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Possessed by Unreason

Possessed by Unreason (photo)

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By far the biggest brat to sneak his way through Eastern Bloc culture during the New Wave era, Yugoslav bomb-thrower Dušan Makavejev wasn’t someone who took on his vocation with a somber air; I don’t know for sure how much fun he had making movies, but he seems to have been locked into a constant euphoria of half-soused, giggling movie love. He comprised a kind of one-man Yugoslav film movement at a time when the tense Communist nation barely had a global cultural identity of its own, and his filmography reads like a litany of post-Godardian social felonies, scattered with torched taboos and sly indictments of Soviet influence.

He’s most famous for “W.R. – Mysteries of the Organism” (1971), which sent him into exile, and “Sweet Movie” (1974), which was nothing if not a petulant apostate’s hocked loogie of revenge. But his earlier features, though just as disrespectful and fragmented with documentary asides, are gentler affairs and, I think, better movies. There’s no vomiting or papier-mâché penises, at least. Packaged together by Criterion in a set titled “Dušan Makavejev: Free Radical” for their Eclipse series and all blissfully brief, Makavejev’s first three features are dizzy with free love and romantic gravity, reflected in his spontaneous potpourri style of shooting and editing. Still, the absurd specter of totalitarianism, the love-me face of Lenin or Stalin, is always nearby, waiting for a cutaway joke. No filmmaker ever had so much high sport with the prevarications of Iron Curtain communism while the dictators were still striding the ramparts.

The first, “Man Is Not a Bird” (1965), established the template: working-class romance (a young hairdresser and a middle-aged engineer in town on assignment) begins, is tickled out for its suggestive relationship to modern life as Makavejev sees it (a hypnotist’s presentation is a detour, as are digressions into mock workers-unite agitprop), and then it ends. New Wave movies like this retain an awful lot of amperage from their newfound giddiness over sexual freedom, and it helps that Makavejev has a zesty eye for actresses — here, the saucy Milena Dravić holds the whole movie in her hands, on her way to being the closest thing Yugoslavia ever had to an Anna Karina. “Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator” (1967), arguably Makavejev’s most satisfying film, follows suit, this time pairing a Hungarian operator (the lusciously grinning Eva Ras) with a Muslim Turk rat-extermination manager, and ramping up the metafiction (thus, the history of rat infestations gets a detour, and clinical sex experts are given lecture time). It’s more of an active fugue than Godard managed in the ’60s, mixing educational films, news footage, bits of Vertov’s “Enthusiasm,” etc., and blithely collages up an irreverent portrait of what is, finally, a mundane and modern tragedy.

10122009_InnocenceUnprotected.jpg“Innocence Unprotected” (1968) is at once Makavejev’s most self-apparent movie, and his most complicated — it’s essentially a nonfiction visitation with a landmark Yugoslavic film of the same name, released in 1942 while the nation was occupied by the Germans, and the country’s first talkie. Still, you’d be hard pressed to call Makavejev’s “remake” a documentary — there are too many layers of mystery and duplicity being folded in on each other. Scrambled with the bones of this creaking and heretofore unseen landmark is ironically placed news footage from WWII, implicitly noting the stiff melodrama’s relationship with the problems of occupation and collaborationism, and new footage of the film’s surviving cast and crew performing vaudeville for us, having picnics on a co-star’s tombstone, and so on.

The history of both films’ star, the diminutive-yet-notorious acrobat/stuntman Dragoljub Aleksic, is caught up in the film’s reverb: the director and writer of the old film as well, Aleksic was considered pro-Nazi after the war, and lived under a cloud for decades. (Old stunt footage of the performer hanging from high wires is employed in both films, as is Aleksic’s human cannonball routine, which got at least one person killed and may be another reason for his infamy at home.) Makavejev has the guy here happily declaring his own innocence and insisting that this ludicrous, howlingly acted film was made secretly under Nazi noses, and considering how the shadow of collaboration poisoned the nation and incited the tribal slaughter of the early ’90s, the second “Innocence Unprotected” echoes with peculiar and chilling questions.

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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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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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