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Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth Undertaking

Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth Undertaking (photo)

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Sweden’s Lukas Moodysson burst onto the international film scene with 1998’s “Fucking Åmål” (or, as it was cowardly renamed in English-speaking countries, “Show Me Love”), a carefree, naturalistic drama about a reluctant romance between two small-town teenage girls. Just as ebullient is his 2000 period satire and popular favorite “Together,” which focuses on the dysfunctional relationships and values of ’70s left-wingers living in a commune, after which Moodysson began pursuing darker, moodier fare. 2002’s critical darling “Lilya 4-ever” couldn’t get much bleaker, tracing a Russian girl’s journey from drop-out to prostitute to kidnapped sex slave. Following that were two avant-garde experiments: 2004’s shockingly explicit take on amateur porn, “A Hole in My Heart,” and his 2006 stream-of-consciousness curiosity, “Container.”

Though American actress Jena Malone provided narration to that last film, Moodysson’s new drama is also his first English-language production, mostly. “Mammoth” splits between three related storylines in New York, the Philippines and Thailand. Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams star as a well-to-do, workaholic couple whose daughter is mostly cared for by their Filipino nanny (Marife Necesito), who also works hard to support her young boys back home. Bernal’s character, a savvy web guru, has boarded a flight to Thailand, where he strikes up an uneasy friendship with a local prostitute, while Williams’ surgeon wife becomes attached to a dying boy who isn’t her own. I spoke with Moodysson about whether he’d continue to work in English for the commercial benefits, if he sees similarities between “Mammoth” and “Babel,” and how he feels about the film’s unprofessional reception at the Berlin Film Festival.

You’ve said the film is about families and how we behave towards children, our own and other people’s. To me, though, it’s more about globalization and the dynamics between the haves and haves-not. Is that a fair interpretation?

Yes. It’s boring to make films about only one thing, so there are a lot of different layers. One is definitely about class struggle. I started with someone cleaning an apartment, and I was interested in the whole idea of who cleans our homes today in the Western world. They are mostly women, and very often they are from the poor parts of the world. I was interested in how it feels just to be someone who cleans someone else’s home and takes care of someone else’s children, the sacrifices she has to make, rather than just the political aspects of it.

But you’ve been more attracted to the political than the personal in your recent films, it seems. Do you prefer to keep your personal interests and your filmmaking goals separate?

I don’t, no. I try to combine as many as possible. The difficulty sometimes is that you have to separate things when it comes to storytelling, otherwise, it’s just chaos. And sometimes I want to portray chaos, but most of the time, I want to tell some kind of story. I try to weave a [tapestry]. If I wanted to make [“Mammoth”] a really political film, it would’ve been much angrier. I see it as a very sad film, quite warm, more of a meditation than an accusation.

You once said, “I’m not particularly interested in probing the depths of my soul; I’m more into probing the world around me.” Are those ideas mutually exclusive?

I’m not sure if I agree with myself there. [laughs] I think it was something I said in retrospect when talking about how I changed from being a poet to becoming a film director. I’m not sure if it’s true anymore because I feel that you have to dig really deep inside yourself and combine that. Otherwise, you’re talking to a journalist, and the journalist… I don’t have a problem with journalists. I couldn’t be a journalist, but as an artist, I have to let the world pass through me before I can turn it into something. I can’t only take a picture of the world and be happy with that. I have to filter it through me. My soul and the world, they combine.

11202009_moodysson1.jpgComparisons have been drawn between this film and “Babel,” another globe-hopping, multi-thread narrative co-starring Gael García Bernal. Is there any validity to that reference point?

Well, I haven’t seen “Babel.” I hadn’t seen it before [writing the story], and then someone read the script and said that there were some links. So I decided not to see the film because I try not to be inspired by films. I think Gael wouldn’t have liked to be in “Mammoth” if he had seen too many comparisons.

Do other art forms inspire your filmmaking?

Yeah. I read, listen to music and look at art much more than I see films. I don’t know if it’s a problem to make films and, at the same time, be able to appreciate films. I get a bit distracted by them all, and the fact that this is what I’m doing, it’s quite difficult for me. I used to be a [film buff]. I had a sort of bulimic period when I went to film school when I tried to see absolutely everything that was ever made. I didn’t succeed, but nowadays, I see very little.

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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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