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Waking Up in Strange Places

Waking Up in Strange Places (photo)

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Global phenom though it’s been, the Korean New Wave has been as badly hit by the 2008 economic crisis as any national industry, a situation that opened the door in the last two years for a variety of dirt-cheap indies, most notoriously Yang Ik-joon’s “Breathless,” which took South Korea by storm. The far less flamboyant example is Noh Young-Seok’s “Daytime Drinking,” a peripatetic generation-Z comedy that’s as eventless, but as seductive and wistful, as a real afternoon boozing spree.

In fact, it’s a difficult movie to stay sober for. The cultural context, provided neatly on the Canadian DVD notes by Asian film obsessive Grady Hendrix, is simply that Koreans drink a lot, and they drink a lot of soju (a cheap, low-amp, sweetened vodka potion, consumed at the rate of almost seven gallons per adult per year), and so movies like Noh’s (and Hong Sang-soo’s, among others) express a reality all Koreans can relate to — the lost comedy of waking up in strange places, of losing time, or forgetting why you are where you are, and just letting life carry you forward.

02092010_DaytimeDrinking2.jpgYou could call it Korean mumblecore, if mumblecore films were ever funny, and if Noh seemed overly interested in relationships. Made for spare change, “Daytime Drinking” hardly deviates from its title — it begins with a soju-soaked outing of four buddies; the rather lachrymose Hyuk-jin (Song Sam-dong) is suffering after a break-up, and his trio of pals agree to help him forget by meeting in a snowy seashore vacation town the next day to party. Hyuk-jin buses in, but no one else does.

Wandering around, Hyuk-jin heads to the guest house (owned by a friend of a friend, he was assured), but the owner is nasty. He gets a room anyway, drinks, dawdles. He doesn’t have much of an agenda, but his hungover friend keeps telling him on the phone that he’ll come the next day, but he doesn’t, day after day, so Hyuk-jin loiters, drinks too much, falls in with other wanderers, crosses paths too many times with the wrong people, and ends up waking up in the snow by the highway, without his pants.

He wears several other characters’ clothes by the end, but “Daytime Drinking” is not a high-concept, raunchy comedy romp — rather, it’s as affectless and unassuming as its hero, and thus suggests early Jim Jarmusch even as it retains an unstructured looseness and a very Korean propensity for deadpan, peppered by drunken chaos. Beautifully composed and never stretching for an easy visual gag, Noh’s film tries not to be taken seriously, but you can hardly help but notice that almost no one in the film is trustworthy or kind. Because they’re all drunk to one degree or another, every moment of camaraderie stands a good chance of morphing into belligerence or at least negligence at the drop of a hat. Hyuk-jin is not only lost in the semi-wilderness, and in his own young life, but in Korea at large, plagued by passive-aggressive hostility, boozy bitterness and selfish agendas.

Still, it’d be a mistake to read “Daytime Drinking” as a critique — or as anything but a laid-back and seriously endearing experience. By his own admission, Noh is a modest first-timer finding his way, and the film ambles along organically, as if it kinda happens on its own, like a mushroom patch or blast of sunlight on a cloudy day. The complete absence of pretension or “connectedness” or character arcs feels like someone poured me a drink.

02092010_KillerThatStalkedNew-York.jpgAnother recreational high: the ongoing and perhaps deathless DVDization of authentic film noir, hitting the bricks now with the four-disc, eight-film Columbia set “Bad Girls of Film Noir.” It’s just a marketing label — the films are not entirely devoted to classic femme fatales, but rather cover the gamut of woman-centered crime-genre tragedy, all in vintage B-movie style and with dizzying degrees of invention, eloquence and invention.

You get a Gloria Grahame and a Charlton Heston in the mix, but mostly you get Cleo Moore and Lizabeth Scott and William Gargan and Ida Lupino — forgotten movies with semi-forgotten stars wandering the gray halls and low-rent shops and flophouse beats of the postwar fringe. You also get the auteurs that even noiristes and scrounging auteurists neglect: Hugo Haas and Lewis Seiler and Henry Levin and Irving Rapper, Industry dray horses that have contributed to America’s concept of itself in ways that are as overlooked today as yesteryear’s housing developments.

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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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