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The week’s critic wrangle: “Offside,” “The Page Turner,” “First Snow.”

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Sima Mobarak-Shahi.
+ "Offside": Jafar Panahi may be Iranian cinema’s most accessible filmmaker, and "Offside," a comedy about a group of girls who are caught attempting to disguise themselves and sneak in to a Bahrain-Iran World Cup qualifier match (women are banned from the stadium) is both entertaining and politically acrid (our New York Film Festival review of the film is here). At indieWIRE, Michael Koresky compares the film to another dealing with Iran (well, Persia) that’s currently in theaters:

[N]ot only does "Offside"’s very contemporary look at Iranian youth culture act as a nuanced corrective to Zack Snyder‘s conveniently "unintentional" Iran invasion propaganda (known before the mid-Thirties as, you guessed it, Persia) but also both films are literal calls to action — "Offside" for young women to assert their independence in a hideously patriarchal society that’s ever so slowly evolving due to burgeoning youth activism; "300" for Americans to stomp, slice, and hack their way through anything, or anybody, of a different color.

Meanwhile, Andrew O’Hehir at Salon notes that while Panahi’s films have almost all been banned from theaters in Iran, he had trouble getting a visa to come the US to promote the film either: "I am shocked, shocked, to report that when it comes to genuine questions of liberty, the Bush administration and the Iranian mullahs are on the same side."

Of the film itself, "Offside confounds expectations regarding genre as well as gender," writes J. Hoberman at the Village Voice. "Panahi has things both ways—his movie is critical and utopian, cinema verité and political allegory."  Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly considers the film "a light counterweight to [Panahi’s] sadder 2000 feminist drama The Circle," a film that A.O. Scott at the New York Times declares "one of the best works of cinema to come out of Iran in the past decade." He praises "Offside"’s "rich, pointed comedy," while noting that "the lightheartedness is often shadowed by the threat of real trouble, since even the lighthearted breaking of a silly rule can have serious consequences."

Keith Uhlich at Slant writes that while "Offside" "doesn’t lack for striking images," "Panahi is so concerned with a particular social problem (a law that forbids women to enter Iran’s spectator-sporting facilities) that he fatally neglects the cinema—the handheld DV camerawork flattens the argument as much as the visual texture." Noel Murray at the Onion AV Club likes the camerawork, writing that "What might’ve come off as stage-bound, like a didactic one-act play, instead contains the energy and tension of a major sporting event, as Panahi moves the camera between the women and their jailers, as though following a series of scoring rallies."


Beware the butcher's daughter.
+ "The Page Turner": Revenge, lesbian lustings and chamber-music trios abound in Denis Dercourt‘s thriller, which stars Déborah François of "L’Enfant" as a thwarted piano prodigy who inveigles herself into the life of the woman who disrupted an audition of her years before. Nick Schager at Slant is one of many to see echoes of the films of Claude Chabrol, but sighs that it’s no "Merci Pour Le Chocolat"; it’s "a French thriller without a single thrill (but plenty of chuckles)." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times similarly declares that the film "is finally ersatz Chabrol, absent the master’s perverse wit, complex psychology, social sensitivities and visual flair." She does allow that while the film’s "parts don’t really fit together…individually they are just fine," calling out Julie Richalet in particular as the younger incarnation of the character François plays as an adult.

Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE praises François’ performance, but cautions that "It may be subtitled, but don’t be fooled: ‘The Page Turner’ isn’t a great deal more sophisticated than ‘The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.’" Jim Ridley at the Village Voice muses that "Dercourt’s overbright visual scheme aims for a Michael Haneke–esque bourgeois chill that comes off instead as curiously bloodless," but likes the classical score and François, "effective as an opaque dose of pretty poison." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon is a fan, writing that "it’s a fine example of the excellence of French genre film right now: A dark tale of revenge with an inscrutable heart, ice in its veins and an electric undercurrent of eroticism, it also might be the best-photographed picture I’ve seen so far this year."


No "Memento."
+ "First Snow": Guy Pearce stars as New Mexico salesman who’s death is predicted by a fortuneteller in the directorial debut of Mark Fergus, one of the screenwriters behind "Children of Men." Stephen Holden at the New York Times is fond, calling it a "pointed little thriller with metaphysical pretensions" and "a mind-teaser that speaks the flat, evasive language of its seedy characters." Ella Taylor at LA Weekly salutes the films "great acting and pretty good writing," but finds that while it "has a fine sense of place and a small but terrific turn by veteran actress Jackie Burroughs… other than some instant messaging about living well as the best revenge on the certainty of death, it doesn’t have much on its mind." Kristi Mitsuda at indieWIRE sums that film up as "an alternately witty and dull psychological thriller intriguingly lacking in suspense. Simplistic and yet not unintelligent, it only spottily achieves its canny aspiration: to produce tension despite having already divulged its end point."

At Slant, Eric Henderson is generally unimpressed by film’s determination to remain "resolutely low-key," but writes hilariously in praise of its star:

Pearce, whose jaw muscles increasingly look like vaginal lips even as his choice of parts continue to serve penance for playing cinema’s all-time hottest drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, unravels marvelously, even as his character alternately believes and disbelieves in his mortal interruption at the worst possible moments.

Jim Ridley at the Village Voice dismisses the film as a "moody, tedious anti-thriller about ineluctable fate"; Nathan Rabin at the Onion AV Club is scornful, observing that "First Snow echoes Pearce’s signature film Memento just closely enough to suffer by comparison."

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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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