The Films of Olivier Assayas
May 2–July 1
Hailed by many as the most important of contemporary French filmmakers, Olivier Assayas has made more than 20 films across a diversity of genres, including features, documentaries and shorts.
His style and subject matter have varied widely from film to film, but are united by a pleasurably inventive engagement with the formal aspects of cinematic storytelling, one constant being his inspired use of rock music to elevate a scene, memorable examples including the likes of Sonic Youth, John Cale and the Pixies.
While never overtly political, Assayas’ recent films have engaged on this subject in refreshing ways: his biopic on Carlos the Jackal was a sensation the world over, an eye-opening account of a mysterious and little-understood underworld. And SOMETHING IN THE AIR promises to be his most autobiographical film to date, a portrait of radicalized youth in post-1968 France, the slow unraveling of their politically charged idealism and unity giving way to individuality and maturity.
Special thanks to the Embassy of France in Washington, DC, and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New York for making this series possible.
AFI Member passes accepted at all films in the Olivier Assayas series.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR [Après mai]
Exclusive Advance Screening!
(Coming to the US in May, in limited release)
At the beginning of the seventies, Gilles, a high school student in Paris, is swept up in the political fever of the time. Yet his real dream is to paint and make films, something that his friends and even his girlfriend cannot understand. For them, politics is everything, the political struggle all consuming. But Gilles gradually becomes more comfortable with his life choices, and learns to feel at ease in this new society. Best Screenplay, 2012 Venice Film Festival. Official Selection, 2012 AFI Fest, Toronto and New York Film Festivals.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD Nathanaël Karmitz, Charles Gillibert. France, 2012, color, 122 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
COLD WATER [L’eau froide]
Teen lovers Gilles (Cyprien Fouquet) and Christine (Virginie Ledoyen) are a refuge to each other from their disinterested bourgeois families. They share a dream of escape, perhaps to live in an artists’ colony. But are they destined to do so together? The film’s pièce de résistance is a dazzling all-night party, “where a horde of teens group, groove and get off to the sounds of Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Leonard Cohen and Alice Cooper.” – Tom Charity, Time Out. “Assayas’ sustained treatment of this event—the raging bonfire, the dope, the music and dancing—truly catches you by the throat...One of the key French films of the 1990s.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD Georges Benayoun, Paul Rosenberg. France, 1994, color, 92 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
LATE AUGUST, EARLY SEPTEMBER [Fin août, début septembre]
Sat, May 4, 5:30; Sun, May 5, 8:45
Critically respected but commercially unrewarded novelist Adrien (François Cluzet) is diagnosed with a terminal disease. Adrien is much admired and a little envied by his friend Gabriel (Mathieu Amalric), an aspiring novelist himself, though perhaps he lacks the necessary discipline and talent. Gabriel’s confusion extends to his love life, involved with his long-time girlfriend (Jeanne Balibar) and a new flame (Virginie Ledoyen). Facing Adrien’s final days, Gabriel must decide what matters most in his own life. With Mia Hansen-Løve, Arsinée Khanjian, Nathalie Richard and Eric Elmosnino.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD Georges Benayoun, Philippe Carcassonne. France, 1998, color, 112 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
Sat, May 11, 4:30; Wed, May 15, 7:00
Once an enfant terrible but now half-forgotten, filmmaker Henri Vidal (Jean-Pierre Léaud) plans to remake Louis Feuillade’s landmark 1915 crime thriller serial LES VAMPIRES in a bid to reclaim artistic and commercial relevance. With an eye toward the international market, he imports Hong Kong’s top star Maggie Cheung (gamely playing herself) to play the iconic role of Irma Vep, the story’s formidable, catsuit-clad master thief. But the production is a comedy of errors, beginning with the fact that no one thought to ask whether Cheung spoke any French. Taking its place alongside Fassbinder’s BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE, Truffaut’s DAY FOR NIGHT and Altman’s THE PLAYER as one of the great movies about moviemaking, IRMA VEP established Assayas as a world-class filmmaker, with its key themes of globalism, money, integrity and compromise now having been revisited by the filmmaker time and again.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD Georges Benayoun. France, 1996, color, 99 min. In English and French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
Special Full-Length Roadshow Edition!
Free commemorative limited edition 40-page CARLOS program book, while supplies last!
Sat, May 18, 8:10; Sun, May 19, 9:00; Mon, May 20, 7:00
“A spectacular achievement. Bravura narrative filmmaking on a hugely ambitious scale.” – Justin Chang, Variety
Assayas’ celebrated, epic biopic of the notorious international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, a political radical from Venezuela who masterminded a wave of terror attacks in Europe and the Middle East in the 1970s and ‘80s, was hailed for its probing look at the life of this shadowy figure, and features a breakout performance by Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez (ZERO DARK THIRTY). Best Foreign Language Film of 2011, National Society of Film Critics and NY Film Critics Circle; Official Selection, 2010 Cannes, Telluride and New York Film Festivals.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; SCR/PROD Daniel Leconte; SCR Dan Franck. France/Germany, 2010, color, 334 min incl. 15 min intermission. In English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Japanese, Hungarian and Russian with English subtitles. NOT RATED
LES DESTINÉES [Les destinées sentimentales]
Fri, May 24, 1:00; Sun, May 26, 1:00
Adapted from Jacques Chardonne’s 1936 novel, this film spans three decades, beginning at the turn of the 20th century, to tell the story of a Protestant minister, Jean (Charles Berling), who leaves his wife (Isabelle Huppert) and daughter, his vocation and his small community in southwest France for a younger wife (Emmanuelle Béart) and more idyllic, unrestricted life in the Swiss Alps. When he receives word of his uncle’s death, Jean is called back to helm and revive the family’s porcelain business. Though a stylistic departure for Assayas, the film’s motifs—family and legacy, commerce and modernism and
the passage of time—very much presage the thematic sensibility of later films like SUMMER HOURS. (Courtesy of BAMCinematek)
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; SCR Jacques Fieschi, from the novel by Jacques Chardonne; PROD Bruno Pésery. France/Switzerland, 2000, color, 180 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
SUMMER HOURS [L’heure d’été]
Sat, Jun 8, 4:05; Sun, Jun 9, 6:00
After their mother dies, three very different, distant siblings reunite to settle her estate, including the dispersal of the valuable art collection that crowds her country house. Starring Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jérémie Renier as the siblings, and Edith Scob as the family’s matriarch, Assayas’ thoughtful and nuanced family drama never veers into melodrama, but is all the more touching for its engagement with the real-world practicalities of death—the work to be done, the things that no longer need doing and the dawning realization of loss. Commissioned by the Musée d’Orsay, which granted use of the actual artwork seen in the film. “Almost Ozu-like in its evocation of a parent’s death and the dissolving bond between the surviving children.” – J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD Charles Gillibert, Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz. France, 2008, color, 103 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED
Sat, Jun 15, 6:00; Sun, Jun 16, 3:45; Tue, Jun 18, 7:00
“An exasperating, irresistible, must-see mess of a movie about life in the modern world and so very good that even when its story finally crashes and burns the filmmaking remains unscathed.” – Manohla Dargis, Los Angeles Times
Famously dividing audiences at its premiere in the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, this is one of Assayas’ most ambitious projects, a stab at representing cinematically the bleeding edge of the high-tech industry, and the ruthless individuals among the business elite who battle not only for market share but the ability to manipulate the hearts and minds of millions of consumers. Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling, Chloë Sevigny and Gina Gershon are jet-setting business executives in pursuit of a lucrative deal with a Japanese company that specializes in pornography Web sites, whose 3D imaging software is light-years ahead of the competition. Their world of private jets, chauffeured limos and four-star hotel suites also includes corporate espionage, double crosses, dual allegiances, backstabbing, drugs and murder, all cloaked in secrecy and justifiable paranoia. The dread-filled, droning score is by Sonic Youth.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD Xavier Giannoli. France, 2002, color, 116 min. In English, French and Japanese with English subtitles. NOT RATED
Sat, Jun 15, 10:20; Sun, Jun 16, 6:00; Tue, Jun 18, 9:10
Assayas’ subversive, erotic thriller wallows in the seedy, sleazy side of international business, a lower-rent, analog version of DEMONLOVER’s sleek world of high-tech corporate espionage. Asia Argento is Sandra, a woman whose resume includes prostitution, industrial espionage, drug-dealing, Web entrepreneurship and, in time, assassination. Her obsessive and violent sexual relationship with her former employer, shady businessman Miles (Michael Madsen), and the duplicitous one with her current boss, Lester (Carl Ng), a crooked import-exporter from whom she steals, will lead Sandra to a desperate, dangerous bid for independence.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD François Margolin. France/Luxembourg, 2007, color, 106 min. In English, French and Cantonese with English subtitles. RATED R
Fri, Jun 28, 9:15, Sun, Jun 30, 9:20
After her British rock-star boyfriend Lee Hauser (James Johnston of Gallon Drunk and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) dies from a heroin overdose, fellow junkie Emily Wang (Maggie Cheung) faces a stint in prison, public condemnation and the loss of custody of the couple’s 6-year-old son. Upon her release from prison she begins the arduous journey of putting her life back together, in the face of abandonment by former friends, the temptation for relapse and painful separation from her son, now living with his paternal grandparents, Albrecht and Rosemary (Nick Nolte and Martha Henry) in Vancouver. Cheung won the Best Actress prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for her intense and vulnerable performance. With Béatrice Dalle, Jeanne Balibar and Tricky.
DIR/SCR Olivier Assayas; PROD Niv Fichman, Xavier Giannoli, Xavier Marchand, Edouard Weil. France/Canada/UK, 2004, color, 90 min. In English, French and Cantonese with English subtitles. RATED R
Sat, Jun 29, 5:10; Mon, Jul 1, 7:10