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Michael Haneke’s abiding sadness.

Michael Haneke’s abiding sadness. (photo)

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Michael Haneke’s fondness for scolding didacticism just don’t work for some people, myself among them. But “The White Ribbon” is a whole other thing, a movie where anything dreadful that can happen will, just to prove that people are so terrible you can’t even count on them not to turn into Nazis, or something like that. Set in a small German town in the year leading up to WWI, the movie doesn’t let up from the first shot, in which a doctor breaks his arm when his horse trips over a maliciously strung wire. More evil pranks follow, perhaps enacted by a creepy group of blond kids, like an arthouse “Village of the Damned.”

The press corps assembled at Lincoln Center responded in surreal kind. Things started easily enough, with Haneke noting that he doesn’t believe in rehearsing actors: “It’s the first take that’s the best. Either the first take or the 25th.” He explained a subtitle peculiarity: the handwritten-font scrawled beneath the title (which translates as “A German Children’s Tale”) isn’t translated for English-speaking audiences because each country should see it as about themselves.

And then it got weird: Someone asked if Haneke was influenced by Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” which seemed a little left-field. No, he said, “I didn’t have Arthur Miller’s play in mind.” Someone went even farther afield and compared the film’s language to that of turn-of-the-century novelist Arthur Schnitzler (whose work inspired “Eyes Wide Shut”). No dice there either. Someone followed that up by complaining about how inadequate the subtitles were; Haneke noted his English wasn’t good enough to check.

At this point, clearly exasperated moderator Richard Peña flat-out stopped taking questions for a while and asked two of his own — about the use of black-and-white (intended both as a way to respect our perception of the era as taking place in black-and-white photos, and as a way of creating distance between the audience and film) and compositional strategies. Haneke apologized for a 35mm print screening instead of a digital copy, which would’ve been much sharper. Black-and-white prints are apparently near impossible to do properly now: Hanake’s tried to make a perfect print in three studios in Austria, Germany and France, and he’s still not happy with the results.

Then Pena opened the floor back up. Mistake. A woman asked a rambling two-part question. Part one: something about his “approach to the frame.” Part two, 40 seconds later: “I just want to ask if you have some abiding sadness in you.” Haneke’s answer: “I don’t think I’m a depressive, but you’d probably best ask my wife, who’s sitting at the back of the theater.” With that, the most unintentionally hilarious press conference of the festival was over,” and “abiding sadness” became my new favorite phrase.

[Photo: “The White Ribbon,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2009]

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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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