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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."

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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…


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.


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).


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.


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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