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  • ORCHESTRA SEATS/FAUTEUILS D'ORCHESTRE:

    Danièle Thompson's third directorial outing (preceded by La Bûche and Jet Lag/Décolage horaire) flows brilliantly on a grand scale doling out clichés and pungent acting in equal measure. It could do quite well with the older generation US art house audience and if the Film Society was looking for French films unlikely to be distributed here, this and the opener Palais Royal! were odd choices. Series viewers begin with a big dose of Valérie Lemercier, since she is prominent in both this and Palais Royal!

    Three high-profile lives will meet deadlines on Paris' chic Avenue Montaigne on the 17th of the month in this story – a famous pianist is going to perform Beethoven, a popular TV actress debuts in a Feydeau farce, and a millionaire is going to auction off the great collection of modern art he's spent a lifetime assembling.

    All three are dissatisfied. TV star Catherine Versen (Valérie Lemercier) gets extravagant paychecks for playing a problem-solving mayor on a popular high toned soap and runs into passionate fans wherever she goes, but she'd really much rather be a serious actress and play, say, Simone de Beauvoir in the movie a famous American director, Brian Sobinski (Sydney Pollack) is in town to cast. Millionaire businessman Jacques Grunberg (Claude Brasseur) is still enjoying life, but he knows not much of it remains to him. He is ill, and his relations with his grumpy professor son Frédéric (Christopher Thomson, the director's son) are cold. His collection is no longer alive to him either. He makes up for it with a young trophy girlfriend. Pianist Jean-Francois Lefort (Albert Dupontel) is managed by his mournful but devoted wife Valentine (Laura Morante, the mother in Moretti's The Son's Room) and he's booked solid for the next six years, but the whole concert life feels as constrictive to him as the evening clothes he must wear for concerts (Dupontel looks like a hunkier version of the sad pianist played by Charles Aznavour in Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player). Jean-Francois wants to dump it all, but his wife, whom he loves, may bolt if he does.

    Tying all these celebs together are a couple of charming observers, Jessica and Claudie. Claudie (Dani) is the theater concierge and she's about to retire. Claudie has lived her dream of meeting all the pop stars as well as classical performers of decades past. She had no talent, she announces, so she chose to be around talent, and she succeeded and feels her life was very worthwhile. The moments when we see her lip-sync old French pop songs whose singers she's known through her job are perhaps the film's happiest. As a kind of Ariel and mascot for the piece there is Jessica (Cécile de France), a naive cutie from the provinces with a pretty face and charming smile (the Belgian-born Cécile has been one of French film's most promising young female stars of recent years) who's just landed a wait job at the old-fashioned Café des Arts – a place that serves every level of society that works in the quarter – and who, wouldn't you know it, quickly meets Jacques, Jean-Francois, Catherine, and even Frérdéric, who's eventually smitten, and Jessica hears them all unload their problems.

    Book-ending the piece is the relationship of Jessica and the grandma who raised her (Suzanne Flon), Madame Roux, whose life foreshadowed Jessica's: she "always loved luxury" but was poor so when she went to Paris she worked as a maid in the ladies room of the Ritz. Flon just died at 87 and the film is dedicated to her: one of those great French cinematic troupers, she was performing, delightfully, in films right up until the end -- eight films in the past five years.

    There's climax, romance, and reconciliation in store at the end for the cast. This is very glossy mainstream French stuff, good writing by Christopher Thompson in collaboration with his mother Danièle, smooth directing, good work by the stellar cast. Lemercider isn't as buffoonish as she was in Palais Royal!—one begins to see her appeal. The movie doesn't take itself too seriously even if the scenes between the pianist and his Italian wife are a bit intense, due to casting. The question is, what's this all about, and why must we concern ourselves with the "predicaments" of people who from the looks of it are so singularly fortunate in life?

    (Shwon as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series at Lincoln Center, March 2006, Fauteuils d'orchestre opened in Paris February 15, 2006.)
  • kjewitt2 April 2007
    As in most of the best French films, not a lot happens and people spend a lot of time talking about their problems but somehow it works. The central character played by Cecile de France is largely a ficelle designed to link together the subplots. Each of these involves an apparently enviable character - someone who's apparently got it made - who isn't as happy as he (or she) should be. The malaises of these rich and glitzy characters turn out to be universal human problems - ageing, family strife, boredom. One of the major themes of the film, beautifully woven through all the subplots, is that we should theorise about life (and art) less and respond to life (and art) in an emotionally direct way. Ergo I shall simply say I enjoyed it, I didn't get a numb behind and I was happier after I came out than when I went in. It's worth the price of admission for the Sidney Pollack restaurant scene alone.
  • juliadebres16 February 2007
    I loved this movie! It is light and frothy, sure, but much more absorbing and entertaining than most of these intersecting lives type offerings. It is a slightly preposterous scenario, sure, but as the NZ Herald review said "The film is studded with smart, unshowy performances [...] that make the story's contrived nature virtually unnoticeable". The script doesn't miss a beat and the characters are all immensely appealing, some portrayed with a level of depth you wouldn't expect for the plot. It is funny too. I really think it raises the bar for this genre. Plus who can't fall for all the gorgeous shots of Paris? 100% enjoyment.
  • bob99811 April 2007
    I left the theater smiling. I'd had a really good time in a film that celebrates human diversity and the possibilities for contact between people in a big city. I found the performances really good, particularly Albert Dupontel as the pianist, Sydney Pollack as the American director, Dani as the theater concierge and Claude Brasseur as the aging art collector. Daniele Thompson has made two other films (which I haven't seen) and she must be one of the more talented filmmakers in France today.

    The film abounds in wonderful set pieces which serve to reveal the character's qualities. When Catherine Versen meets Sobinski by chance in the restaurant, it's a deliciously comic encounter that shows her insecurity about playing in mediocre TV soaps. There she is, talking to the famous director, and she can't get the names of his films straight.
  • This is today's French commercial cinema by the numbers: gamin plucky young woman character, check. Over the top if beautiful actress, check. Aging, wise woman, check. Well- preserved dotty grandmother in pearls and Hermes scarf, check. Anguished artist with long- suffering wife, check. Sexy young male actor as counterpoint to gamin plucky young actress, check. Lots of shots of Paris with accordion music, check. Recognizable foreign actor in cameo role, check. Gerard Depardieu -- oops, he missed out on this one. Fire his agent!

    All that cynicism aside, this is still an enjoyable, frothy film. It is not quite as imaginative as Amelie, but it is better than much of the French cinema that is being churned out these days. The three plot lines are skillfully woven together and the outcome will satisfy all but the most hard-hearted. Now I guess the question will be, who'll play all these characters when the movie is bought by an American studio and rewritten to take place in New York.

    There's got to be something in there for Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Garner, non?
  • writers_reign28 June 2006
    10/10
    sro
    Warning: Spoilers
    At the end of this delightful, charming and classy film there's a moment just before the End Credits when we fade to black and two words appear in the bottom right hand corner: a Suzanne. I suppose if you ARE going to die in harness at the age of 87 and have the last film on which you worked dedicated to you then you could do far, far worse than choose this for your swan song. Suzanne Flon doesn't have a lot to do here - unlike, say, La Fleur du Mal - but her smile and warmth light up the screen as she tops and tails this gem. In her third At Bat Daniele Thompson hits one out of the park but then after La Buche and Declage Horaire we don't expect less. Three stories are linked by Cecile de France, the grand-daughter of Suzanne Flon's character, who journeys from the Provinces to Paris and secures a waitress job at a restaurant adjacent to both a theatre, concert hall and Auction Room where, in the fullness of time she meets an actress, a concert pianist and a millionaire so jaded that he is selling off the items he's spent a lifetime collecting. Valerie Lemercier scores heavily as a soap queen adored by millions but longing to go 'legit' and play Feydeau on the boards, meanwhile Albert Dupontel's classical pianist is suffocating beneath the weight of his formal dress and equally formal lifestyle but torn between rebellion and the loss of his wife. Thompson's son Christopher is, as usual, on hand as co-writer and actor and as the distant son of the millionaire he gets to romance Cecile. Rounding things out is Dani, a concierge who, over the years has met everybody in show business worth meeting and her karaoke versions of French hit songs punctuate the action nicely. If 'entertainment' pure and simple (not to say Stylish and Classy) lights your fire then run, don't walk to catch this one.
  • An oh so cute, naive, guileless, and somewhat ditsy mademoiselle from the sticks comes to Paris to follow her grandmother's advice and "push her way in" and see what happens. She lands a job as a waitress in a little café that never hires women. She is hired because the owner needs help during a trifecta of events about to take place near the café. A recital by a great pianist; an opening of a new play starring a famous daytime TV comedienne; and an auction of an art collector's works.

    As she waits on the customers, both in the café and in their work, she meets all three of the main players in the events. The poetic license taken is that all of these people would take time to chat; open up and share intimacies with our little gamine. But she is oh so cute, and oh so socially clueless, that she charms them. Through her meanderings we see all the stories of the main protagonists emerge. The pianist wants to quit formal recitals; feeling hemmed in by the pressure. The actress wants to break out of her "popular but shallow" roles; and the collector wants to sell off his possessions because he is dying and he needs the money for his last days with his mistress.

    In the end all of the loose ends are tied up and our heroine ends up with the son of the collector. It's all very pleasant, and at times earnest, stuff - but it is all so derivative and staged!
  • My family and I love this movie Daniele Thomson and her son Christopher wrote a wonderful story and put it under the Paris sky and wonderful sites of the city, each person in this movie has a some thing that we can relate with, the comedy part is fowlowed by heart felt sentiments. The acting is superb ,the Effel Tower with the flashing lights is so romantic,the young girl is so believable and will probably be a great star.I had the priveledge to stay at the hotel across the theater and was so glad to see it in that movie ,I also went to the restaurant next door and talked to the real waiter Marcel, this movie has no violence and can be seen by the all family. I felt like I was back in Paris ,I will get the DVD and watch it every time I am lonesome for that wonderful city, it was a delight Chistopher Thompson also a good actor and writer.
  • Avenue Montaigne aka Fauteuils d'orchestre or Orchestra Seats is the second movie directed by Daniéle Thompson and written by her and her son Christopher Thompson that I have seen. I like her work very much and look forward to see her Jet Lag (2002), another romantic comedy or rather light drama with Juliette Binoche and Jean Réno.

    Few months ago I saw my first Thompson's movie, La Bûche (1999), the stories of three sisters, the Parisians with the sweet Russian names, Sonya (Emmanuelle Béart), Lyuba (Sabine Azémaand), and Milla (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and their parents who have been divorced for 25 years but still have a lot to say to each other. I was charmed by the clever, funny, touching and poignant Christmas dramedy in Paris. I expected to like "Avenue Montaigne" as much as La Bûche and I was not disappointed. The story of a young provincial girl Jessica, a waitress at the legendary café which has been frequented by the rich, famous, and talented for many years is linked with the stories of an actress, a piano player and an art collector. All three are successful, wealthy, talented, and...unhappy. Jacques, an art collector is determined to sell the priceless pieces he and his late wife had collected for 30 years. Jean-François (Albert Dupontel), internationally renowned concert pianist is suffocating in the life where every day is scheduled for many years ahead by his wife, who is also his manager. He adores music and he is madly in love with his wife whom he may lose if he quits his career. Valerie Lemercier as Catherine steels the film as the hugely popular and wealthy TV star who dreams of playing in the Art movies. Her scene with the American film director, Sobinski (Sidney Pollack) who came to Paris looking for an actress in his biopic about Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre elevates the nice stylish comedy to the higher level. Lemercie was incredibly passionate, riveting, and yes, sexy when she gave Sobinski her vision of the celebrated author, philosopher, feminist, who was a muse and inspiration, friend and lover to some of the most brilliant men from the last century. I would run, not just walk to see the movie about Simone de Beauvoir with Lemercie as Simone.

    Set in always captivating Paris, filled with the thoroughly chosen soundtrack that features Beethoven's Finale de la sonate 'La Tempête' ( my favorite Beethoven's sonata), "Consolation N°3 en ré bémol majeur" composed by Franz Liszt, and the songs of such French singing legends as Gilbert Bécaud, Juliette Gréco, and Charles Aznavour, the latest Danièle Thompson's film is a charm and delight. Daughter of director Gérard Oury has inherited her father's talent and I will be waiting for her every new movie.
  • Daniele and Christopher Thomspon's light melodrama "Avenue Montaigne" (AKA Fauteuils d'orchestre) paints a wandering portrait of life in Paris' theatre district, centered on a small bistro which brings together stars, writers, directors, musicians, celebrity worshipers, and waiters. Several story arcs involving a variety of somewhat neurotic main characters are woven together around the story of the single character who does not appear to indulge in any particular neuroses - Jessica (Cecile DeFrance), a young woman who has come to Paris in hopes of creating an independent life for herself. Tirelessly hopeful, homeless, and delightful, Jessica's willfulness and charming personality wins her a job as the first female employee of the bistro around which most of the stories evolve.

    Here, our heroine meets a brilliant pianist who is sick of the constraints of his own success and is married to a beloved wife who has sacrificed her own career to support his (Lefort - Albert DuPontel); A father and son (the Grumbergs, played by Claude Brasseur and Christopher Thompson) whose strained relationship is complicated by the father's very successful habit of collecting great art; A very high-strung, experienced and intelligent aging actress, who is terrified that her greatest opportunities may lie behind her (Catherine - Valerie Lemercier), and others.

    Jessica's elderly and somewhat senile grandmother, who raised her, plays a pivotal, but largely behind-the-scenes role in all of this. In a sense Jessica comes to Paris to allow her grandmother to vicariously live on through Jessica just as much as she does so in order to find her own path.

    The stories implied above are very nicely juxtaposed and the overall structure of the film is reminiscent of other excellent French and Italian melodramas. Avenue Montaigne, as most mainstream melodramas do, pays off with resolution, but does not challenge believability (often a problem for modernistic melodrama) and is, like the complex characters it examines, not entirely predictable.

    Uplifting, but honest and realistic, the film is very well acted all-around, excellently scripted and nicely directed and edited. I found Ms DeFrance, Valerie Lemercier and Albert Dupontel particularly outstanding. The soundtrack is also quite nicely integrated into the action of the film, sometimes giving the film a sometimes-needed touch of magical fantasy.

    Highly recommended for the romance/melodrama crowd. Recommended for others.
  • "The question is, what's this all about, and why must we concern ourselves with the 'predicaments' of people who from the looks of it are so singularly fortunate in life?" (Chris Knipp).

    Chris Knipp, no offence, hasn't understood the movie's main idea at all. This, in my experience, is what the movie is all about – the separation between "high class" classical music and life. Classical music, as all music, stems from life itself, is inspired and shaped by it. One can see how, exemplified by the pianist, this form of human expression is put in the strait-jacket of so-called "high culture". Said pianist is fortunate indeed to have his talent, but he's hardly able to breathe, to enjoy and live his talents because he's made to put up a show, to dance to the tune of what he himself calls "the system".
  • Young Jessica (Cécile de France), fresh from the countryside where she cared for her dying grandmother, arrives in Paris and immediately gets a job at a traditionally male-staffed café on Avenue Montaigne. There, she becomes involved in the personal and professional lives of the performers working nearby, including an I-want-to-get-away-from here- classical pianist named Jean-François (Albert Dupontel) a TV soap actress named Catherine (Valérie Lemercier) and other famous people stationed on the Avenue as well. Avenue Montaigne gets lost in its on foam and portrays a callous aesthetic with B-list actors from France trying to prove they're worth a damn. While it is an enjoyable premise that starts out great, the foam from that cappuccino overtakes your appetite and spoils it deeply. The film is as frothy as they come, a 1 hr. 45 min. trip into the heat of the avenue and the annoyances of the characters, finally culminating in a "script- writer- gone-bad" ending which has that loathsome smell of Hollywood.
  • Just how much you'll enjoy "Avenue Montaigne" - a lighter-than-air comic soufflé set in a picture-postcard-perfect Paris - may well depend on your level of interest in all things French and continental.

    Our tour guide for the occasion is a perpetually upbeat, pixie-haired waitress named Jessica who becomes both an observer of - and occasional participant in - the lives of some of the more colorful patrons who frequent the café at which she works. These include two people who produce art and one who consumes it: an unhappy concert pianist who has grown weary of playing music to elite audiences and yearns to rip off his tuxedo and tickle the ivories for the general public; a neurotic actress who is desperate to get off the popular primetime soap opera on which she appears and to land a role in a more "serious" movie (Sydney Pollack plays the American director who may just give her the chance to do that); and a terminally ill art collector who is slowly divesting himself of his massive collection, and who doesn't realize that his new "gold-digging" young girlfriend is, in fact, the former lover of his own semi-estranged son (ah, those French!).

    The first story cuts the deepest in terms of thematic richness and character development; the second is played mainly for broad laughs, while the third comes across as sketchy and underdeveloped despite the fact that it is the one that most directly involves the central character of the movie.

    Like many Gallic comedies, "Avenue Montaigne" often seems a bit too impressed with its own preciousness - a trifle too smug in its innate "Frenchness" - to be completely enjoyable. The characters often talk in annoyingly portentous terms about art, philosophy and love, even though they have nothing much new to say about any of those items.

    Still, the city itself is enchanting, the performers endearing, and the tone so lighthearted and playful that, even though the disparate elements of the story never coalesce into anything particularly meaningful or memorable, the movie goes down as smoothly as a glass of vintage Bordeaux on a moonlit cruise along the Seine.
  • nycmec28 March 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    The French have a term for a film this bad--un navet (a turnip). But turnips are much tastier than this tired, cliché-ridden mess of a film. I can handle a frothy film if it is done well, but this one is careless, with plot, with acting, with everything. Valerie Lemercier gets a couple of laughs as the aging TV serial star, but the conceit that Sydney Pollack would hire her character to play Simone de Beauvoir after viewing a couple of seconds of her absolutely mediocre TV series, plus some scenery-chewing in a Feydeau production, is absurd.

    The acting here involves lots of smiling (Cecile de France) and trying to look pensive (Albert Dupontel), but no subtlty, no nuance. The only joie de vivre really comes from the gardienne of the theater, who dances around to French pop songs she remembers from her days at L'Olympia. Everything about this film feels forced, especially the budding romance of Fred and Jessica--absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. If you're going to make a romantic comedy, you at least have to have that.

    Bottom line--a total waste of time.
  • Fauteuils d'orchestre (2006) directed by Danièle Thompson, was shown in the U.S. with the title "Avenue Montaigne." The U.S. title refers to the location of a bistro in Paris at which the protagonist, Jessica (Cécile De France), finds a job as waitress. Avenue Montaigne is the hub of the Parisian theater and art district. Naturally, the bistro serves actors, musicians, and artists, and Jessica (who is new to Paris) interacts with all of them .

    The movie contains three major plot lines, and some sub-plots as well. Jessica weaves into and through all of the plots, because her charming and disarming manner--and her waiter's uniform--give her access to everyone's world and, ultimately, everyone's life.

    The acting is solid enough, but not outstanding, with one exception. Valérie Lemercier plays a TV actor who stars as the mayor in a soap opera set in a small town. However, she's a serious actor, and wants to star in a serious play. Most directors would cast a classically beautiful actor in this role, but Ms. Thompson has chosen an actor who looks like a middle-aged provincial mayor. Casting against type like that takes courage, and I think the director's decision was a good one.

    The film isn't painful or unpleasant, but it's not worth a special trip either. You can't help liking Jessica, who looks and acts like a young Jean Seberg. Whether the other characters would react to her in life in the same way they do in the movie is debatable. Still, it's not biography--it's a fairy tale set in a magical street in Paris. You'll probably enjoy it if you see it for what it is. Just don't expect the movie that Robert Altman would have made using the same basic plot.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was in Paris for a week in 1994. It was a golden opportunity to travel - only $300. round trip for air fare!! - and I loved every single second of it. There is something about that city that I find completely inviting. I would move there in a heartbeat if everyone there would learn English so I don't have to learn French - I am kidding of course..but not really.

    With that in mind, I went to see this movie, expecting it to be everything that made me love being there, and it does not disappoint.

    Plot mainly centers around Jessica, who is at a crossroads in her life. She has no place to live and no job. She quickly gets a job in a café that traditionally hires only men. Other characters are gradually introduced .. all of them are at a crossroads of one kind or another.. the concert pianist who is sick of it, the actress who is employed on a soap opera and hates it, the art collector who is selling it all off, and others as well. She finds her way into their lives, in either a large or a small way, and soon finds herself in love with the son of the former art collector.

    I enjoyed the actress the most. She's kind of funny looking and has the funniest dialogue. She's in a play that she doesn't really want to be in, in addition to the soap, and is just having a hard time of all of it. She meets a director (Sydney Pollack) who she wants to work with but does not think she has the reputation necessary to get hired by him. Eventually they meet and then he is desperate to hire her.

    There is something so easy, so anything-is-possible quality about this movie and its characters that I find impossible to resist. Its not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination but I just cry "UNCLE", give in to its charms, and enjoy the hell out of it.
  • kosmasp21 June 2020
    Cecile De France is quite the extraordinary actress and while there are quite a few other great actors here, she carries the movie. And she does an amazing job. Following her dreams, being sometimes where she's not supposed to be. Relationships are formed and life happens.

    Obviously just for that and the movie giving us "reality", it'll appeal to some and will annoy others. But if you are not into drama, than you shouldn't watch the movie in the first place.
  • This film (FAUTEILS D'ORCHESTRE being its original title) was also released as ORCHESTRA SEATS. It is a marvellously entertaining and amusing comedy with romantic overtones. Cécile de France is brilliant as the lead character, Jessica. She plays a naïve and under-educated provincial girl from Macon who comes to Paris with a guileless sprite-like personality and a captivating smile, and during a brief period as a waitress in a café manages to become embroiled in the lives of a series of highly sophisticated people. The main thrust of the film is really the contrast between simplicity and complexity in human personalities. The humour is gentle but also profound. The film is directed by Danièle Thompson, whose light directorial touch makes the film a success, and whose ability to tease the best out of her excellent cast makes the film glow with genuine humanity, pathos, and charm. Certainly it is one of the finest French comedies in many years, The film features Sydney Pollack as an American film director, Brian Sobinski, and is one of his last roles on screen before his death two years later. I believe I saw him credited as an executive producer, but that is not recorded under his entry in IMDb. The film was an Alain Sarde production, always a sure sign of quality. The actual producer was Christine Gozlan, so the film was really made by two women, which explains its sensitivity and gentleness. The screenplay was jointly written by Ms. Thompson and her son Christopher Thompson. There is an outstanding comic performance by Valérie Lemercier, and everyone else does very well also, including the small stone statue 'The Kiss' by Brancusi, which although silent, is nevertheless effective in a cameo appearance, inspiring a live couple to emulate its embrace, which would have amused the old peasant and made his beard shake with laughter.
  • This movie is advertised as a "comedy," and in classic drama definitions that's what it is. But there's little more to be had in Avenue Montaigne than mild amusement and genuine admiration for Cecile De France, a young woman from the provincial city of Macon who takes a job as a waitress in a small restaurant on the Avenue to experience the wonders of this fancy neighborhood. Cecile is an absolute delight, and the subplots -- a famous soap opera actress seeking a role in a serious play; a famous classical pianist who wants to give up performing on the global circuit, and an art collector who started with nothing amassed a fortune in artistic masterpieces and is now auctioning it all off -- are well-executed. It's a very pleasant film, worth an evening. And although her character is perhaps too good to be true, I'm grateful to discover Cecile De France.
  • AVENUE MONTAIGNE (AKA Fauteuils d'Orchestre, or Orchestra Seats) works on many levels. As directed and written (with her son Christopher Thompson who also acts in the film) by Danièle Thompson the story is about need, expectations, disappointments and the opening of new doors. It is sweet, tender, beautifully acted and delivers Paris to the viewer on a dream- like encounter.

    Jessica (Cécile De France) lives in Mâcon, France with her aging grandmother Madame Roux (veteran actress Suzanne Flon in her last appearance in film): they share a desire - loving luxury - but both are poor in money and rich in spirit. Jessica decides to move to Paris to find good fortune. She has no money and no place to live so she finally finds a job as a waitress in bar next on Avenue Montaigne that caters to the surrounding theaters and the wealthy inhabitants of the area. Not being the requisite 'male waiter' her attention is paid to the people of luxury around her. She meets a famous pianist (Jean-François Lefort) who is married to his manager Valentine (Laura Morante) and their life of luxury is tainted by the pianist's tiring of the superficiality of his career, a famous actress Caterine Versen (Valérie Lemercier) who makes money on TV soaps and struggles with Feydeau stage productions but really would chuck it all to star in a film about Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre directed by the famous Brian Sobinsky (Sydney Pollack), and a great art collector Jacques Grumberg (Claude Brasseur) who is auctioning off his entire art collection to the pleasure of his new young girlfriend Valérie (Annelise Hesme) but to the disappointment of his son Professor Frédéric Grumberg (Christopher Thompson) , and is present in the retirement days of the theater manager Dani (Claudie). Jessica proves to be the catalyst for change in each of these people's lives and fulfills her dream of providing luxury by obtaining an orchestra seat for her grandmother at the pianist's farewell formal concert.

    Though the plot may sound complex it all spins out in meaningful ways that manage to tie the multiple stories together because of the presence of Jessica. The cinematography by Jean- Marc Fabre sparkles as doe the musical score by Nicola Piovani (with a great assist from Beethoven!). It is a bit of French froth with a message and a pure delight to watch - over and over.

    Grady Harp
  • realbobwarn4 November 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    Lay back and let it flow over you. A cool French film: light, 'frothy', beautifully filmed in Paris' theatre district. A pleasure from start to finish. Clichéd? Yes - but who cares. Enjoy it.

    Well, the system would not accept my short comment - I have to do minimum of 10 lines(!). I do not want to put in any spoilers but here goes - looks like I have no choice. Jessica is a sweet young thing from the provinces, in Paris and looking for a job - and a room to rent. Jobs are scarce but she talks her way into a waitressing job (oops, politically incorrect) - lets say she is a table attendant - at the Cafe des Theatres. While there she comes into contact with a range of interesting people, including Hollywood director (played by the late great, Sydney Pollack - a pleasure to see now that he has left us, a great concert pianist (who wants to give it all up), a soap star who earns heaps but would prefer 'serious' acting, a millionaire dying of cancer who is selling off his his fabulous art collection, a theatres concierge about to retire, and the millionaire's son (and romantic lead, played by director's son and film co-writer, Christopher Thomson). Leaving out the details (thank goodness!) it comes to a predictable and happy ending. Well written, great photography, well acted, a relaxed pleasure to watch.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is being compared to Robert Altman in reviews and advertising but it's not quite up there with his skills. Altman had a much surer hand on writing, directing and acting not to mention a distaste for the un-ironic happy ending. Admittedly, you'll probably want to jump on the next Air France to Paris as you leave the theater but you'll have forgotten this film by the time you land.

    Kudos to the filmmakers for creating a brisk film though. All too often a movie with this large an ensemble feels it necessary to give an extended conclusion to each storyline. This one just gives us a point in the right direction for most of them. Less is more. Fauteuils d'orchestre is a solid attempt at situational comedy and there are worse ways to pass 106 minutes.
  • "Avenue Montaigne" is the English language title to this film though the French title is totally different. Why studios completely redo titles, I have not idea.

    The film is about a young woman who obtains a job at a restaurant directly across from an auction house and a performing arts center. Through the course of this film, this woman of humble origins manages to meet and get to know people who are the cream of the arts world. How she wanders into their lives and does tiny little things to help them reminds me a lot of the French film, "Amélie"--though in this case, often the help wasn't done intentionally and the humor far more subtle. It's exceptionally difficult to summarize or describe this film other than it's about this woman meeting others who are at crossroads in their lives.

    The acting, direction and production overall is lovely and subtle--not the sort of film most American audiences would like since there are no special effects or excitement, per se, but the film is fascinating and excellent for those who favor acting and substance over glitz. A nice film well worth a look.

    By the way, that IS Sydney Pollack as the American director "Brian Sobinski"--and why they didn't use his real name is beyond me since he was essentially playing himself.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    What is marketed in the U.S. as "Avenue Montaigne", is a gentle, and entirely unoriginal, story of several people in the same film only because they go to the same restaurant and become acquainted with the same waitress.

    Is this as original or interesting as the normal Friends episode? No, but the characters are friendly, dealing with difficulties in their lives, and all have rather happy endings - so one is meant not to begrudge the film. But in truth it's not very good.

    Two characters stand out: the grandmother played by Suzanne Flon (whose name you will probably recognize) who died just after making the film, and the woman playing an actress who must display a great variety of moods, styles as we see her as a character in a staged Feydeau farce (and in rehearsals for that farce), as "herself" in the midst of "real life" career desperation, and again playing a different character in her popular television soap opera. Her range is impressive.

    The waitress tying the characters together is pleasant, has a pleasing figure - but in this role is rather forgettable. (Oh, there's also rather a surprise to see

    *** SPOILERS ****

    her character leap into bed with someone she's just met - the American audience is likely to be amazed since she's presented as this sweet character from the provinces - yet as she kisses this man, a man she just met, she simply begins removing her clothes for sex! Your mouth will drop open!).

    **** Spoilers END ****

    The film won't irritate - but it's unlikely to entertain either. See something else.
  • ferguson-627 April 2007
    Greetings again from the darkness. Terrific little French film with many subtle performances and script nuances. Director Daniele Thompson gives the film an intimate feel mostly through the wide and sparkling eyes of Cecile De France as Jessica.

    There are a few overlapping story lines, all of which the eager Jessica manages to nose in on. While her looks remind of Brittany Murphy, she brings the spirit of Giulietta Masina ("La Strada") to the role. All of the supporting actors do a very nice job, but Valerie Lemercier really stands out as Catherine - the soap opera actor trying so hard to impress big time director Sydney Pollack. Another stand out is Dani, who seems to freelance her way through life and the role.

    There are some nice shots of Paris, but of course, it is never enough. The pace is traditional French cinema as the dialogue is measured, but the emotions are the real story. Jessica basically lives out the life that her grandmother has spent years describing. While most of the film is upbeat, melancholy is not in short supply. Also, some tremendous music throughout - especially the Liszt and Mozart pieces.
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