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Getting through the long haul.

Getting through the long haul. (photo)

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The prospect of sitting through all of “Carlos,” Olivier Assayas’ five-and-a-half hour film about Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal, is filling the weaker-hearted Cannes troopers with fear and trembling. As The Los Angeles Times‘ Steven Zeitchik reports (if that’s the correct word), there is trepidation over Cannes’ longest odyssey since Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour, two-part “Che,” which “Carlos” will supposedly make “look like a network sitcom.” Faint-hearted souls are reportedly “gearing up for the gargantuan screening […] buzzing about it as an event and an experience, with one part apprehension and two parts professional braggadocio.” And one person is “preparing” by going to other lengthy movies at the festival. So, you know.

“Carlos,” of course, was made for TV, placing it in the tiny sub-genre of things designed as normal TV experiences, then brought to foreign viewers as marathon films. Others include “Berlin Alexanderplatz” (which I saw as two long, long seven and a half hour viewings) and “Heimat,” as well as many key Bergman movies (“Scenes From A Marriage,” “Fanny and Alexander”) — the latter introduced as still-lengthy but cut-down versions. The practice of cutting down foreign films for domestic release has largely been discontinued — though John Woo’s last film, the two parter “Red Cliff” was for American audiences — and Zeitchik grumbles that there’s no three-hour cut. Essentially, he’d prefer a less fleshed-out version that implies half the product is extraneous.

The importance of duration has been both over and understated by audiences and critics. There are people who will refuse to watch any movie over a certain duration (two and a half hours, say) and make a big deal out of it. Up through the ’50s, of course, people were used to sitting through two movies, the newsreel, cartoon, serial and so on; these days, though, people spend most of their marathon viewing sessions in front of the TV. We resent forced duration.

05142010_satan.jpgMy personal viewing threshold is seven and a half hours, which I know thanks to “Sátántangó,” the Bela Tarr movie whose thesis is at least in part that the experience of feeling time pass — of surrendering your day to someone else’s vision — can be essential to a film as any visual or sonic elements. I once made the decision to see a rare theatrical screening of “Shoah,” which required watching the whole thing in one day: a nine-and-a-half hour marathon punctuated by a one-hour dinner break. At seven-and-a-half hours pretty much precisely, I hit a wall that made the last two hours tougher than they should’ve been.

Making a long movie is rarely an arrogant act, a decision made to make an audience suffer for your vision. It’s a gamble and a request for patience and trust. But whining about length is mostly counterproductive: that’s the biggest risk you can take. Better to expect greatness than grumble about the length.

[Photos: “Carlos,” IFC, 2010; “Sátántangó,” Facets Video, 1994.]


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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