the art of self-defense infomercial

If you were to turn on the TV at two in the morning and stumble on this The Art of Self-Defense infomercial, you could be forgiven for calling the number immediately. The viral marketing clip from the SXSW darling perfectly imitates those classic late-night infomercials, right down to the shoddy production, the endearing visual noise, and the stiff delivery from the various “real people, not actors.” Teach us your ways, sensei.

The Art of Self-Defense Infomercial

“Would you rather be weak with a strong mind, or strong with a weak mind? The answer is simple. Be both.” That message accompanied this infomercial, which came to us in an email from some address called sensei0712@aol.com. Distributor Bleecker Street admirably commits to the bit with a shady-looking email that spouts things like “8 out of 10 students trained in my dojo will defeat an untrained student in a battle of unarmed combat, and the student that combines the lessons of the fist with the lessons of the brain will prove most effective of all” and “Grand Master passed these lessons down to me — the same lessons that have, since ancient times, proven essential in conquering weakness and perfecting masculinity.” And you can learn all these things for the price of $49.99!

It’s wild stuff, and comes with a link to a website — www.why-karate.com — that actually brings you to a full-fledged website for the fictional dojo at the center of The Art of Self-Defense, which follows Jesse Eisenberg‘s timid bookkeeper Casey as he joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself.

The Art of Self-Defense debuted to rave reviews at SXSW, including from /Film reviewer Meredith Borders, who wrote in her 10/10 review, “The Art of Self-Defense skates such a tricky balance between important and absurd, meaningful and fun. The film has a lot to say but says it all in the weirdest, funniest, most surprising way possible.” /Film’s Jacob Hall also had high praise for The Art of Self-Defense, describing how the film explores “how impressionable men are seduced into toxic communities, how good people are transformed into monsters because they need to feel powerful and respected. It’s the dry, pitch-black comedy 2019 deserves.”

Written and directed by Riley Stearns whose previous film Faults also made a splash at SXSW, The Art of Self-Defense also stars Alessandro Nivola and Imogen Poots.

Here is the synopsis for The Art of Self-Defense:

After he’s attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei’s mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor. Audacious and offbeat, The Art of Self-Defense is an original dark comedy that takes toxic masculinity to absurd extremes.

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