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“Serbian Film”: Giving new meaning to the term “torture porn.”

“Serbian Film”: Giving new meaning to the term “torture porn.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

When introducing the world premiere of “Serbian Film,” the directorial debut of Srdjan Spasojevic, the filmmakers suggested that the screening might result in Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, who had programmed it, getting arrested. That’s pretty big talk in a theater that’s become the country’s primary conduit for the most weird, wild, challenging or just plain fucked-up international cinema. But around the time that Milos (Srdjan Todorovic), a retired porn star who’s lured in for one last (inevitably ill-advised) gig, is shown a tape in which a man attends a nude pregnant woman through labor, and then unzips and rapes the still-bloody infant, I thought that maybe they weren’t kidding.

That “Serbian Film” is the new frontrunner in the extreme cinema rat race, there’s no question. Charlotte Gainsbourg whipping out the scissors or Monica Bellucci in the underpass don’t quite compare to someone getting fucked to death via their eye socket. And they also shouldn’t be compared — while “Serbian Film” absolutely has aspirations beyond exploitation, they feel applied after the fact. Most of the graphic sequences, which are grouped near the end, don’t come across as specific to the commentary on the Serbian national mindset toward which the film makes occasional gestures. They’re more like live-action recreations of guro’s greatest hits (if you’re unfamiliar with term, may I direct you to this NSFW link at the always-tactful Encyclopedia Dramatica).

03152010_serbianfilm2.jpgSo Milos has been whittling away the nest egg he’d saved up over his porn star years, before he left the business to get married and raise a son. He’s approached by a mysterious millionaire named Vukmir who pitches him on a plan to make pornographic high art, but refuses to give him a script ahead of time. The shoot starts getting weird, and Milos tries to quit, but instead wakes up groggy and covered in blood four days later, heading off on an extremely disturbing variation on “Dude, Where’s My Car?” set to throbbing techno and flashes of grotesque imagery as how he spent that missing time starts coming back to him. The film’s a slow build, and that build-up can be clunky (the constant talk of Milos’ artistry as a porn leading man seems awfully silly, especially given the glimpses we’re shown of his past work), though technically the production is well put together, making full (if familiar) use of the warren of dark hallways, industrial rooms and spotlit, shadow-shrouded spaces in which the Vukmir’s film is being shot.

Movies can use transgressive topics and imagery toward great artistic resonance — “Dogtooth,” also here at SXSW, manages that nicely. They can also just use them for pure shock/novelty/boundary-pushing, which is where I’d group “Serbian Film.” That it comes from a country that’s spent decades deep in violent conflict, civil unrest, corruption and ethnic tensions makes it tempting to read more into the film than I think it actually offers — ultimately, it has as much to say about its country of origin as “Hostel” does about America, which is a little, but nothing on the scale its title suggests.

As is, it’s impossible to imagine “Serbian Film” getting a theatrical release, though I’m sure it’ll be a major cult item on DVD someday.

“Serbian Film” currently has no U.S. distribution.

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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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