The week’s critic wrangle: “Avenue Montaigne,” “Bamako.”

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Cécile De France.
+ "Avenue Montaigne": Either "breezy but inconsequential" (Nick Schager at Slant) or "a humble pleasure" (Manohla Dargis at the New York Times), the latest film from Danièle Thompson, last seen in the US with her 2002 film "Jet Lag", was a hit in France and the country’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film. The film seems to either charm or overcharm — the most fond may be Andrew O’Hehir at Salon, who calls the film "a delicious French pastry, tart and sweet, steeped in Parisian glamour." Others sum it up as a success in its own small way:  Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly notes, not unkindly, that the film is "soap-bubbly"; Ella Taylor at the Village Voice writes that "Avenue Montaigne doesn’t pretend to be deep, but it’s precise about the way people of privilege define themselves by what they lack or long for more than what they have, or have done." At indieWIRE, Nick Pinkerton allows that "The craftsmanship is unexceptional, with the use of Scope particularly inexplicable, and the film’s finally more pleasant than funny – you could call it fluff and you’d be right. But it stays within its own modest boundaries, so why get peevish?"

While it seems no one would bother to argue heatedly over this film, here’s the mild-mannered main disagreement. Schager:

The director refuses to insistently overplay her tale’s comedic and dramatic ingredients, though Avenue Montaigne’s relaxed, frothy lightness is at once appealingly low-key and more than a bit slight, with the various coincidences and dilemmas inoffensive to the point of having scant impact at all.


It would be easy to dismiss the film for its lack of heft, for the deaf ear and blind eye it has apparently turned to the world, but only if you mistook this self-conscious fairy tale for a slice of realism or forgot about Jessica. “Avenue Montaigne” is a bonbon, not a bouillabaisse. But because this is finally a film about desire, it carries a bittersweet tang.


Aïssa Maïga.
+ "Bamako": We found Abderrahmane Sissako‘s film about putting the World Bank, IMF et al. on trial in a Malian courtyard problematic when we saw it at the New York Film Festival (review here) — most of the critical community does not, save Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club, who cautions that "[t]he central conceit is audacious, but the film feels oddly slack and inert, livened only by testimony better suited to another forum."

Nathan Lee, writing at the Village Voice, has an interesting view of the "Bamako" as responding to the tropes of the "festival film" — though we wouldn’t agree at all that films are foremost bound to speak to the audiences of their countries of origin. Similarly, Andrew O’Hehir at Salon claims that "you can criticize ‘Bamako’ for all sorts of reasons, but good luck finding any that it doesn’t cover itself" — he goes on to write that

By any logical assessment, this mixture of apparently incompatible ingredients should collapse into an incoherent hash. But "Bamako" is so ferociously intelligent and cannily constructed that its warring elements all support each other.

A.O. Scott at the New York Times acknowledges that "’Bamako’ can be described as didactic, which simply means that it overtly tries to use film to teach. But there is also another dimension to the movie, an attention to the details of daily life in Bamako that lends it extraordinary richness and gravity." Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE contrasts the film with recent glossy American outrage efforts like Edward Zwick‘s "Blood Diamond," finding that "Bamako" both "offers a refreshingly multifaceted view" and "represents a powerful protest." Even Armond White, over at the New York Press, proclaims that "By specifying the public ritual of trial and protest, Bamako breaks through the cultural naivete that makes people think movies like Black Hawk Down, The Constant Gardener and Blood Diamond (with the exception of Djimon Hounsou’s eloquent anguish) have anything to do with Africa." He does allow that there is at least one occasion in which "Sissako risks devolving into propaganda."


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.