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Post-Punk Auteur: The Films Of Olivier Assayas

The Playlist By The Playlist | The Playlist October 18, 2010 at 8:40AM

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (or BAM, if you prefer its punchier moniker) have titled their Olivier Assayas retrospective "Post-Punk Auteur." The musical connotations of that label slightly undersell the filmmaker's eclecticism—he digs up scores of post-punk tracks, sure, but he also borrows from Malian musicians like Ali Farka Touré, ambient pioneer Brian Eno, and the Incredible String Band, to name just a few. Still, at least give BAM credit for nailing another aspect of Assayas's cinema.
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"Carlos" (2010)
After the small-scale family drama (and all-round masterpiece) "Summer Hours," Assayas decided to explode (literally), with a five-and-a-half hour long exploration of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal (played by the criminally underrated—until now?—Edgar Ramirez). In a way the epic, globe-trotting biography, centering mainly on the French-connected campaigns, is a synthesis of his previous cluster of films, which focused on international intrigue in an increasingly globalized world, with the more personal filmmaking on display in "Summer Hours." Who else, for instance, would devote much of the movie's final piece to Carlos's battle with an inflamed testicle? Although it's anchored by an incredibly strong performance by Ramirez, who goes through a whole series of physical transformations as Carlos gains and loses weight constantly, this is Assayas' show through-and-through. It's a movie about shifting alliances and the place of France in a worldwide conflict of ideals, and as a filmmaker he has never been stronger: for a movie this long, it practically breezes by, pinballing along with Carlos's ever-shifting allegiances. For a movie with so much on its mind, it's wildly entertaining, to an almost criminal degree. [A]
Sam C. Mac,  Gabe Toro and Drew Taylor.

This article is related to: Carlos, Olivier Assayas, Retrospective, Features, Feature


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