the dismaying scald of his previous movie, the filmmaker decided to essentially remake Carl Dreyer’s “Ordet,” after a fashion, trumping Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves” by several short hairs, and staying in Mexico via the country’s extant Mennonite communities in the north, which makes “Silent Light” the first film ever made in Plautdietsch, or Dutch-inflected Low Prussian.

Reygadas’ strategy remains the same: employ non-pro locals (or in this case, Mennonites from Canada and Germany as well as Mexico) more or less playing themselves, gaze upon the landscape as if it were Mars, and use the waiting time in long shots like a cudgel. The set-up is simple for us, but for Mennonites (or so the film implies), it could portend the end of the world: a farmer and father of six is tortured by a long-standing adulterous affair with an otherwise virtuous neighbor, who’s also plagued with shame. The farmer’s wife knows about it, and is equally riven with anxiety (though the “actors” can only sporadically acknowledge their feelings; they look at each other as if their heads are about to explode), and the sense pervades that it is not just a trivial human triangle of misery, but either the act of God or of Satan or, the worst-case scenario, of individual devout man in a Godless world.

As unlikely as it may seem, Reygadas’ story becomes gripping, and the moral questions at hand are more complex than they seem — indications of blessedness and divinity are everywhere, but the structures of hyper-Protestantism can be seen as both suffocating and bucolic. (The hero’s six children are gorgeous, serene and well-behaved, even if they have to bathe in a stream with their clothes on.) But in the end, it’s hardly a spiritual film – faith is a hindrance, and, it seems, simple human empathy is the stronger force.

Some critics have taken Reygadas for an opportunistic stunt-worker, co-opting the in-vogue festival film syntax of enigmatic realism, while sensationally getting his non-pro casts to do things they’re not supposed to do – in “Silent Light,” he undresses Mennonites and puts them in all manner of compromising extramarital positions. Or so you’d think, if you expect the sect’s members to behave as if it were the 18th century, which is only a cliché.

09082009_SilentLight.jpgIn any case, we can only regard Reygadas coercive if we were present during the shoot, and the only difference I see between calling him an artist and calling him an adept charlatan is in your own cynicism. The same goes for comedies and horror films, Godard and Antonioni: you either give yourself over to it and its experiential power as cinema, or you don’t.

But it’s “Silent Light”‘s visual personality that’s as fascinating as an Arctic ice crystal, gorgeous and unforgiving and intimidating, and the filmmaker routinely hunts down disarming moments – the youngest daughter swimming languidly up to the camera and staring right into it, the bewildering sequence in which the hero consults with his real aging father on a farm suddenly blanketed in snow (!), the funeral wake seen through a window so the figures are outlined Magritte reflections of a sunlit cornfield, the fearsome rainstorm that falls upon the characters driving down the highway as if it were a curse. Throughout, the sky glowers with threats on the horizon while the foreground is electrified by sun. The film opens and closes with beginning-to-end dolly portraits of sunrise and sunset, somehow unmanipulated by time lapse. When the miracle arrives, you can actually see the blood return to the cheeks.

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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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