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Counter-programming: “36 Quai des Orfèvres.”

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Gérard Depardieu, avec moustache.Our continuing Sundance coverage counter-programming initiative

Olivier Marchal was in the police forces before he began starring in, writing for, and acting in gritty French crime dramas, and what’s most startling about "36 Quai des Orfèvres" (beyond it’s glossily high production values) is its bleak moral assessment of what it means to be a good cop. Ubiquitous French icons Daniel Auteuil and Gérard Depardieu play rival higher-ups in the titular Parisian police headquarters — former friends who head up different departments and who are now competing to catch a violently efficient gang of robbers, with the unspoken prize being a promotion to commissioner.

"36 Quai des Orfèvres" isn’t a procedural, and the ways Auteuil’s Léo Vrinks and Depardieu’s Denis Klein go about tracking the gang quickly fade into the background as the film focuses on the relationship Vrinks and Klein have with their men and each other. Vrinks has a bit of gangster to him in the way he heads his department; his men are totally devoted, and he holds them apart from the rest of the force when it comes to regulations — in an early scene, Vrinks and co. are out celebrating the approaching retirement of one of their own (and it’s always nice to see that some rules of cinema are universal — anyone celebrating their retirement from law enforcement is clearly doomed), and one of the men spots a mouse scuttering by, which leads to several drunkenly shooting up the bar in an attempt to kill it while Vrinks chuckles fondly in the background.

But it’s Vrinks who has the film’s tacit approval, compared to Depardieu’s by-the-book (except when it doesn’t suit him), power-hungry Klein. Klein, who is always one step behind Vrinks, in professional and personal life — in a never completely sketched out subplot, we learn that Vrinks’ wife (Valeria Golino — so that’s where she went) was first involved with Klein — is frustrated and crumbling apart. Depardieu curls his large frame inward as if expecting a blow, and, even before he betrays Vrinks, one half-expects him to get one. Klein seems to be lacking some essential, implicit quality that every true cop needs, and whatever it is, his deficiency summons scorn from all sides. His increasingly ruthlessness as the film unfolds makes more sense, often, then Vrinks’ adherence to his own opaque code of honor…always slinking around on the outskirts, Klein is never a part of the snarling wolf pack hierarchy the police force is depicted as having, and, given the chance to take out its leader, he doesn’t pretend it isn’t personal.

In Marchal’s Paris, the detectives all stride around in black leather jackets, which, while possibly not accurate, looks awfully good against cinematographer Denis Rouden’s grey-washed cityscapes. It’s not a welcoming world, and one doesn’t feel any more comfortable with this portrayal of the men and women keeping order in it.

"36 Quai des Orfèvres" isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a strikingly competent, ambitious production. Still, it’s not so surprising that, even given its leads, its failed to secure US distribution — in the advancing oddity that is the US market, foreign films have been confined to the art house, and "Quai" is slick, expensive, and not really art house film. Whatever is a marketer to do?

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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

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