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“A Serbian Film” and the End of Torture Porn…?

“A Serbian Film” and the End of Torture Porn…? (photo)

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“A Serbian Film,” directed by Srdjan Spasojevic, has the questionable distinction of standing at the (current) far reaches of extreme cinema — so much so that it was pulled from the schedule of London’s FrightFest after the British Board of Film Classification demanded four minutes of cuts in order for it to be screened. Festival co-director Ian Jones told the Guardian that “FrightFest has decided not to show A Serbian Film in a heavily cut version because, as a festival with a global integrity, we think a film of this nature should be shown in its entirety as per the director’s intention.”

Also writing at the Guardian, Pete Cashmore takes the incident as an opportunity to wonder if the age of torture porn is finally over, regardless of how you’d classify “A Serbian Film”:

Its few-and-far-between defenders cite Srdjan Spasojevic’s film as not TP at all, rather an articulation of the horrors that the Serbian nation has had to live through in recent times. Hmm. What one hopes, at least, is that it provides an effective point for us all to reflect, weigh things up, and decide that – once the shagging of vacated eyeholes comes into the equation – it might be time to fold up the tables and call it a day.

My review of the film from its premiere at SXSW is here, and the (NSFW, to be sure) trailer is below:

I’d always understood “torture porn,” a phrase coined by New York‘s David Edelstein to describe “Hostel” and similar titles hitting theaters four to five years ago, to refer to films in which the realism and explicitness of the violence wasn’t only upped, it was moved front and center. What was once the money shot became everything — and so, it’s implied, there’s no heft to torture porn films beyond sadism, because they have only one note, shock, which they hit over and over again until the impact is gone.

As a sucker for extreme imagery (I can never turn down a film that’s inspired mass walkouts, whether for pace, subject matter, incomprehensibility or causing physical distress), I’ve found Edelstein’s summing up of what seemed like a zeitgeisty moment in mass culture smart and helpful, quickly overapplied as a term and ultimately stripped of meaning, and I’m about ready to let it go. It was the omnipresence of these movies, the fact that suburban teens were taking them in at the mall, their popularity that made them noteworthy. But as a mainstream phenomenon, films that sell themselves on splatter alone do seem on their way out (goodbye, “Saw” franchise!), and thank god — they tend to be, ultimately, boring, like listening to music with the volume turned so high it sounds like on giant shriek.

Really, “A Serbian Film” is part of that subgenre of movies that’s been around long before the coining of the phrase “torture porn,” ones whose main hook is a moment or two of infamy, ones that will never see a multiplex screen. It’s tough route to hack — being the most extreme feature out there is only a sell point until you’re outdone by the next, even more disturbing contender in grotesquerie. “A Serbian Film,” whose main shock setpieces seems to be lifted from one notorious Japanese comic book and given the barest glaze of social relevance, is, like so many of these films, more significant and interesting before you’re seen it.

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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 IFC.com

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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.

Uncle-Buck

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…