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Post by Admin on Wed Oct 05, 2011 4:59 pm

by S.T. VanAirsdale || 10 05 2011 10:50 AM
David Cronenberg, Michael Fassbender Bring Their Dangerous Method to NYFF

Leader image for David Cronenberg, Michael Fassbender Bring Their Dangerous Method to NYFF

How does Keira Knightley devour so much scenery in A Dangerous Method yet stay so thin? That was the big question Tuesday at Lincoln Center, where her director David Cronenberg and co-star Michael Fassbender dropped by to meet the press ahead of tonight’s New York Film Festival premiere of Method.

All right, so that wasn’t the exact question for Cronenberg, whose leading lady couldn’t make the afternoon panel comprising himself, Fassbender, screenwriter Christopher Hampton, producer Jeremy Thomas and NYFF programmer extraordinaire Scott Foundas. But it basically does get to the immediate issue with A Dangerous Method, a terminally dramatic glimpse at the overlapping relationships between Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (Fassbender), his hysterical patient-turned-masochist lover-turned-gifted protégé Sabina Speilrein (Knightley), and the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Set in the decade before World War I, their tempestuous romantic and intellectual clashes presage the ravaged Europe to come, right down to one character’s haunting apocalyptic visions. What they don’t quite do is congeal in any especially cinematic way, transplanting instead the chatty conventions of Hampton’s source play The Talking Cure (itself based on John Kerr’s book A Most Dangerous Method) to Cronenberg’s meticulously reconstructed Zurich and Vienna.

Fassbender and Mortensen embody all the entitlements of their influence, each doing smart work against the other’s buttoned-down, tobacco-huffing academe. But they can only stand back as Knightley takes over, Jung’s admitted “catalyst” who sparks everything from revolutionary advancements on his “talking cure” (which is basically just him sitting behind Spielrein as she juts, jolts and contorts the contents of her soul upon admittance to his university’s hysteria clinic) to eye-popping, bodice-ripping, ass-whipping kink. “It’s a lot of acting — maybe not good acting — but it sure gets the point across,” my colleague Stephanie Zacharek wrote following Method’s Venice Film Festival premiere. Indeed, it’s insufferable in the early going, which also — not coincidentally, for the filmmaker whose canon is synonymous with the phrase “body-horror” — happen to be Cronenberg’s most visually adventurous span, experimenting with depth of field in rich, deep slate- and molasses-hued interiors.

But one thing at a time. Why so… I don’t know, hysterical?

“Unbeknownst to me, Keira went to Christopher for advice, and that screwed it all up,” Cronenberg joked, coaxing a laugh from the packed house at the Walter Reade Theater. “It took me ages to undo the damage that did. But he did give her a stack of book to read, as did I, in fact.

“Beyond that,” the director continued. “We began of course with the first scenes, which were the hysteria scenes. Hysteria was a disease that seems to have disappeared; it seems to have been a product of that era and the repression of women that was part of that culture. In fact, the word ‘hysteria’ comes the Greek word that means ‘uterus,’ and at times they would actually remove the uterus of a hysterical woman thinking that would cure her. That gives you a bit of the context. However extreme it might seem at the beginning is actually very subdued compared to what Sabina Spielrein would have presented to Jung. In fact, Christopher has mentioned that he’s actually seen the notes that Jung wrote upon her admission detailing her symptoms. So we knew what the symptoms of her particular hysteria were, and then there’s actually filmed footage of hysterical patients at the turn of the century, and a lot of photos of it [from] Dr. [Jean-Martin] Charcot, who was a big influence on Freud and specialized in hysteria. It was all these strange paralyses and hysterical laughters and deforming of the body and twisting and tormenting your physical parts… All of these are documented.

“So for me, basically, it was to decide how high you could pitch that,” Cronenberg said. “It’s very difficult to watch; it makes you feel very uncomfortable, as it would. But I have to deliver the disease to you, the audience, so you would understand why she was completely disabled. She was dysfunctional, and that’s why she was brought to this institute — because she couldn’t function. So we had to show how extreme it was, and I thought it should really be centered around her mouth. Because she is being asked by Jung — it is called ‘the talking cure’ — to say unspeakable things about herself, about grief, about her sexuality, about her masochism and all that. Masturbation — things that you were not supposed to speak about. So the idea that she should be trying to speak — the words try to come out, but another part of her tries to prevent those words from coming out, to deform them so that they’re not understandable. That’s how we did that, and so on. Gradually, she loses the hysteria and becomes more and more confident under Jung’s tutelage and has her affair, so you can see the evolution of the character.”

Fair enough. Like everything, it’s a matter of taste, and Knightley suited Cronenberg’s so exquisitely that Method actually used less production time than it needed. “By the time we got to the set, Keira was there,” he said. “It was fantastic. We did two takes, and done.”

“It was quite incredible,” Fassbender added. “I’d just add to that how we were, what? Four days ahead by week two?”

“Well, actually,” Cronenberg replied, “after three days, we were five days ahead. Which seems impossible, but part of it was that I had boarded the schedule taking into account how difficult it might be to develop Keira’s performance. I had never worked with her before, and this was very difficult stuff, and it was terrain that sort of was new to her. And she was just so good, and so right on, that we were finished in no time.”


But if you’re wondering why a guy like Cronenberg — whose historic preoccupation with identity and the physical self under threat of all manner of destruction has led from leeching armpits (Rabid) to genetic mutation (The Fly) to car accidents (Crash) to bathhouse brawls (Eastern Promises) — even had a psychoanalytic triangle in mind in the fist place, Foundas had the same question from the start.

“I don’t really think of my other movies at all really,” Cronenberg said. “I don’t think of what I’ve done. When I’ve decided to do something, I’m passionate about it, and I’m only into realizing that particular thing. So I don’t think about whether this fits in with anything or if it doesn’t or I’ve done it before. I think when I read Christopher’s play — and I’ve never seen it performed — I felt, in retrospect, that I’ve always wanted to do something about Freud and the birth of psychoanalysis. But to say that isn’t to say anything, really, because it’s such a vast topic and filled with such incredible characters that surrounded the birth of psychoanalysis— all of them very eccentric and wonderful. And what I saw in Christopher’s play was this fantastic structure that really distilled the essence of the era and of the psychoanalytic moment into, primarily, five characters. And that got me very excited because suddenly that was the structure that could allow me to play with all of those topics.

I have to point out that the first movie I ever made — Transfer, which was seven minutes long — was about a psychiatrist and a patient. That was my first movie!

“I have to point out that the first movie I ever made — Transfer, which was seven minutes long — was about a psychiatrist and a patient. That was my first movie! So this really does feel like coming full-circle.”

As for Fassbender, he was hooked after meeting Cronenberg for lunch in the filmmaker’s home base of Toronto. “That’s when he really started directing me, if you like,” the actor said, noting how such little things as bonding over a shared love of motor racing wooed him into Method mode.

“He was already planting seeds in my mind then, at that lunch,” Fassbender said, “about the story and what he found interesting about these various characters and where he felt Jung was coming from, and his background. […] And then, really, by the time we got on set, the great thing — one of the many great things about David — is that he allows you to sort of breathe within it in your own way. I find again and again that lot of great directors don’t give you a huge amount of direction on the day. It’s mainly a dinner that you had two nights before or a week before — just little sorts of hints and little nudges to sway you in certain directions without giving you anything solidly [like], ‘You do this.’ And I think that for any great director I’ve worked with, that’s sort of the last thing that they want.”

In Knightley’s case, alas, it might have been the first thing she needed. In any event, A Dangerous Method screens tonight at 6 and 8:30 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and opens Nov. 23 in limited release. Check back with Movieline then for a full review and other coverage.

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Post by Admin on Sun Oct 09, 2011 9:23 pm

INTERVIEW | Michael Fassbender On Life, “Shame,” Sex and “A Dangerous Method”
by Peter Knegt (October 6, 2011)
Michael Fassbender. Photo by Olga Bas for the New York Film Festival

Since their dual premieres in Venice, David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method” and Steve McQueen’s “Shame” have defined 2011 as the year of Michael Fassbender.

Portraying real-life psychiatrist Carl Jung in the former and fictional sex addict Brandon in the latter, Fassbender has received across the board raves for his work—just as he has for nearly every role since his 2008 breakout in McQueen’s debut, “Hunger.” Together, the films work as thematic companion pieces, each discussing sex and the human condition (albeit in drastically different ways and set 100 years apart). Together with Fassbender’s work released earlier in the year—Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Jane Eyre” and Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class”—it’s a quartet of performances that further annoints Fassbender as one of the best actors working today.

indieWIRE got a chance to sit down with Fassbender as he made a stop at the New York Film Festival to promote both films (which have impressively both screened in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and now New York). The films hit theaters November 23 (“Method”) and December 2 (“Shame”), respectively.

So you have two films here at the New York Film Festival - “Shame” and “A Dangerous Method.” Do you mind if we just sort of go back and forth discussing both of them?


Let’s start with simply how you got involved with them.

David [Cronenberg] asked if I would come to Toronto and have lunch with him and discuss this project that he wanted to do. That’s how it started. We chatted over lunch and he told me basically what the film was about and what things to look at and research if I was interested. And we just sort of took it from there.

As for “Shame,” the first I heard about that in 2008. Steve [McQueen] and I were at a dinner at the House of Parliament in London. They were celebrating Film 4’s contribution to film, and he told me the idea. I didn’t get the script, but he told me the concept.

From there, researching and inhabiting these roles must have been a lot to take on. On the one hand there’s Carl Jung, a real-life person who must have required research in a more formal way. And then there’s Brandon, a fictional sex addict with problems that probably exceed that of most of Jung’s or Freud’s patients. How did you take these characters on?

Obviously there’s a lot of material in relation to Jung. It was a matter of sort of finding what I could read in the right amount of time. And really, in both scenarios and in most jobs I do, it revolves around the script. The story that we are telling in that concise period of time. You know, it’s an hour an a half to two hours to tell this story. So I spent a lot of time with the script.

There was also a biography that was available for Jung, which was great. You can just follow that: What his parents did, uncles… there was also a lot of religious influence in his life. And another great thing about these characters—Jung, Freud and these sort of really obsessive-type characters is that they made a recording of everything, whether it be the correspondence between the two with Jung delving into his childhood and explaining when he started to realize the self. He said the seeds of his psychoanalysis and philosophy were there. So that’s that.

But when you have a character like Brandon—which is fictional—then, according to information given to you in the script you put together a logical biography. That’s something I do with all scripts anyway, whether it’s a fictional character or not. What did their parents do? What they were like in school? Did they have a lot of friends or were they loners? What sort of drinks they like to have? All these sort of questions and all those sort of things that just sort of give you a full idea of the character, where he’s coming from and where he wants to go.
Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley in “A Dangerous Method.” Sony Pictures Classics.

And what about these characters related to you both as an actor and as a person?

It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing. By spending a lot of time with them in terms of the script, you start to try and understand behavioral patterns. And by doing that you start to reflect on yourself and you look around those in and around you. You just try and understand. I think that’s sort of a major part of my job. Not necessarily to have all the answers, but to try and understand their motivations. When you get that, then you figure out what sort of moral compass they have and how that differs from you. Those sort of questions you ask yourself. This is all kind of boring because it’s all my homework.

No, not at all.

But yeah, I write a list of characteristics down on the page. From those characteristics, I tick the ones I think I have available to myself, and then the ones that I don’t… I find them. They’re in there somewhere. We’re all pretty much the same. We’re all built up of the same things. So it’s just a matter of investigating and being honest with yourself. And then hopefully doing justice to people you’re trying to portray—and never judging them.

I actually saw these films on the same day back in Toronto.

Oh wow, okay.

And to see them back to back like that… It really made clear something I really appreciated about both of them. I mean, yes, one is about these historic characters and one is about a man with sex addiction. But I felt like “Shame” was very much also about this sort of hyper-sexualized world that we live in and a very real portrayal of that world. And I also felt like “A Dangerous Method,” despite the fact that it’s set like 100 years ago, much of what’s being discussed resonates today. Monogamy, for example, is an issue your character in that film struggles with and that’s still a very taboo topic in our society.

What’s interesting is that 100 years ago they were talking about sex and our relationship to sex. And then we have a film like “Shame” which is very much dealing with today’s relationship to sex. Not everybody’s Brandon, but there’s elements to Brandon and the world that he occupies that unless you’re dishonest with yourself you can recognize and relate to certain things.

The whole thing about “Shame” is that it’s not only about sex addiction. We chose that as Brandon’s primary condition, but the fact of the matter is that we are getting so much information thrown at us these days and people are trying to sell us stuff all the time. 24/7, sex is everywhere. There’s posters and big billboards of women in their underwear, whether they’re selling soda or breakfast cereal. People are selling sex along with the product, and also accessibility. That’s probably the main thing and we have that with everything. That’s why these conditions manifest themselves in gambling, an unhealthy relationship with food, drink, drugs, sex…

And I think it’s down to a society that’s quite driven by anxiety. People are confused. It’s an overload of information. So people sort of have strange ways of expressing themselves through out those mediums. It’s this whole idea of access to excess. That’s basically what we have. And New York is a very good example of a city that has that 24/7. You can access any amount of excess you want. And where does it end? And what happens to us because of that? I don’t think it’s a judgment or some sort of demonization of the world we live in. It’s just asking questions and provoking thought. I can relate to that because it’s all around me.

When I was growing up, if you wanted a porn magazine or a porn video you had to reach up to the top shelf and that probably took an hour and a half of courage. And then you had to go to the front desk and confront the person you were buying or renting the material off of. The shame element was there and it was immediate. Nowadays you just hit two buttons on the computer and there’s thousands of options.
Michael Fassbender in “Shame.” Image courtesy Fox Searchlight.

And that’s very new.

Exactly, it’s very new. And I think this idea of accumulation and this necessity to own things and possess things and experience things has been sold to us and promoted to us. I think in some respects a lot of forms of intimacy are being taken away. The physicality of the act is there, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of emotional content. That’s certainly true in Brandon’s situation. Brandon is someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in an intimate environment. It just freaks him out and it’s an area he just loses control in. For whatever reason specific to him, he can’t handle it. Even down to his sister coming. The idea of her embracing him even in a hug… That makes him squirm, he needs to get out of that. Again, with his sexual relationships he’s much more at ease paying for a prostitute or having a casual encounter with someone for one night. Because they leave his life and they don’t bring any of their emotional life into his life. Therefore, it’s all kept clean.

In terms of Freud and Jung, we take for granted a lot of the teachings these guys are the forefathers of. The idea that our bodies are responsible for so many things in childhood. How we relate to excrement, anus, parents, vagina, penis… Nobody was dealing with these sort of things in the early 1900s. And Freud was like, “This is going to reoccur in your adult life because of the experiences you had with this in your formative years.” This is a language we understand very well now because it’s part and parcel with our everyday lives. The idea of an introverted personality or an extroverted personality comes from Jung.

But I think a lot of us in this world are trying to figure out what we’re doing here, how we relate to each other and how we relate to ourselves. Why do we do certain things and what sparks those motivations or those actions? It’s always interesting just to investigate those things. Again, I’d be lying if I said I had any of the answers to these things. But it’s just good to be asking the questions and be provoking these thoughts.

And that’s what I think is interesting about these two projects. And that’s what interests me with most things. To have ambiguous characters that aren’t sort of clear cut in being good or bad. Now the audience is mostly in a very safe place. They know who they should be rooting for and it’s all very easy to sit there and eat your popcorn and not be challenged. Whereas I think films like this are more challenging to the audience. They have to participate more. And that’s what excites me personally.

And your work in [Andrea Arnold’s] “Fish Tank” is very much the same. It confused me as to why I still liked your character in the end, given what he did. But I did.

I think we’re all pretty capable of doing pretty hideous things. And then we’re also capable of humanity and positivity. In “Fish Tank,” Connor the character is very much the catalyst for Mia to get up and out of there. He was the only person in her life that was giving her some sort of confidence and telling her that she was special and that she should follow her dreams. And then of course, he breaches the line and abuses that trust. But he brings a lot of good into her life as well. And that’s the thing. It’s not so clear cut and there’s a lot of grey areas that are interesting to investigate.

With Steve McQueen and David Cronenberg, I had the pleasure of speaking with both of them recently and they both clearly seem to have a lot of faith in you as an actor. What was it like working with them? They’re clearly very different directors, but they are both clearly really uncompromising directors.

I’ll give you the similarities between them first, because I think it’s more interesting, really. Because they have hugely different personalities… I’m sure you noticed that from just meeting them. But what’s great is that they love working with actors. And they both have a real interest in the human condition. Both of them are always investigating and asking questions. They’re also both very intelligent people and very aware of the world around them. And very highly read, and also very confident in themselves… Which is a great attribute to have as a leader. People will follow you if you’re not afraid to look stupid or vulnerable or feminine or nerdish. This is life, and this is happening, and it shouldn’t be shied away from. It shows a great amount of strength. And on top of it all, they have a great sense of humor. We have a lot of fun on set and I think they trust me because they know I go away and I do my homework and I come to the table with something. It might not be the right thing, but I’m trying something out. It’s a very collaborative experience.

I might be speaking out of place, but both those guys have an idea of what they want. A rough sort of plan. But when you come on that day, anything can happen and anything can change. You can go in a completely different direction. Or not. And for me, that’s what makes this business exciting. They both create a very safe environment to create and take risks.

Check out audio from the interview on Peter Knegt’s blog.
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Post by Admin on Wed Oct 12, 2011 2:09 am

The Wee Hours: Sex and Death at Alice Tully Hall
New York Film Festival's dire lineup makes doom and gloom fun.

By Nate Freeman 10/11 7:29pm

Ms. Mulligan, Ms. Williams, Ms. Dunst.

“Wow, this is it, this view, New York City!” Michael Fassbender said after opening the door to the roof of the Standard, where the glass buildings lining the West Side bound forth from the meatpacking district toward midtown.

It was Friday night, and The Observer had just watched the New York Film Festival’s screening of Shame, a sexually violent fantasia in which Mr. Fassbender beds scores of random women in every dirty corner of Manhattan—including a few times against the floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms of the hotel we were standing atop.

What better venue for the after party?

“This hotel …” the actor said. “I was staying in the rooms, once, and was told, ‘Beware! People can see inside.’”

Mr. Fassbender lit a cigarette and sat down at the table next to three of his oldest friends—buddies from his youth in County Kerry, Ireland. He had insisted on a roundtable conversation.

“How much of the sex was real?” we asked.

Here’s some context: Shame’s tamer scenes, which conceal nothing from the camera, find Mr. Fassbender engaging in sex under the Williamsburg Bridge, sex with prostitutes, sex with random men in a cavernous clubs, and of course sex in rooms at the Standard, for the entertainment of pedestrians on Little West 12th. (Don’t worry—things get wild toward the end.)

“Um, next question,” Mr. Fassbender said. “Now you gotta ask my mates one!”

“What was it like watching your buddy have more sex than you can ever imagine?” we asked.

“Unfortunately I haven’t yet seen his crown jewels!” one of them said. “I haven’t seen the film.”

“It’s really something,” The Observer responded.

“What is?” Mr. Fassbender asked, taking a last drag. “My crown jewels?”

“Well, I meant the film is really something,” we stuttered. “But, yeah, I have seen them now, I guess.”

“But I haven’t seen yours!” he shot back.

Mr. Fassbender downed his martini—his character, Brandon, was fond of the same cocktail, we remembered—and revealed that he hadn’t been with these guys, his closest friends, since 2001.

“We needed a significant break after we had a go at it,” said one of the friends.

Then they all started chiming in.

“We can only see each other every 10 years.

“I just got over it.”

“The shaking just stopped.”

“But we did a road trip together!” Mr. Fassbender interrupted. “And we were gonna call Marco’s ass up in Italy. Why didn’t we do that?”

“Because we were constantly drunk and we had the memory of a f#%@#&! goldfish!”

“Ah, that’s right.”

Steve McQueen, the film’s director, chose the Boom Boom Room for the film’s centerpiece scene, in which Carey Mulligan, playing Mr. Fassbender’s chanteuse little sister, sings “New York, New York” as the camera refuses to waver from her mascara-heavy eyelids.

“A lot of New Yorkers live in the sky, work in the sky, spend their time in the sky,” Mr. McQueen had noted during the postscreening Q&A. And when we spoke with him at the Boom Boom Room, it was up against the glass, with the docks and piers dangling out below us.

“This is the first time I’ve been back since we shot here …” he said. His eyes wandered downward. “The view, the expanse of water!”

After another drink next to a table where Olivia Wilde sat with Zoe Kazan, it was time to go. The cast cleared out too: this was just a small respite from the go-go of anyone involved in the New York Film Festival, where the fall’s slew of Oscar-bait pictures make their first impressions on filmgoers.

Two days later, another bash was underway at the Hudson Hotel in honor of Michelle Williams, who plays the blonde bombshell of the title in My Week With Marilyn.

“Does she pull off Marilyn Monroe?” Harvey Weinstein was asked. He was standing next to an enormous tin water pitcher that decorated the hotel terrace. “Well, see the film, then let me know. Me? Oh, I think she definitely pulls it off.”

Ms. Williams was herself at the party, but at Alice Tully Hall later that night she was Ms. Monroe—My Week With Marilyn is, after all, a film with actors playing actors. As we sat down for the screening, buzzed on a Negroni impetuously purchased from a Lincoln Center lobby cocktail cart, Ms. Williams-as-Marilyn began dancing on the screen-within-a-screen, as Kenneth Branagh’s Laurence Olivier sat in his own theater puffing on cigarette after cigarette. If only!

And all of this after our festival began with the earth caroming into a much larger planet in a deafening bonanza of fire—twice, actually—in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, which premiered last Monday. It’s a glorious dismantling of terrestrial cores and emotional cores, an expansive vision set to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

And it wasn’t even the only end of the world going on. Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day On Earth, which also premiered at the festival, ends as you’d expect, and takes place on the Lower East Side. Oddly, on our way to My Week With Marilyn, we witnessed a plane etching the words “LAST CHANCE” across the sky.

Yet, despite Melancholia’s global destruction, the cast managed to make it to the Stone Rose Lounge for the after-party. (Mr. Von Trier, who infamously referred to himself as a Nazi when the film opened in Cannes, didn’t make the trip—then again, he’s never been to the United States.)

“I would definitely be with my family for sure,” Alexander Skarsgard, who plays Kirsten Dunst’s doltish (and doomed!) new husband, said to The Observer of his doomsday plans. “Where else would you want to be?”

“I don’t know, man” Ms. Dunst said to us. “I’d hopefully be with my family. It would be nice to be in the forest somewhere, chilling out. It’s such an awful thing to think about. What would you do?”

We told her we’d probably try to have a last night of fun.

First though, there were trays of truffle grilled cheese bites to eat, and DeLeon Tequila apple cocktails to down. The end would have to wait a little longer.

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Post by Admin on Fri Oct 14, 2011 4:39 pm

Michael Fassbender's naked ambition

14 October 2011

Currently 4/5 Stars.

Michael Fassbender is not an exhibitionist but understands being naked is part of his job description.

Michael Fassbender thinks it is "his job" to be naked.

The 34-year-old actor plays the part of a sex addict in Steve McQueen's new movie 'Shame', and while he spends parts of the movie in the nude he was not too embarrassed because he accepts it is part of his work.

He told BANG Showbiz: "Unless you have exhibitionist tendencies, which is cool, but I don't, I don't feel that comfortable appearing naked in essentially a roomful of strangers but it had to get done. It was an essential part of getting inside the psyche. That's my job, I've got to facilitate these things, forget about Michael Fassbender or whatever that image is. I'm there to tell stories and fascinate my part in the story. I had to roll up my sleeves - although I didn't have any on - and go for it."

I had to roll up my sleeves - although I didn't have any on - and go for it

He was so unconcerned about the nature of the film - which also stars Carey Mulligan as his troubled sister Sissy - he did not even read the script because he trusted the director so much.

He added: "It wasn't really a problem because of course Steve McQueen changed my life with 'Hunger', so I didn't even need to read a script.

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