American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

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Brian C
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#76 Post by Brian C » Fri Mar 04, 2016 11:46 am

Russell has also had a pretty large number of actors who have collaborated with him on multiple films, including Adams, so it's also possible that the reaction to this kind of stuff on the internet is a little overblown.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#77 Post by djproject » Fri Mar 04, 2016 11:47 am

Orson Welles and Dorothy Comingore. Stanley Kubrick and Shelley Duvall. Abdellatif Kechiche and Adele Exarchapoulos & Lea Seydoux.

I'm sure I can name a few but these are examples of directors yelling at their actresses*. And they all resulted in great performances ... with the latter leading to being *directly* awarded with the Palme d'Or (as oppose to "winning it by association"). But apart from the whole "we got golden performances", this was also done with a certain degree of care and, certainly, of purpose. They all had a particular idea in mind for where their respective characters should be and they were willing to use any means. In the end, the means paid off and this was a temporary low to make for something lasting. Though I know Exarchapoulos and Seydoux never want to work with Kechiche again.

*Yes, it dawned on me that they are all male directors doing this to females ... but I've heard Annabel Jankel along with Rocky Morton were not saintly either. Being a blowhard jackass is not exclusive to a particular sex =]

David O. Russell on the other hand ...

Given his previous antics with actors and his whole "anything goes" approach, I see this less as "achieving some vision" or "aspiring toward great art" and more him acting like a blowhard jackass. Given if you could argue Adams's performance would have been better this way, I think this is a case of great effort producing little results. At the very least, it was not warranted at all for her character as stated earlier. Also considering the other issues with that film - I've already talked about this at great length ;) - it doesn't make it a better film.

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swo17
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#78 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 04, 2016 11:50 am

djproject wrote:these are examples of directors yelling at their actresses*. And they all resulted in great performances
Correlation does not imply causation. Then again, any actress who agrees to work with Russell at this point knows what she's getting into. Jobs are hard sometimes. Adams made $1.25M and received plenty of awards recognition. I can't say I feel too sorry for her.

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domino harvey
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#79 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 04, 2016 11:55 am

Many great directors were complete dicks to their stars-- Otto Preminger being perhaps the most notorious. The day Russell makes a film as good as Angel Face, I'll begin entertaining defenses of his behavior. That said, swo and Brian are exactly right, these actors are consenting adults who knew what they were getting into and know the business well enough to know how much of their grievances to make public and how much to just chock up to a bad job experience

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#80 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:07 pm

It's not just actresses making $1.25 million dollars, though
First, there was a fight with George Clooney during the shooting of Three Kings in the Arizona desert (doubling for Iraq), after the star stepped in to stop Russell’s apparent mistreatment of various crew members. Clooney is reported to have berated his boss, “You can’t shove, push or humiliate people,” and described the incident as the worst experience of his life. Even five years later, the usually sedate Clooney told Premiere magazine that he would “sock Russell in the f***ing mouth” if he ran into him. The director responded in foul-mouthed kind in another interview.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#81 Post by djproject » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:29 pm

domino harvey wrote:Many great directors were complete dicks to their stars-- Otto Preminger being perhaps the most notorious. The day Russell makes a film as good as Angel Face, I'll begin entertaining defenses of his behavior. That said, swo and Brian are exactly right, these actors are consenting adults who knew what they were getting into and know the business well enough to know how much of their grievances to make public and how much to just chock up to a bad job experience
swo17 wrote:
djproject wrote:these are examples of directors yelling at their actresses*. And they all resulted in great performances
Correlation does not imply causation. Then again, any actress who agrees to work with Russell at this point knows what she's getting into. Jobs are hard sometimes. Adams made $1.25M and received plenty of awards recognition. I can't say I feel too sorry for her.
domino's statement about making a film on the level of Angel Face is exactly my point.

Overall, I know when it comes to "yelling = abuse", everyone's mileage may vary. This is also true for every time period (i.e. what was considered an acceptable form of humour is now not so acceptable now). And I'm sure in the grand scheme of things Amy Adams was fine and this could very well be an overreaction on everyone's part. My reaction was more to point out what ass DOR is ... then again, this is why I have sympathies with Adams, even with all the accolades. But that said, actions have consequences. If you are yelling at some on set, do not be surprised if they are not going to take it well. And even if they do "take it well" (because I believe she did not disclosed what had happened; please correct if wrong), don't be surprised if others won't.

Also if we go by the "you are paid well, so don't complain" train of thought, that means Kesha should be grateful for that contract with Dr. Luke, regardless of what he alleged* to have done to her.

*This is a proper legal adjective for someone who is not convicted of a crime: innocent until proven guilty in a court of law through proper due process. This does not mean the accusations made against him are not real.

I'm sorry for dragging this on. I think that should be enough from me =]

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#82 Post by swo17 » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:33 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:It's not just actresses making $1.25 million dollars, though
First, there was a fight with George Clooney during the shooting of Three Kings in the Arizona desert (doubling for Iraq), after the star stepped in to stop Russell’s apparent mistreatment of various crew members. Clooney is reported to have berated his boss, “You can’t shove, push or humiliate people,” and described the incident as the worst experience of his life. Even five years later, the usually sedate Clooney told Premiere magazine that he would “sock Russell in the f***ing mouth” if he ran into him. The director responded in foul-mouthed kind in another interview.
Fair enough, but I understand that that craft services guy is one of the best craft services guys in the biz now... 8-[

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#83 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:38 pm

The guy couldn't soft boil an egg until Russell threw a chair at him, now he can't stop soft boiling eggs, or muttering to himself quietly!

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#84 Post by cdnchris » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:50 pm

mfunk9786 wrote: or muttering to himself quietly!
"I was told I could listen to my music at a reasonable level."
"I could set the building on fire."

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#85 Post by Werewolf by Night » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:52 pm

Do we know exactly what happened on the set that so disturbed Amy Adams, or are we just extrapolating from what happened with other actors on Russell's sets?

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mfunk9786
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#86 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Mar 04, 2016 12:59 pm

Some of the Sony hack e-mails paint a clearer picture
"Are you guys doing anything else with him?," Atler wrote to Lynton in a Sept. 12, 2014 email. "I know he's brilliant but we have someone on our show who worked closely with him on 'American Hustle' and not only are the stories about him reforming himself total b---shit but the new stories of his abuse and lunatic behavior are extreme even by Hollywood standards."

Among the litany of off-screen drama allegedly unleashed by O'Russell detailed by Alter: "He grabbed one guy by the collar, cursed out people repeatedly in front of others and so abused Amy Adams that Christian Bale got in his face and told him to stop acting like an a---hole." Though at first cagey in his response, Lynton eventually seemed to confirm the incident to his wife's brother in another email.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#87 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Mar 04, 2016 3:24 pm

If nothing else, this is making me like some of the actors involved more.

I think in the case of someone like Preminger or Kubrick, where they are documented to have been borderline abusive to the people working under them, it seems like it was directly towards a cinematic end, and the recipients of the ugliness (I'm thinking specifically of Shelly Duvall, but I think this was true of Dana Andrews with Preminger as well) were able to reconcile the difficulty of what they went through because of the great results that it got- and Preminger got most of the people he worked with to come back over and over. Russell apparently has that kind of relationship with Jennifer Lawrence, but from what's being said here, even someone he actually did get a pretty great performance out of (Clooney in Three Kings) just sees him as an out of control asshole.

I think when you're screaming at below the line people who aren't actively interfering with filmmaking, that's not understandable artistic fervor, it's just being a shitty dude.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#88 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri Mar 04, 2016 4:14 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote: ...I think in the case of someone like Preminger or Kubrick...
Not sure these two can really be lumped together. To hear Keir Dullea describe his experience with both directors (which I was fortunate to do a couple of years back during a Toronto screening of 2001), Preminger was an insufferable tyrant who made the Bunny Lake shoot miserable whereas Kubrick, while demanding, was very encouraging and left Dullea with many fond memories.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#89 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Mar 04, 2016 4:36 pm

Yeah, I think Kubrick's treatment of Duvall in The Shining was not his consistent attitude towards actors and was specific to the character he wanted.

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hearthesilence
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#90 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Mar 04, 2016 5:08 pm

Wait, what specifically did Welles do to Comingore?

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Roger Ryan
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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#91 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri Mar 04, 2016 5:28 pm

hearthesilence wrote:Wait, what specifically did Welles do to Comingore?
He sprayed her throat with a toxic chemical for starters!* But seriously, I believe the only information we have on Welles' treatment of Comingore came from Welles himself years later. He said he was more critical of her than the other actors because he wanted her to maintain an element of resentment in her performance.

*During a conversation included in the "My Lunches With Orson" book, Welles told Henry Jaglom that he had a technician spray what was probably a dangerous chemical into Ms. Comingore's throat to give her a raspy singing voice for the first day of shooting on Kane. Apparently, this was for a nightclub scene that ended up being cut from the film.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#92 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Aug 09, 2020 2:37 am

knives wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2014 3:35 am
How was any of the sympathy to Bale unwarranted? It's easily the most humanistic performance of his career playing a guy who really does love a set of humanity that is too often forgotten and instantly is damned by turning his back on that humanity. I can't think of a role or performance in American film recently that does more in terms of honest expression for that sect of our population.
knives wrote:
Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:06 am
CK is an outsider though and doesn't have to deal with the morality of the insulated world the other characters occupy. By birth and by choice Cooper does occupy that world and by turning his back on it to actively oppress for just the fame is were he becomes the villain. CK's character is an outsider who recognizes that and also isn't interested in his job in terms of the success it will provide. He almost serves as a complicated counter to Bale given the reservations they both express over the course of the movie. Also Bale is not meant to be some perfect guy. He absolutely deserves what Renner gives to him and the film never denies that the initial arrest is correct, though it makes pointed that Cooper's methods are sickening. Ultimately, and rightly so, the film doesn't judge the characters based on their jobs (or however you want to frame the illegal stuff) but rather their motivations. Bale's from the beginning working under romantic notions in addition to ones of a certain kind of self preservation so while what he does is exploitative it's not under the film's morality wrong (also one could argue that he is taking people who want an easy out and abusing them that way though I don't want to get into an argument on that). Or to phrase another way even the gangsters are viewed by the film as more sympathetic than Cooper though they obviously commit the worst crimes in the film because they have morality.
I was ambivalent on this in theatres but on a rewatch I largely agree with your posts knives, though I'm a little unclear on exactly how you read Bale's morality and where his empathy lies (with what population that is ignored). What felt a bit overstated on a first watch, but struck me as very sincere this time around, is how Bale's comprehension of moral relativity allows for his ethical responsibility to extend to those in his own vicinity and remain respectable. The traditionally conservative "me and mine" attitude is humanized because the concept of allotting their empathy to the whole world authentically is revealed as a bit of a paradox in capitalist America when self-preservation is on the line. The self's interests are equally validated as inclusive to a humanistic perspective by the film. Cooper, who does "care" about the larger sphere of society, cares about it in the wrong way, using justice for the faceless as a hollow ideology for wholly self-gratifying returns. Bale, conversely, has genuine love for the living breathing people that he exchanges honest words with, and thus lives an honest life on his terms- but when the terms of America are so compromised it's not an excuse but a reality that one can't extend their attention to everyone as mattering equally in a subjective sense. That doesn't mean that a clear ethos separates some as more worthy than others objectively, but that principle is boldly allowed to be mutually exclusive from the truth that we feel compassion for the people we 'know.'

Bale doesn't discriminate, he appreciates all walks of life as long as they embody a code of kindness but doesn't necessitate a clause of anti-corruption or literal honesty because such people are false, and by admitting to those selfish aims they can become 'honest' (in the way that Vegas is polled as the most honest city in America in surveys because people unapologetically admit and embrace their true intentions as their own; as opposed to Cooper who lies to himself and the world, and becomes a chameleon along for a ride for a narcissistic experience). Cooper is so solipsistic that he can't even actively listen to his boss' story and makes up his own endings to someone's personal experience to satisfy his present-desires to move to the beat of his own drum. The dilemma that comes between Bale and Renner when friendship conflicts with self-interest, and honesty against deception, opens the grey space of emotions and actions to all remain valid and problematic at once depending on whether one is judging by the need to survive or the connective tissue of social bonds. It's a messy world when you face the world defaulting with compassion, and this film thankfully doesn't grant permission based on stereotypes but understands that the world doesn't fit people into boxes based on patterns of behavior but intent and feeling. A person is complicated, and that matters more than the black and white letter of the law.

The stylized Scorsese-formula that irritated me before is used to great effect by crafting an engaging workshop of forward momentum to juxtapose a complex vision of America into a smooth cinematic ride. The rapid song-mashups, cross-cutting of push-ins and edited montages, along with costumes, hairstyles, omissions of transparent storylines and character arcs, all operate as a con in hiding the outlook of grey shades and deafening silence amidst a sea of color and pretty noise. It's kinda beautiful in a way, because that's why the underbelly of this film is so hard to see or stomach: we trust in (or fall for) the window dressing in our day-to-day.

And that's not a dig or indication that all the institutions or people around us as fake, but real engagement is what is key, whether a connection of energy between two people or between a politician and their people in a ballroom. Cooper, who in one scene literally says the words "I love you" and then declares that this makes it a real feeling between two people and thus demands sex as payment.. that's a representation of the inebriated egotistical worldview that is the only downright lie and portrait of actual immorality, because there is no authentic participation and thus a void where morality should be. There is no one kind of morality that is right, "me and mine" or utilitarianism or whatever, but there has to be some empathy for morality to exist in the first place, and in such a complex, relativist milieu, that is the bar. It's no coincidence that Cooper is (in my opinion) the sole source of the comedy in this film- he's Oscar Jaffee, an absurd person who is seen as the outcast in a humane world, within the internal logic of this movie where 'humane' is liberally defined, as it ought to be- and I'd argue, really is.

The final line of the film is, "the art of survival is a story that never ends." The film seems to be recognizing this self-driven truth while also offering hope that, with a bit of luck and a lot of warmth to counter that harsh realism, we can do more than just survive.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#93 Post by knives » Sun Aug 09, 2020 7:25 am

I'd need a rewatch to give you a serious answer, but I believe I was referring to economic outsiders as well as those defined by ethnicity in a way that makes them seem an American other.


Also I maintain rather then Scorsese who barely factors it's Altman who Russell is cribbing notes from.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#94 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:05 pm

Interesting, I didn’t detect any attention to multiethnic populations so I’ll be curious to hear that reading someday. As far as economic outsiders go, there seems to be empathy for people who struggle financially but Bale’s defense mechanism of a worldview allows him to compartmentalize humanity into two groups to rationalize his behavior: those who “get taken” (like his father) and those who “take.” I think it’s important to make a distinction between “rationalization“ and “justification” though. A lesser film would have him justify these actions, coast in focusing on plot, and perhaps change his stance by the end. However, the film isn’t interested in the plot so much as how the collection of energies becomes a breeding ground for the revealing of character. Bale has empathy for his father, and for the people he swindles, and doesn’t believe in black and white justice regardless of his chosen actions, because he can’t ignore the complex humanist component that all people have dignity and worth (Cooper does default to justification which is where a worldview becomes solipsistic and problematic).

So it’s a bit of an elephant in the room, where the script doesn’t spend time fleshing out this gap between rationalization and justification, but instead takes a more mature (and challenging) route in showing rather than telling us through Bale’s subtle positioning and empathic gestures in the relationships he engages in authentically throughout the film. He can’t even wholly commit to his worldview, which would simplify things but rob him of that humanity, so he’s doomed to be torn (a good allegorical device is his heart condition: he places himself in positions of connection and love that will require him to need to take those pills in bouts of mini-crises forever); but he’s also saved due to that compassion, and the film sees the act of loving and losing and compromising the self and growing as life’s meaning. If we find ourselves falling down and struggling with our heart medication, we can know that we’re living life on life’s terms as participants.

As for Scorsese/Altman; I should have been clear that the superficial technical choices fall in with Scorsese, but the way Russell goes about the actual dynamics, detailed characterizations, and draws scenes outside of montage would be far different, and I’d agree that Altman sounds right thematically.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#95 Post by knives » Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:29 pm

I felt on watching it the film was delicate in pointing out the ethnic complexity of the milieu beyond the ways that nowadays we talk about ethnicity which tends to be in the antiquated racial language. It's sort of the difference between a melting pot goal of ethnic integration versus a salad goal by which I meant one, best illustrated in film recently by Gran Torino, where everyone becomes American and history is rendered irrelevant and the other wherein the unique differences of peoples adds its own flavour and the differences are what makes it work. The film sort of needs to accomplish this by zeroing in on one of the big categories that Americans take for granted as true in order to show that as false. The film, essentially disproves the notion of whiteness by focusing in on Jewish, Italian, Irish, and so on heritages. It's telling that the lone character the movie dislikes is not the ostensible villain of the piece, Renner, but rather Cooper's character who tries to make way in a melting pot disrespecting his own uniqueness.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#96 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:45 pm

I like that reading a lot, and not coincidentally the process you're describing in highlighting ethnic diversity is similar to how I believe the film finds Bale's moral authenticity, with the overlap being the question of what is authenticity. I think the bolded asterisk that this doesn't need to define a person openly as their core essence, in the loud ways as we expect and are accustomed to, is the film's greatest achievement- so ethnicity and morality can coexist in that 'salad' worldview.

It's ironic how Cooper's melting pot stance, black and white thinking, and falsified blanket justice all revolve around himself but he also defines himself by these falsehoods and becomes a moral cavity and an inauthentic person as a result. He's a tourist in life without actually seeing the crevices of what make it special (the scene at the disco is crucial in watching him as a kid in a candy store whose face and eyes only see spectacle that gives him superficial pleasures while the other characters in the film pay attention to their surroundings and respond to the details in affinity or symbiosis).

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#97 Post by knives » Sun Aug 09, 2020 1:56 pm

I thoroughly consign. The film justified its entertainment value in fascinating moral terms which is also why I find Renner and not Bale, as great as Bale is, to be the lynchpin of the film where it simply could not work without him.

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Re: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

#98 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Aug 09, 2020 3:13 pm

Agreed, it’s so fitting to my stance on morality (and your mention America’s role of ethnicity extends it to worldview, period, in all facets of life) that I have to appreciate it on some level - but it’s the method by which we discover these truths that is completely original and humble in how complex and subtly these philosophical reveals and frameworks on Americana are planted, especially juxtaposed with the flourishing distractions of editing and louder design.

Re: Renner
SpoilerShow
My favorite moment in the entire film is when Bale confronts Renner and tells him the truth, forging his own brand of emotional honesty with literal honesty. Renner asks Bale if he believes that "everything I've ever done is for the people of New Jersey" looking for acknowledgement of literal honesty, and Bale doesn't respond with confirmation of that but instead says, "You're a good man" - validating his emotional and moral honesty and thus the type of honesty that truly matters most in his worldview.

Renner is representing a man who is in a crisis of self-preservation and needs to focus on the more literal dressing to define himself as a good person in that moment, but Bale matches it with what's more important to him. What makes the scene so powerful and grey is that even if Bale's stance on what makes someone "good" is true, it's not what is upheld by institutions and the representatives of society like Cooper, so Renner's consequences of jailtime exist loudly like the movie's style to suppress that noble truth. We see the limitations of Bale's moral worldview, his imperfections and restrictions in upholding it himself, and can empathize with both consequences of literal and emotional honesty at once. Renner's position is therefore not negated by Bale, but room exists for two equal truths in opposition here only because there's no harmony possible between the two men to have both.
I'd even say that the film's style isn't inauthentic forgery so much as a different kind of perspective in providing tangible romanticism (which could go with the literal honesty of verbalizing truth) to counter the intangible romanticism that can only be expressed through Bale and Renner's friendship, or Bale and Adams' love, or Renner's devotion to his community through their intentions and internalized love, leaking through the cracks here in compassionate glances and gestures.

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