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The week’s critic wrangle: Meanwhile, back at the France.

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It’s Bastille Day! Of the three big-name French films opening today, we like "Time to Leave," are lukewarm on "Changing Times" and loathed "Gabrielle" when we saw it at the New York Film Festival last year. Also opening are William H. Macy-does-Mamet "Edmond," Edward Burns remaking (an apparently somewhat better version of) the same movie he always does in "The Groomsmen," and indie sex comedy "The OH in Ohio," with the unexpectedly high-end cast of Parker Posey, Paul Rudd and Marissa Cooper…er,  Mischa Barton.

 

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+ "Gabrielle": Everyone (except us) apparently loves Patrice Chéreau‘s adaptation of Joseph Conrad novella "The Return" — even the New York PressArmond White, who calls the film "a formalistic tour de force," but still manages to get his digs in at someone: "Measuring art by the intricacies of the cultural past is a more enlightened approach than the specious historicism of movies like ‘The Notorious Bettie Page’ and Hou Hsiao Hsien‘s ‘Three Times.’" (To be honest, we’re not sure what he means there — theories and explications would be appreciated.) At the Village Voice, Dennis Lim approaches the film from the angle of the original novella, and finds it "as compact and precise as the Conrad original, and a stunning reinvention of the period chamber drama." He, and others, calls out Chereau’s use of intertitles splashed across the screen at key moments: "a curious affectation that confers a spectral, antique quality on the proceedings but also has a perversely bracing, almost Pop Art effect."

Manohla Dargis, who calls "Gabrielle" "a film of eccentric beauty and wild feeling," notes of the actors "[Isabelle] Huppert, one of the screen’s great criers (second only to Juliette Binoche), spends much of the film with a flush and damp face, suffering in sepulchral silence while [Pascal] Greggory brilliantly rages." Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir salutes Chereau’s filmmaking:

[H]e tries to stretch the cinematic medium to the breaking point. The film hopscotches between black-and-white and color sequences, without any obvious system. Patches of the film are silent, with huge, intrusive intertitles to convey information and even lines of dialogue. As Chéreau admits, the editing deliberately violates the established grammar of cinema, so that the camera seems to skip around the couple’s opulent rooms, and we sometimes see events happen more than once from different points of view.

He does slip in, however: "But is it easy, or delightful, or fun? It is not."

And the indieWIRE/Reverse Shot group loves it.

 

"I know you - incapable of being alone."
+ "Time to Leave": "Curiously, the melodramatic elements of ‘Time to Leave’ — the moments of emotional display, the surges of music — help to insulate the film from sentimentality," writes A.O. Scott. He seems to like François Ozon‘s film, while pointing out that it "explains very little, choosing instead to emphasize the essential paradox that an individual’s life is never complete and always over too soon." Andrew O’Hehir is more explicit:

It’s a magnificent miniature, a supremely tender work that’s full of emotion and even sentimentality, but that never stoops to fulfill the audience’s wishes or tries to make Romain ([Melvil] Poupaud) any more likable on death’s door than he was before.

He also notes that "It’s good, at least in theory, to see the great Jeanne Moreau in an important cameo as Romain’s grandmother, although I’m sorry to say you may be shocked by her appearance." Well, she is way old. At New York, David Edelstein finds "there’s something distasteful about Ozon’s unexamined solipsism," but muses that "The way in this film that tortured people dramatize their rage and longing via sex reminds you how much is missing—a world of experience—in the American cinema."

At the Village Voice, Dennis Lim is a touch hostile: "’Time to Leave’ amounts simply to a semi-thoughtful disease-of-the-week weepie, admirable in its restraint but shying from the terror of the situation." He also complains that the film "winds up a tiresome affirmation of man’s biological duty to procreate; the position is simplistic verging on obnoxious, especially after 5×2’s attack on the hetero family model."

 

"I'm a faithful type."+ "Changing Times": At the New York Times, Stephen Holden raves that "Changing Times" finds director André Téchiné "near the peak of his form."

Much of the movie’s charm lies in its sheer vitality. Mr. Téchiné loves people and life, and every scene is filled with light, music, activity and a sensuous appreciation of landscape.

Armond White similarly claims of Téchiné that "No current filmmaker is more deft and incisive."

To put it simply, "Changing Times" is an amazing film to look at: images keep moving and new characters keep appearing as relationships expand and complicate. Téchiné’s style recalls Altman but is resolutely unCassavetes — never pausing to outstare or contemplate — he keeps moving, furiously.

He also calls it "the film of the year." Michael Atkinson at the Village Voice would beg to disagree he writes that "Téchiné has always been an electric image maker, but his narratives are prone to diffusion or cliché, and there may not be a single propulsively written story in his 30-year filmography." He finds that the film never pulls itself together, a grumble repeated by Andrew O’Hehir,  who writes "[I]t’s kind of a mess. An agreeable, even lovable mess, but still a mess."

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

via GIPHY

IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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