Olivier Assayas attacks NYC with "Carlos"
Olivier Assayas is a gem of a director. And his latest film "Carlos" is a gem of a film - all 330 minutes of it. Actor Edgar Ramirez plays the part of the notorious 1970's terrorist "Carlos the Jackal" (wikipedia him here). What Olivier Assayas directs here is not really an all consuming bio of Carlos, but a fast paced tour through the 1970's terrorist cells of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, as they existed through the end of the cold war into the 1980's.
Shown last week to audiences at the NY FIlm Festival the same way it was shown last spring at the Cannes Film Festival - in it's full 330 minute format - the film was a real event (it was also shown this week on Sundance Channel in three parts). To be able to see a 5 1/2 hour film projected on a superior screen like the one at Alice Tully Hall is to understand why the NY Film Festival is so important. In France, when "Carlos" was shown last spring at Cannes, there was much debate about whether this five and a half hour film was even a film (that's so French). Its scheduled appearance on French television last spring had to be pushed back so it could be shown at Cannes, where it was ultimately deemed by the powers that be, not to be a 'film' and therefore had to be shown out of competition. And yet, in this era of digital filmmaking, Olivier Assayas actually shot "Carlos" on real film - and in 16 real countries.
Many of the actors in the film were present for a Q&A with Assayas after the film. And the next day Assayas himself sat down for an event titled "The Cinema Inside Me", where the former Cahiers de Cinema critic showed film clips and discussed some of his cinematic influences. One from an unnamed Dario Argento film, was a long scene in a gothic castle, where a pretty girl searching for her keys spends an extended sequence reaching and later swimming under water as her elusive keys seem to fall deeper into an abyss. Assayas marvelled at the absurdity of spending 10 minutes film time on what would normally be a 1 minute scene - and the evidence of the filmmakers pure love of cinema in doing so. This from a man who just made a 330 minute film. He also showed another long clip - a glorious final sequence from Jean Renoir's 1954 film French Can Can with Jean Gabin.
Assayas has been making films of all types and genres for over 15 years. The subject last month of a NY Times Magazine profile, BAM Cinematek is now running a series of his films titled "Post Punk Auteur". Check out the schedule - Assayas will be present on Monday October 18th, after a screening of Demonlover (from 2002). On October 23rd and 24th, BAM will be showing the full version of Carlos (BAM has already shown the great Summer Hours from 2008 - go immediately to netflix and rent it there).You can also catch the full version of Carlos in Manhattan at the IFC Cinemas. from October 15th thru November 2nd. Olivier Assayas will be present for the screenings this weekend October 15-16-17.
Edgar Ramirez plays Carlos
Personal note: About 3 1/2 hours into Carlos, be on watch for a sequence built around the great Dead Boys song "Sonic Reducer". And at the end of Summer Hours Assayas makes great use of the song "Little Cloud" by the Incredible String Band. Post Punk Auteur indeed.