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Outrage Comedy and Unholy Tragedy

Outrage Comedy and Unholy Tragedy (photo)

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Gyorgy Palfi’s “Taxidermia” is a certain kind of movie that doesn’t have a name — we could call it scato-absurdist-expressionist outrage comedy, with a lineage that stems back to the New Wave Czechs, Makavejev, Monty Python, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Roy Andersson and the Coens, not to mention Takashi Miike, if he were Hungarian, and Guy Maddin, if the Winnipeg master of private ceremonies decided to regress and fully embrace Eastern European vulgarism. Or we could just not bother, and savor the whiplash.

A confrontational Rube Goldberg satire that packs three surreal dick jokes into its first 15 minutes, Palfi’s film plunges headlong into its own dialogue about Hungarian culture and the universal love-hate with our bodies, and the level of discourse is just as often lab-brat silly as it is genuinely disquieting. But while plenty of revolted reviewers were happy to chide the movie for its sophomoric excesses, there’s no denying its uncompromising brio. Palfi’s underseen debut, 2002’s “Hukkle,” had a similar comic sense of crossing vectors and ridiculous texture, even if it was completely dialogue-free. But “Taxidermia” is balls-out invention, prioritizing its degree of visual yuck over thematic thrust but tossing so much puke-flecked stuff on the screen that subtexts cannot help but emerge.

03222010_taxidermia2.jpgIt begins rather turgidly — with a cock-obsessed Army orderly stuck on a squalid farm with his barking lieutenant and his family, and you don’t know why you’re there. It helps to have a grasp of the whole program — based on short stories by Magyar literary upstart-turned-major figure Lajos Parti Nagy, the movie is a triptych, essentially following a bastardized family lineage from WWII to the present, starting with this hare-lipped jerk-off, who manages to emit a flame from his hard-on, get it pecked at by a rooster while screwing a barn-wall knothole, and eventually copulate with a trough of butchered pig meat that he imagines is the lieutenant’s obese wife. Or does he? She gives birth anyway, to an infant with a piglet’s tail (snipped off in close-up, of course), and this Garcia-Marquezian urchin grows up in Communist Hungary to be the nation’s Fatty Arbuckle-ish champion in “sport eating,” the ordeal of which in Palfi’s imagining, complete with mass vomitorium breaks, is truly unlike anything you might’ve seen on ESPN.

There’s more, buckets and reams and body cavities of it, and there no getting around the fact that “Taxidermia” is authentically disgusting, even in an age where anyone can find images of coprophagia in .004 Google seconds. But it’s a hot-blooded blast as well, and this might be the best way to define its ersatz quasi-genre — that is, like Makavejev and Python and the Coens, Palfi’s film is predominantly all about the elan and vivid high spirits of the image-making, the joy of setting up dominoes and then toppling them, the full-throated cackle of a filmmaker having great, dirty fun at his craft. We’re in cahoots with Palfi more than with any of his characters, and just as the Coens used to get misread as being unsympathetic to their people, Palfi has received judgments of “cruelty.” But it’s a tradition that goes back to the tall-tale-telling of Chaucer and Smollett and Lawrence Sterne, none of whom “invested” in their protagonists more than they counted on the reader to share the bumpy, sardonic ride.

03222010_taxidermia3.jpgWhen Palfi does take aim at a target — particularly Communist-era populism and its manifestation as hysterical, organized gluttony — he hits it with a bazooka. (A mandated double-bill of this and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” might cure the obese-schoolkid problem in a shot.) If “Taxidermia” has a nagging problem, it’s that its attack on the human body takes on so many different forms (including self-surgery) that they seem to conflict and dissipate. But I’ll take the shotgun approach to satire over the sniper’s single pop anytime, and Palfi’s movie certainly makes a spectacular mess.

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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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