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Tribeca 2011: “Limelight,” Reviewed

Tribeca 2011: “Limelight,” Reviewed (photo)

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Billy Corben is the drug documentary kingpin of indie film. He’s made two docs about cocaine, one about marijuana, and now “Limelight,” about New York City’s ecstasy soaked club scene in the 1990s. His particular specialty are films that ape their subject’s pharmacological effects: “Cocaine Cowboys” is twitchy and paranoid; “Square Grouper” is mellow and easygoing to a fault. “Limelight” sends us tripping on a relentless 100-minute roll.

The man who leads us on this journey is Peter Gatien, a one-eyed club empresario from Canada who moved to the US and started opening upscale discos all along the Eastern seaboard. New York, Miami, Atlanta, and then back to New York where he created his crown jewel: Limelight, a massive dance complex housed in a former Episcopal church. The AIDS epidemic of the mid-1980s nearly killed his business, but when a tough guy from Staten Island with the temerity to call him “Lord Michael” brought London’s rave and ecstasy culture to Manhattan in the early 1990s, he made Limelight his headquarters and transformed Gatien’s business into a full-blown empire.

“Limelight”‘s first half is all about the party: the good times, thumping music, and groovy celebrities that made Gatien’s clubs — Limelight, Palladium, Club USA and Tunnel — the places to be in ’90s New York City. But any user will tell you, no high lasts forever. Though Gatien never took money from Lord Michael or any of the other dealers who worked his clubs, he never stopped them either, and he definitely profited from all the customers they brought through his doors. Their behavior was so flagrant — even serving “ecstasy punch” right out of the DJ booth to encourage early arrivals at the club — that police intervention was inevitable. After Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York City in 1994, he put an intense crime prevention program into place. It was only a matter of time before the clubs came into his crosshairs. Gatien’s iconic eyepatch and decadent reputation made him great tabloid fodder and an even better target for the Giuliani administration.

Corben’s last film, “Square Grouper,” suffered from a lack of scope. He had to combine three different stories of the South Florida dope trade that weren’t strong enough to support a movie on their own into one anthology film. “Limelight” is the exact opposite: this is a sprawling, epic tale of vice and sin, with enough fascinating supporting characters and subplots for three movies. In fact, one of the supporting characters here already has had two movies of his own: Michael Alig, the subject of the documentary “Party Monster” and, later, the biopic of the same name. Plus there’s Sean Kirkham, the career informant and gay prostitute who claimed to have slept with the lead prosecutor of Gatien’s case and later tried to sell information about the London subway bombings. And Alessandra, an apparent con artist with multiple identities who Gatien married over the objections and warnings of basically every former Limelight employee who appears in the documentary. The film is a barrage of one unbelievable plot twist after another, strung together by great, candid interviews. In a nice touch, all the talking heads are shot under stark, club-ready neon lighting, even the squares who investigated and prosecuted Gatien for drug distribution.

“Limelight” maintains its momentum from its opening moments — a frenzied montage of news footage narrating Gatien’s early years — to its final ones. With all of the clubs and drugs and subplots, the whole thing could spin out of control very easily. But Corben does an impressive job of streamlining a sprawling crime saga into a digestible piece of pop entertainment. Best to take it with some water though. You know how ecstasy is. You don’t want to get dehydrated.


Final Countdown

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


Rev Up

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.


Give Back

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…